Bennett’s ‘peace’ plan: I’ll dictate, you’ll sign
Op-ed: In the Bayit Yehudi leader’s world, the other side doesn’t exist. Peace is not a move in which we recognize the other and try to get the other to agree, but a one-sided move which reflects our demographic, security and cultural needs exclusively.
Naftali Bennett’s response to Yasser Arafat’s “peace of the brave” is “peace of the rightists.” They are both dubious. In both cases, the word “peace” is the problem.
On Monday, the Bayit Yehudi leader explained the essence of the peace that he and the rightists (who want it, he said, just as much as the leftists) are hoping for: Peace, the education minister clarified, is the absence of war. That is, of course, true. “Peace of the rightists,” he added, “is peace that stems from strength.” There is no doubt about that either. When the side signing an agreement is powerless, the agreement is a surrender agreement, not a peace agreement.
In Bennett’s world, however, the other side—as well as its needs, its desires, its abilities and its rights—doesn’t exist. We will determine the outlines of the coexistence according to our demographic, security and cultural needs (we will determine, for example, that “Jerusalem is above reasoning and above peace”). We will determine the borders of the Palestinians' autonomy and, of course, the borders of the state and, as a result, the borders of the Palestinian “entity.” If we are strong enough, the other side will be forced to accept this dictation. Peace, in other words, is not a move in which we recognize the other and try to get the other to agree, but a one-sided move which exclusively reflects our needs.
There is something very appealing in this narcissist perception of coexistence. Recognizing the other’s needs and rights (as a human being, as a citizen, as someone with national aspirations) doesn’t come naturally to us. If I can set out the rules myself, why should I consider your needs?
I remember the first time I signed a car rental agreement. I began reading the contract. At around clause 7, the company’s representative lost his patience. “Let me save you some time,” he suggested. “We are always right and you are always wrong.” His conclusion was accurate, and my choices were limited. I signed the agreement. Throughout the course of history, world powers have always tried to treat weak forces that way. They dictated conditions, and the weak side signed. Peace of the rightists.
On the other hand, if there is anything history teaches us, it’s that the discussed arrangement (I’ll dictate and you’ll sign) is full of problems. When it comes to dictating a car rental contact, it may work (at least as long as the person renting the car has no other choice). When it comes to “life itself,” it doesn’t work that well. Even large empires have discovered, unfortunately, that humiliated and irritated signatories, signatories who accept a win-lose agreement with gnashing of teeth, turn to unpleasant measures to express their dissatisfaction.
The English, for example, occupied their Palestine—Ireland—in the 11th century. They dictated their conditions “out of strength” (in the past few centuries, by the way, those conditions were much better than the conditions we are offering the Palestinians, as they included full civil rights, including voting in the UK Parliament elections). Like us, the British settled in parts of Ireland. Occasionally, they launched military operations which mercilessly “etched” the local consciousness. After 800 years of terror (or armed resistance, depending on who you ask), they sat down at the negotiating table and reached an agreement in which the Irish people’s needs were taken into account as well.
The British empire could have afforded to make costly mistakes. The power gaps between Britain and Ireland were so big, that Ireland was a nuisance at most. The question is whether we can afford Bennett’s right-wing peace perception. At the moment, it seems that we can, but looking at the numbers and at the maps, looking at the global system of interests, this sense is undermined.
At the moment, the State of Israel has a clear military advantage. It’s easy to let this fact go to our head, but we shouldn’t drive while we are drunk. Before swallowing the dangerous cocktail of power and religious messianism, Israel was characterized by pragmatism, a realistic view of the possible and the impossible. David Ben-Gurion did say, as Bennett quoted, that “the Jewish people have no authority to concede any part of the land.” In practice, however, he conceded quite a lot. Dreams are one thing, and reality is another thing. Bennett has a dream. We, alas, are living in reality.