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By David Dolan

Reporting in Israel


I had a revealing conversation with an Israeli friend yesterday who had just been released from army reserve duty.  He said that he and the other members of his unit, stationed for almost one month in Bethlehem, had been shocked at the intense hatred they encountered in the biblical town where the King of the Jews was born over 2,000 years ago.  Like many others in his unit, my friend had been a strong supporter of the Oslo peace process, expecting it to end in a final peace treaty with his Palestinian neighbors and an Arafat-ruled state. His father, originally from Baghdad and fluent in Arabic, had also been optimistic that peace was right around the corner. 

As my friend was preparing to leave Jerusalem to meet up with his reserve unit in Bethlehem, he told me that he did not really support the Sharon government’s decision to launch a major military operation in the wake of the horrific Netanya Passover massacre.  Still, like thousands of other older Israeli men, who were suddenly called upon to don army uniforms and pick up a weapon, he would obey orders to join his mobilized unit, leaving behind his worried fiancée and elderly parents. 

“I still think the best way forward is negotiations, not military action,” he told me.  I reminded my friend that successive Israeli governments had tried negotiations for almost ten years in a process that he had supported.  “It was Arafat that picked up the gun first and has refused many international pleas and opportunities to put it back down,” I reminded him.  Still I understood his reluctance to accept the unity government’s conclusion that only a substantial army action could stem the terrorist tide.  After all, it was he that was heading off to war, not me (although I have been in the middle of the media battle all month).

Four weeks later, my weary friend’s tune has changed.  “We tried to talk with some of the civilians in Bethlehem, but they wouldn’t even look at us,” he told me with sadness in his eyes.  “Some of us wanted to make clear that we don’t hate them, and really want to live in peace with them as their neighbors, but they would not listen.”  I suggested that the apparent hostility might not reflect their deepest feelings, but was the result of the army incursion.  “I thought that as well, until I went into some of their shops and homes and saw many posters of Saddam Hussein and large wall maps of the area showing ‘Palestine’ over all of the land, not just in the territories,” he said. 

My friend is now convinced that negotiations will never be able to overcome the deep animosities in most Palestinian hearts toward the Jewish State, whether it continues to rule parts of the contested territories captured in 1967 or not.  “They want to see us out of the Middle East, period,” he said.  I reminded him that this was the conclusion I came to in my very first book, published before the Oslo peace accords were even conceived. 

Stay tuned, because the latest chapter in the Arab/Israeli conflict is not likely to end anytime soon.


A new edition of Mr. Dolan's latest book, ISRAEL IN CRISIS: WHAT LIES AHEAD? is now in its third printing after being published last October by Baker/Revell.  You may order it, along with his end time novel THE END OF DAYS and his acclaimed history of Israel titled ISRAEL AT THE CROSSROADS by visiting his web site at, or by phoning 888-890-6938 in North America, or by e mail at: