“I say this as a far right wing extremist, if the Arabs were to tell me what they wanted, be it half of Jerusalem, be it whatever, I would say yes and the conflict would be done. But that’s not how it works. I work with Arabs, every day all day, I know them and I’m telling you that we get on fine, we even like each other but at the end of the day when we sit down for coffee and I ask them what will it take for this conflict to end they say to me, it will end when you aren’t here. I know that it doesn’t matter if we like each other, it doesn’t matter if we get on and can have coffee together, when it comes to the crunch the only thing they want is for the Jews to be gone.”
The people around us are groaning and awkwardly looking away. The talk between Nimrod and I has nothing to do with the England V Australia rugby match being screened on the many televisions around us. Balmy Tel Aviv is 45 minutes and a million miles away from everything we’re talking about.
Inevitably, even ferociously our talk centres on the never ending conflict surrounding us the rugby utterly ignored.
“And if you’ll listen I’ll tell you something else. The guys who work for me finish work at about 5 and are home by about 7:30, then they have to get up at 2am to get through the checkpoints to make it to work the next day. If it was me I just wouldn’t take it, if it was me I would be a terrorist and fight. But even that’s not the point, the point is that they aren’t interested in an end to the checkpoints, they’re interested in an end to Israel. And yeah I’d fight to make my life better, I’d fight rather than endure that, but for them it’s not about the checkpoints, it’s about Israel existing, it’s about us Jews being here and my friend if you say anything different, you just aren’t listening to what they’re saying.”
“I came all of the way from London to pick up a rifle and fight for my people, that’s the kind of person I am. Were I born in Ramallah how could I doubt what I’d be doing? What kind of person I’d be? If you look at the most ardent Jewish extremist and ask where that kind of person would be if they had been born a Palestinian in Ramllah, or Nablus or Jenin, there’s no way they’d be saying to their fellow Palestinians that maybe the Jews really deserve their state and maybe terror is the wrong path. They’d be just as extreme in the other direction. But how can you blame Palestinians for jumping straight to the most extreme when there’s no difference for them? If you had to get up at 2am every day to work your ass off only to get paid the absolute minimum wage, if you spent your life being treated like a terrorist why would you not be extreme in the way you look at the state that has imposed this on you?”
I haven’t moved him at all;
“Oh yeah be nice to them, that’s it just be nice to them and then get all surprised when someone gets their throat cut! Me, I’m done with the thinking, I’m done with the clever strategies, when I get attacked I will attack, when they kill one of mine I kill one of theirs until they come to their senses. And then I’ll start winning like the Arabs win!”
I come back at him;
“Win like the Arabs? Look at their world, it’s a nightmare of crumbling economies, of civil war, of torture and death. What have the Arabs won? What do they have that we should be jealous of? What do they have that we should seek to emulate? You became just like our government, the one that asks how they can screw over our enemies rather than help us, us the citizens who live here. Maybe you’re right and it doesn’t matter what we do, maybe you’re right and the attacks will never stop, if that’s the case then why do we do things that make the lives of Israelis worse simply to make the lives of Palestinians worse? Why don’t we have a government that concentrates on making the lives of Israelis better rather than the lives of Palestinians worse?”
“Fine” he says, “you spin it however you like, the truth is that we had Rabin and we had Barak and we had Olmert and we were nice to them and we got nothing back for it and now here we are again. Nice doesn’t work, nice doesn’t help and even proportional doesn’t help. We’ve done everything we can and we’ve been met with nothing. All I want to know is what they’d be happy with, what they want their state to look like. How much do they want? Just tell me that and I’ll be happy.”
During our conversation we heard about the latest attack, two more dead two more wounded. The terrorist killed at the scene.
Our soldiers will carry on kicking in doors in the West Bank until they find the shooters of the Henkins, the Palestinians will keep rioting, the attacks will keep coming.
We’ve been here before, in fact we never left.