Bomb victim's family favors homeland for Palestinians 'My government betrayed me. They sacrifice our children for their vanity.'

September 09, 1997|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM -- As the teen-agers filed into her house of mourning, Nurit Peled Elchanan looked up. For a fleeting moment yesterday, the mother thought she saw her daughter among these adolescent girls with braces on their teeth.

But, of course, she was wrong. Elchanan had buried her 14-year-old Smadar 24 hours before. A victim of last week's suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Smadar was eulogized by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and an official of the Palestinian authority.

The presence of Anis El-Qaq, deputy minister for planning in the Palestinian government, at Elchanan's funeral was an unusual occurrence considering the realities of this fractured Middle East peace process. In the past two years, deadly suicide attacks by Islamic fundamentalists have only widened the divide between Israelis and Palestinians.

But Smadar's family has been supporting the peace process ZTC with the Palestinians for longer than most. Smadar's late grandfather, Israeli Gen. Matityahu Peled, was among the first to advocate a Palestinian state; he met with Yasser Arafat in 1983 when Israel outlawed such contacts between Israelis and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

As friends and family members gathered in the Elchanan home to pay their respects, Nurit Elchanan remembered her vivacious teen-age daughter and the failure of peace that claimed her life. A memorial candle burned in front of a baby picture of Smadar. Photo albums chronicling her young life circulated among the visitors.

Policy breeds terrorists

Nurit Elchanan and her husband, Rami, say Israel's treatment of the Palestinians during 30 years of occupation has resulted in a hopelessness and frustration that breeds terrorists. Nurit Elchanan's anger is not directed at the suicide bombers.

"I'm very angry," said Elchanan, a university lecturer and mother of three sons. "My government betrayed me. They sacrifice our children for their vanity."

Elchanan had harsh words for the present government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a friend from her youth. The government operates out of a megalomania "to control, to oppress, to dominate." When the prime minister called to offer his condolences, the two spoke as old friends. Elchanan says they did not talk politics.

But in comments before her daughter's funeral, Elchanan accused the government of "doing its utmost to destroy the peace."

"I have no criticism to make of the terrorists. All of our deeds in the territories create each week another few new suicide strikers. The suicide strikers are fashioned in our own image. It is clear that the terror which they carry out is uglier than the shelling which the air force perpetrates against refugee camps, but the damage we cause is greater in the end," the mother told the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv.

Like most teen-agers, Smadar worried about her hair and clothes, when she would find a boyfriend, said her mother. She liked to paint and began studying French in anticipation of a trip to Europe with her mother.

"She was not a political animal," her mother said, although a sticker in her bedroom reflected her parents' disappointment in the present government: "No Peace. No Security. Bibi is a Failure."

Elchanan said the death of her daughter confirms for her the truth of her father's answer to the Middle East process -- two states for two people.

2 countries for 2 people

Rami Elchanan echoed the sentiments of his wife and late father-in-law who died of cancer in 1995. "Two states for two people with a fence, with guards we don't settle there, they don't settle here, two countries for two people."

The Palestinians "have nothing to hope for, there is only despair," said the father, as he sat outside his home greeting visitors. "Where there is no hope, there is only death."

A graphic artist, Rami Elchanan counts among his close friends leaders of the nationalist religious movement to settle Jews in the biblical land of Israel, which includes the Palestinian territories in the West Bank. He admits that he was not a great believer in the historic peace accords signed by the Israelis and Palestinians in 1993 in Oslo, Norway.

The Oslo process "was doomed to fail" because it didn't deal with the essence of the problem -- "two people living on the same land, passionately loving the same land," he said.

Nurit Elchanan's father was one of those early Israelis who believed coexistence was the only way to real security for Israel.

In addition to his army career, Peled held a doctoral degree in Arabic literature and taught at Tel Aviv University after resigning from active military service. Peled served in Israel's parliament between 1984 and 1988 as a member of the Progressive List for Peace parties. He believed that the establishment of an independent Palestinian state "was our big chance to have a bridge to the other Arab countries," said his daughter.

He died of cancer in 1995 at the age of 72. Before his death, Peled tried to persuade his grandsons to delay their army service. Go to university, study for four years, then join the army. By then, the grandfather hoped, Israel's mighty defense forces would be an "army of peace."

On Sunday, the Elchanan family buried their daughter Smadar near her grandfather at Kibbutz Nachshon.

Pub Date: 9/09/97

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