Photo: Zoom 77
David Grossman
Photo: Zoom 77
Photo: AP
Can we have peace with him? Ismail Haniyeh
Photo: AP

Mistaken path

By making even a partial peace with the Palestinians, Israel would improve its position on two fronts

The more Israel gets bogged down in its fight with Hizbullah, it becomes clearer that in recent decades, as Israel wore itself out due to the conflict with the Palestinians, Israel's military prowess and deterrent ability have been weakened, to an unacceptable point.


It has been said many times, but we can no longer ignore the repercussions: For decades Israel has sacrificed its blood and economy into the conflict with the Palestinians and that conflict has occupied the best part of our thoughts and domestic debates.


For nearly 40 years, Israel's development as a nation, a society and as a country has been displaced to a barren, mistaken path that has led Israel to a dead end. A large part of Israel's internal discourse has been conducted around the question of occupation, or at least with some link to it.


Other meaningful debates, and dealing seriously with Israel's real problems and with the truly threatening dangers that lie ahead have been pushed aside.


Debating disengagement


Just think about how much the debate over last year's disengagement from Gaza sapped us. How much money was wasted on the entire process, on compensating settlers that wouldn't have been there in the first place if our politicians had any foresight at all?


Think about all the hours wasted training soldiers how to evict babies and wailing teenagers kindly but firmly, instead of training to fight groups such as Hizbullah.


I am a simple man. I have no special sources of information apart from the news media. But I am concerned: What will we do the day we really have to fight, when we face a greater, more complex threat than anything we have previously known, but the army is unprepared because it has spent decades policing the occupation?


Pre-occupied with occupation


The IDF has been occupied all these years with clashing with Palestinian civilians and settlers alike. All these years, all our blood has gone towards the occupation and its complications, the occupation and its hallucinations. The occupation became the largest national, economic and identity project Israel has ever known.


This latest clash makes an agreement with the Palestinians even more urgent: The occupation must end, not because it will be "good for the Palestinians," but rather because only thus will Israel be able to return quickly to a military and diplomatic agenda such a fragile country needs.


This is the only way the country will have enough energy, will be able to "free up our heads" enough to prepare itself adequately for the existential threats that lie ahead.


Tough times ahead


Make no mistake about it: An end to the occupation will not make anyone in the Middle East love us. Even afterwards, Israel will remain a foreign implant in the region in the eyes of most Arab countries.


But a reasonable arrangement with the Palestinians will reduce the flames under most of our conflict points, will allow Israel to heal domestic wounds, and will remind Israelis what is truly worth fighting for.


Unfortunately, Israel will have to reach an agreement with Hamas, at least for a cease fire to last several years. This is a partial and problematic solution. But it is still better than the current status quo.


Is it really so unreasonable to predict that if we don't find some solution quickly, even a partial one, to the Palestinian conflict, that we may find ourselves in a few short years yearning for today's Hamas (a group that we can still come to an agreement with, as Ismail Haniyeh calls for over and over)?


Now is the time for Israel to initiate a new process with all sectors and factions of the Palestinian people. We must present serious proposals that will give the Palestinians real challenges and opportunities, and force them to decide if they want to compromise with us to live in peace, or if they are prepared to continue to be held captive to a fanatic, fundamentalist government.


Basic differences


Hizbullah's belligerent, uncompromising actions have sent many Israeli to consider the two fronts Israel is currently fighting as one, existential threat. But whereas Hizbullah is committed to destroying Israel, most Palestinians have reconciled themselves – unhappily, perhaps – to with Israel's existence and with the need to divide the land they share with us.


Most Israeli and Palestinians understand that their fates are intertwined. Both have a clear interest in reaching a settlement and compromising on the most basic of principles. It is clear to both that at the end of the day this conflict has no military solution.


The brutal crushing of the Gaza Strip has exhausted itself, and according to reports, even the extreme organizations in the PA are prepared for a cease fire. A wise Israeli proposal to begin negotiations – even before the end of the current round of fighting with Hizbullah – could show the Palestinians and the world that Israel differentiates between the two battle fronts, and could improve Israel's position on both fronts in one fell swoop.


פרסום ראשון: 07.26.06, 10:45
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