At this time, Israeli prisons maintain a separation between criminal and security detainees. Some of the most veteran prisoners are unhappy about this, because when such separation is in place, the criminals talk about crime all day and plan their next criminal act, while security detainees talk about ideology the whole day and plan the next “acts of resistance.” Once upon a time, when the detainees were mixed, they spent their days arguing with each other.
During those days, when there was no separation, Jibril Rajoub used to walk around prison with a Menachem Begin book tucked under his arm; he would tell the criminal-section prisoners how the Palestinians will be defeating the Jews. Everything is in Begin’s book, he would say.
Yet Rajoub was wrong. The Palestinians could already have their own state, had they not adopted Begin’s way. He wanted to free Jews by force, yet Begin was not the one who got a state for the Jews. Luckily, we Jews followed Ben-Gurion.
By the time Rajoub became a Palestinian security chief, he may have also understood it: In order to build a state, one does not need Irgun-style terror groups or a multi-headed, divisive leadership like the one imposed by Arafat. What’s needed is a central leadership that builds the economy, society, and institutions, and that brings all other organizations under its authority, even by force if needed.
I don’t know whether Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad walks around with a book written by a Jewish author under his arm, yet he behaves like someone who keeps all of Ben-Gurion’s books on his desk; indeed, there’s a chance that Fayyad will get for the Palestinians something similar to what Ben-Gurion got for the Jews.
Fayyad is wholeheartedly convinced that terrorism is not the way. He thinks, and rightfully so, that Palestinian terrorism is Israel’s most effective weapon. When the Palestinians blow up buses in Israel, the world shows a little less mercy to the Palestinians and a little more mercy to the Israelis, giving Israel reasons to further tighten the occupation.
Fayyad is busy doing one thing: Building an economy and central institutions. Should he gain enough power, he will also be able to prevent terror, and boost the standard of living in the West Bank. If he also has the courage to unilaterally declare independence in 2011, as he pledged to do, the Palestinians shall have a state. The world will recognize it, and Israel too will eventually be forced to recognize it.
If Israel will be wise, it will not condition this recognition on a peace treaty. The Palestinians are unwilling to renounce the right of return, and Israel cannot agree to the right of return. However, the main issue here is not a peace deal, but rather, separation. After we separate, the conflict will shift from a state of chokehold between two peoples unable to separate and sinking into a chronic civil war, into a wholly different situation; a cold border conflict between two separate states.
Under such circumstances, Israel would be able to ensure its security. If the combination of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan was unable to eliminate it, the small Palestine will most certainly not be able to do it. And if Qassams follow, we already proved – in the Second Lebanon War and in Operation Cast Lead - that we know how to handle them.
And if we pull out of there, and stop being the world’s last democracy to still maintain an occupation, the world will no longer set Goldstones upon us. And even if it does dispatch them, it would still be worth the price. The alternative is losing the Jewish State amidst an Arab majority.
If at this time we are led by an Irgun grandson in the form of Netanyahu, let’s hope that the Palestinians at least will have a sort of Ben-Gurion, in the form of Fayyad. At times, one such person is enough, even if he’s on the other side.