The Left’s mistake is the belief that all people – black, yellow, brown or white – have a common core. We share a spark of humanity that cuts across all cultural differences, and at the end of the day we all want the same things: Live in peace and security, raise our children, make a dignified living, sit under the olive tree, listen to Bob Dylan on our iPod, and watch an orange sunset.
According to this theory, if we enable every person to enjoy this, we’ll discover that there is no difference between God and Allah, between West and East, and between the youngsters of Ramallah and the teens of Tel Aviv.
It’s a beautiful notion, but regrettably it’s false.
The Right’s mistake is the belief that it’s possible to win a war. That the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a struggle between black and white pitting Zionism – the most just national movement in the past 200 years – against a primitive, murderous gang that only understands the language of force.
According to this theory, the struggle pits the noble idea of the return of the Jews to their homeland in the wake of the Holocaust against the Palestinians, who had 2,000 years to establish a state but did nothing about it. Instead, they drowned in a sea of dark Islamic nationalism, while we built a model state here. It’s a difficult, exacting struggle but at the end of the day justice shall prevail.
This too is a beautiful notion, yet regrettably it’s also false.
The Left is wrong because it refuses to recognize that human beings may be equal, yet they are not identical. Different nations have a different character, and one must never underestimate the power of religion. The Palestinians are not interested in peaceful lives, but rather, in realizing their national and religious aspirations; more than they would be happy to establish a state, they would be happy to build it on the ruins of the Jewish state.
The Left’s mistake is especially grave because it has been turning a blind eye to the fact that we live in a region where not even one of the 57 Islamic states is democratic. The unpleasant truth is that they don’t want us here; they will not want us here even if it turns out they can only gain from it.
The Right is wrong because in the 21st Century national struggles cannot end in victory or defeat, for the simple reason that they cannot end at all. The longing to the old, conservative and absolute world where the winner takes it all is irrelevant to a conflict managed under the gaze of thousands of TV cameras and millions of viewers that has global implications ranging from Beijing to Washington.
The Right’s mistake is especially grave because it refuses to understand that we live in an era where the weak party has no less power than the strong one. The media and global terrorism – two forces that feed each other – changed the rules of the game. The harder we hit the Palestinians, the stronger they shall become and the support for them will grow.
The notion that we can go it alone “and need no favors from anyone” is also no more than empty arrogance. Six months without the Americans will turn the Middle East’s strongest army into a warehouse of rusty spare parts.
None of these facts is especially pleasant, and human nature is to turn a blind eye to unpleasant facts, and especially ones that contradict our worldview. The Left’s disregard for the Palestinian struggle’s nature and its genuine motives is reckless, just like the irresponsible rightist disregard for the fact that perpetuating the existing situation would prompt the Jewish state’s demise.
Time to face reality
Both sides, each for its own reasons, insist on ignoring the fact that the conflict is here to stay. It has no absolute solution – neither through peace nor through war. The Palestinians are not about to disappear, as the Right hopes, and they will not be turning into Norwegians, as the Left hopes. The only thing we can do – and must do – is seek to manage the conflict under the best terms for us.
And this is the reason why the time has come to separate the question of establishing a Palestinian state from the question of peace.
Israel must work towards the establishment of a Palestinian state not because it would bring peace, but rather, because it would be much easier to manage the conflict vis-à-vis such state.
The establishment of a Palestinian state would take the world off her backs, curb the process of turning us into a pariah state, enable us to maintain our security with fewer restraints, lift the burden of controlling three million people, and enable us to manage the discussion on our final-status borders and the settlements’ future with the Palestinians, rather than ourselves, being on the apologizing side.
Instead of being the disruptive element, the settlers will turn into what they really are: Israeli citizens whom someone wants to expel from their homes.
Twice in the past the Palestinians threatened to declare a state unilaterally, and twice we responded as if we were bitten by a snake. Instead, had Israel said “please, happily, inform us of the ceremony’s date and we’ll be the first state in the world to send an ambassador to Ramallah,” what would have happened?
In practical terms, very little would have happened. As it is, the Palestinian Authority has a flag, security arms, and the right to manage its affairs across Areas A and B of the West Bank. If they wish to call this area “Palestine” this is their right, just like it’s our right to call Gush Etzion “Israel.”
In diplomatic terms, the Palestinians would shift at once from being the world’s victimized child to being a state – another state – that has a border conflict with one of its neighbors. Similar conflicts exist in many countries, and they are all equally boring. With their very declaration of statehood they would lose their main weapon – the fact that they are being perceived as the victim.
So indeed we shall not have genuine peace, but we don’t have genuine peace now either. It’s also true that terrorism will not disappear, yet terror will not disappear whether we secure an agreement or not. There will always be enough madmen here who wish to ignite the region, yet if a Palestinian state is established, it would have to take responsibility for its own madmen at least. Should it fail to restrain them, no Goldstone would be able to complain should the IDF respond in full force.
This idea’s drawback – and also its advantage – is that both the Left and Right won’t like it. Putting off the peace dream isn’t easy, just like conceding that the world will not recognize our righteousness is unbearable. However, reality is not subjected to dreams; reality is what it is, and we must recognize it. Indeed, this is difficult, yet in case you failed to notice, things are not easy here now either.
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