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Slicing and Dicing the Israeli Salami

Writing in the Jerusalem Post on June 19, columnist Sarah Honig deconstructs the Arab and Palestinian design for defeating Israel via a policy of “salami-slicing.” Unable to destroy Israel in one fell swoop, Honing writes:


[T]hey settled on slicing Israel’s salami bit by bit to deprive it of strategic depth, render it more vulnerable to predations and erode it by demonization and demoralization.

Every concession that Israel makes to its Palestinian pseudo-negotiating counterpart, without the slightest reciprocation, is just another slice of territory, another fragment of legitimacy, lost to its enemies. Honig points out that the term was coined by Hungary’s communist dictator Mátyás Rákosi, who in the 1940s pursued the policy of szalámitaktika — salami tactics — to gradually dismember the opposition parties.

The salami tactic has a long history in the Middle East and was employed with consummate effect by terrorist kingpin and Fatah leader Yasser Arafat, in particular by manipulating the Oslo Accords to his advantage. In an Arabic-language message broadcast on Jordanian TV on September 13, 1993, Arafat revealed that the Oslo DOP (Declaration of Principles) was, in the words of Efraim Karsh, “merely part of the implementation of the PLO’s ‘phased strategy.’” Palestinian Authority Minister Faisal Husseini, in an interview with the Egyptian daily Al-Arabi on June 24, 2001, referred to the Oslo Accords as a “Trojan Horse” and a “temporary procedure” in the larger “strategic” plan to destroy Israel.

Arafat’s  purpose was again confirmed by Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al Quds newspaper, who told the Jerusalem Post on November 20, 2004, that Arafat, intent on pursuing his program of “slices,” had assured him that “the day will come when you will see thousands of Jews fleeing Palestine. … The Oslo Accords will help bring this about.”


The Palestinian dictator in his recipe of “slices” or “plan of phases” was following Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba’s advice that Israel could not be erased in a frontal attack but only by bits and pieces, a plan which echoed the sermonizing of Mohammed Heikal, editor of the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram, who, writing on February 25, 1971, scolded the Arabs for putting the final step before the intermediate one, that is, for aiming at “the elimination of the state of Israel itself” before effacing the traces of the Israeli military victories. Adapting method to circumstance, Arafat, a blood relative of the infamous Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, merely updated the policy of Muftism into the present day under the rubric of his “phased solution.” “Nothing but the sword,” swore al-Husseini, “will decide the future of this country.” Only now, the Palestinian sword, having morphed into the less conspicuous shafra or jambiya, would no longer be wielded to kill with a single thrust but by gradual and tortuous disarticulation.

The bitter joke in this spurious dynamic is that the salami tactic, used so effectively by the Palestinians, has been imputed to Israel as part of its presumed agenda to dissect the West Bank into easily controllable slivers.

Alastair Crooke, formerly a special adviser to EU envoy Javier Solana and founder of the Conflicts Forum, writing in the London Review of Books, blithely accepts the accusation that Israel has “salami-sliced” the West Bank with its “army posts, military zones, fences and Israeli-only roads” — the familiar anti-checkpoint argument that pretends there is no such creature as a Palestinian suicide bomber on his way to butcher as many Israeli civilians as he can possibly take with him.

Of course, Crooke has cause and effect reversed: the checkpoints do not foment terrorism; terrorism created the need for checkpoints, as anyone with a modicum of grey matter can see. No sooner had the checkpoint at the Ariel junction — the scene of several drive-by shootings and suicide bombings in the past — been lifted than a shooting attack on Israeli civilians followed. Nor did terrorists take long to strike when the checkpoint at the Shuafat crossing in northern Jerusalem was dismantled; 20-year-old Rami Zoari was shot and died of his wounds shortly after.


Similarly, Ivy-League intellectual and current leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Michael Ignatieff, on a fact-finding mission to the Middle East, fell for the Palestinian line that the Camp David negotiations between Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak, and Yasser Arafat would have led to a Bantustan-type territory. Gazing from his intellicopter, Ignatieff piously intoned that he “knew he was not  looking down at a state … but at a Bantustan.” This is now recognized as an apocryphal claim, which should have been evident to anyone who took the trouble to scrutinize the proceedings and consider the real facts on the ground. The same fabrication was retailed in Noam Chomsky’s 2003 publication Middle East Illusions, which asserted that Barak’s Camp David proposal entailed the cantonization of the disputed territories. But Faisal Husseini himself acknowledged, in the Lebanese Al-Safir newspaper for March 21, 2001, that Barak had agreed to a wholesale withdrawal from all of Gaza and 95% of the West Bank. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s subsequent offer was even more generous.

These Western “observers” are unwilling to admit what both the Israeli and Palestinian administrations know: that it is Israel, with its checkpoints, intelligence services, and anti-terrorist raids, which keeps the weak and beleaguered Fatah regime from toppling to Hamas insurgency. Nor do they question the fact that some sixty-plus years after the UN partition plan paved the way for the creation of the Jewish state, Israel remains unrepresented on maps and globes in the Arab countries, as if Israel had already been morseled into oblivion. Indeed, a Fatah anniversary poster portrays the area where Israel should be as screened by a portrait of Yasser Arafat, a keffiyeh, and a rifle.


As Mitchell Bard indicates in a review of Jimmy Carter’s disreputable Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, following the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and its relinquishing almost all of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, “the truth is the entire territorial dispute with the Palestinians, assuming they were ever to accept the existence of Israel, boils down to about 6% of the West Bank,” in proximity to the Green Line. It is even less today, and the Israeli proposal to retain a scrap of territory for defensive purposes in exchange for a percentage of Israeli land has been rejected outright by the Palestinian Authority.

The fact is that Israelis are not slicing the Palestinian salami but offering, under reasonable conditions that guarantee Israel’s security needs, the entire salami more or less intact, which was the case with the Gaza pullout. The slicing goes the other way, as Arafat intended. Honig points out that the scheme is now being followed by Arafat’s loyal student and adjunct Mahmoud Abbas, “who dishes up salami slices to a ravenous world, while posturing simultaneously as the pitiable underdog and the valiant altruist.”

There are, naturally, diverse ways of flitching the Israeli salami. Abbas’ method involves the adroit technique of non-reciprocal negotiations or even refusing to negotiate unless major concessions are extracted from Israel prior to diplomatic mediations. Ismael Haniyeh, leader of Hamas, has embarked upon a more direct expedient, literally carving up Israeli land with mortars and missiles, targeting the Gaza belt communities. Various Muslim nations, Turkey and Iran most prominently, and their European fellow-travelers have brought their knives to the table as well, in the form of so-called “Freedom Flotillas” meant to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza and thus allow for yet more sophisticated cutlery to enter the terrorist enclave. Here, the ultimate purpose is not simply to slice the salami, cut by cut, but to chop it up into edible chunks, town by town. Hamas terrorists are clearly not interested in Bourguiba’s “plan of phases” but in cubing by ever larger segments.


The position in which Israel finds itself today is by no means an enviable one. The salami is being thinly but relentlessly sliced at one end — Fatah’s “negotiating” gambit — and diced at the other — Hamas’ military aggression. And invited to partake in the salami-sampling festival are the United Nations, many European governments, and the slavering hordes of “peace activists.” One never knew the little Israeli salami could accommodate so many rapacious appetites.

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