In denial? Beilin
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

Is Israel's Left in denial?

Op-ed: Leftists focus on technical issues, dodge religious aspect of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

During a debate on Tuesday between former Meretz MK Yossi Beilin, left-wing architect of the Oslo Accords and right-wing National Union MK Aryeh Eldad, the latter challenged the former's elaborate scheme of moving towards the establishment of a second Arab Palestinian state, and his fundamental premise.


"This is not a territorial dispute," Eldad asserted, "but a theological one, a religious war. The Arabs consider Israel Wakf land (under Muslim authority) and therefore they cannot and will not recognize a state run by infidels – Jews – under any circumstances."


Beilin dismissed this as a "philosophical argument," and refused to respond. "I am here as a technical expert" he insisted. Eldad offered a medical model to expose the problem: A doctor prescribes antibiotics, but his diagnosis is incorrect, and the patient remains sick. This explains why efforts to achieve a compromise with Arabs have not worked, and will not.


According to Eldad, as long as refusing to recognize the right of a Jewish state to exist and to accept the right of Jewish national self-determination are fundamental beliefs, peace negotiations will not only fail, inherently, they must.


Beilin's refusal to accept this operative assumption, his focus on technical adjustments, land swaps, transfers of power, etc. are based on the belief that one day the Arabs will change and accept Israel. In order for that to happen, however, it would require an unprecedented theological upheaval.


Even if a secular, "moderate" Arab Palestinian leader took such a position, Eldad suggested, he would be quickly dispatched by radical and vastly more powerful elements. Beilin's refusal to relate to the importance of the theological issues is understandable; it means that technical adjustments are insufficient.


Avoiding such critical issues, and others, such as demands for the "Palestinian right of return" to Israel, the expulsion of all Jews from territory under PA control, supporting incitement and terrorism, not only prevent any meaningful peace process, it encourages Palestinian resistance.


Dodging the issues  

Beilin's dilemma – and that of the Left - is that allowing "theological" and "philosophical" issues to enter the discussion threaten any solution based on technical proposals; but the reality of Arab/Muslim anathema towards a Jewish state is the elephant in the room. If there is no way of reconciling these basic axioms, that leaves Israel in a state of permanent conflict.


Beilin wants to avoid this situation by offering concessions, hoping that at some point in the distant future, Arabs and Muslims will accept Israel's existence. Eldad prefers to maintain Israel's strategic advantages, hoping that our enemies will tire of conflict, or be defeated, and eventually learn to live with Israel.


But, if the Left is in denial about Arab and Muslim intentions and beliefs, Beilin would argue that the Right is in denial about Israel's ability to withstand pressure from the international community to "end the occupation," a growing isolation and demonization, the "demographic (Arab) time bomb," and its future as a democratic state.


Eldad charges Beilin's left-wing policies re suicidal; Beilin charges Eldad's right-wing policies are threatening the future of the State. The question seems to be not which has the greatest potential for success, but which has the least potential for disaster. And, which options allow for survival.


These are the parameters for Israeli and Arab leaders as they maneuver with each other and the international community. Neither side can afford to be in denial of realities – regardless of how they are perceived. Their ability to come to terms with reality will be a measure of their success.


Arab antipathy for Jews and Israel, like it or not, is a reality; it will not go away with land swaps or payoffs, and it is not "irrelevant," as Beilin would have us believe. The danger of denial is that it leads to delusion, false hopes, and ultimately, despair, and sometimes violence. We've been there; we can do better with our eyes wide open.


Beilin dodged all the important issues that have plagued negotiations for decades: Israel's legitimacy, an end to terrorism, Arab refugees, and Jerusalem. After so many failures, one would think he would have learned something.


The author is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem


פרסום ראשון: 08.27.10, 00:09
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