The leaders of the Right and the leaders of the Left in this country deserve each other. However, since I and most of my children live here, I find no comfort in that fact. Israel faces myriad challenges at the moment. Unfortunately, at the same time, our politics are becoming ever more divided between right and left. Both groups share some of the same pitfalls and challenges: they are both utopian, they both ignore reality, and both espouse views that will lead us into a dead end.
During the recent war our differences, across the spectrum, decreased. For a while we were one – all sharing the same fear and fate in our small land. Yet, if we manage to have an extended period of quiet, those differences will get ever larger. We must find a way to convince both groups of the error of their ways.
Let’s start with the Left: The Zionist Left, (both in Israel, and to an even a larger extent outside of Israel) has spent the last several decades promising that, ‘if only we took the right actions,’ ‘stopped the settlements,’ ‘made the appropriate offers to the Palestinians,’ etc., we would have peace. Unfortunately, the Left has repeatedly been proven wrong. Our best proposals were often met with a wave of bombings. When we were lucky, our offers were just ignored. Over the years our government has been accused of not taking the initiative, and of not putting a peace plan on the table. This despite the fact that we have done so repeatedly – starting in 1967, when we offered to return everything but Jerusalem, for peace. This was followed with the plans put forth by Prime Minister Barak at Camp David, then the plan at Tabah, followed by the Olmert plan.
One could argue that these offers were never good enough. That may be the case. However, has there ever been a Palestinian plan? Even one plan that included a solution to the refugee problem and a path toward the end of the conflict? Unfortunately, such a plan has never been put forth. There has never been a serious indication that the Palestinians, as a people, would be willing to accept the basis of the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947. So, the Left can keep making promises, (including what would happen if we pulled out of Gaza), and slowly, but surely, their support will continue to erode. Israelis are a practical people and are tired of being promised “peace is at hand,”, when there is no indication that it is coming.
If I was in a position to make decisions for the Left, I would focus all my efforts into making sure that we increase our efforts towards developing a truly democratic society with equal rights for all Israeli citizens. That everyone should enjoy the civil rights they are entitled to. I am not suggesting we give up on peace, but rather, stop promising it. Stop making peace the banner issue. The continued disappointment of the Israeli public will continue to persist.
Now, to address the right: The Right appears to learn every lesson, yet reaches the wrong conclusion. Every time our adversaries lash out, their immediate response is either to build more, or to insist that we can never, ever, give back one inch of land.
In reality, there are two different groups on the Right. I will refer to them as “Religious Rightists” and “Security Rightists” yet, the two are not mutually exclusive. I really have little to say to those on the Right who believe we must never give up an inch of the Land of Israel because God gave it to us. To them I say; there is very little dividing you from a Muslim fundamentalist. I wish all of us luck if you ever become the majority here.
To the “Security Hawks”, I understand your concerns. Most days I share these concerns. It makes me sad to say that I also do not believe we can trust our neighbors to live in peace with us any time soon. On the other hand, what you fail to understand is that we are part of a much larger world. Our success in the past, both economically and technologically, is a direct result of our integration with the global community. In today’s larger world (unless you are China) it is not acceptable to continue occupying a country or people for over 50 years.
There are those of you who say: “No problem, we should just annex the land and grant citizenship to the Arabs”. You say that, but really, you do not believe that should be implemented. Does any one but the most Left wing Israeli want to take the chance of becoming in minority in the State of Israel? Did Zionism create a state for us to be a minority? Some of you argue that the demographers are wrong and that we would remain a majority. Well, for those of you who think our government is dysfunctional now, can you imagine what our government would be like if we were a country whose population was 53% Jewish and 47% Arab?
Of course, some of you say that we do not have to give the Arabs full rights. If we do that we would truly become an apartheid state, (and that did not work out well for the Afrikaners). You may think we can ignore the world, but we cannot. We need to be seen as the country seeking peace. We must do everything we can (that does not endanger our security) to seek peace.
Another important message to my friends on the Right; regain some of your humanity. Here, I once again quote something that Moshe Dayan said at the funeral of the security coordinator for Nachal Oz, killed by a terrorist in 1956: “Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we deplore their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate.” Now, it has been not eight, but 66 years. Their hatred of us has no doubt grown stronger, and not weakened.
We can blame the Arab leaders all we want. The average Palestinian is not responsible for what has happened, and they have born the suffering all these years. We may have the stronger historic argument, but that does not help the fifteen year old Palestinian who was born and grew up in a refugee camp in Gaza.
What is the solution? First, let me make it clear that I have no real solution. A solution requires two parties. As I made clear earlier, I do not believe the other side is ready (or able) to make the compromises that will end this conflict. I also do not believe we can afford another significant unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank (as we did in Gaza.) Instead, I would suggest a different method of managing the conflict.
We start by making it clear that we have no interest in occupying any Palestinians, and furthermore, that we have no interest in stopping the Palestinians from having a state of their own. If we are to live in peace with that Palestinian state we have only two demands: 1), A solution must be reached to address the refugees from 1948. They must be resettled somewhere – not including the current state of Israel. 2) If a Palestinian state is created and wants to be recognized by us, they have to agree that they have no claims against us, and commit to the end of the conflict.
Is this likely to happen? I doubt it. However, in the meantime, we would be able to stop all the wasteful spending beyond where the fence is located. We do not build a road, lay an electric line, or construct anything else beyond the fence. We make it clear that we have no intention of building in any part of what will be accepted as the Palestinian state of the future.
In the meantime, the IDF remains. We also stop interfering in the lives of the Palestinians – as much as our security needs will possibly allow. We cannot determine who their leaders will be. We cannot impact their politics. We should do our best to make their lives as easy as possible. Whatever the solution is they will remain our neighbors once the conflict ever comes to an end.
There are no easy solutions to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is possible that this conflict cannot be solved at the moment, rather, just managed. That being said, we must always act in ways that will make an eventual solution more possible, and not less so.