A Speech for Abu Mazen

When people are frustrated they often turn toward fantasy. Since resolving the Israeli Palestinian conflict won’t be happening any time soon, there is plenty of talk around about a One State Solution, or boycotting Jews in the West Bank, etc. That these ideas are impractical and impossible is less relevant than the fact that they wouldn’t solve problems anyway. But, hey, that’s what fantasy is for.

As long as that seems to be the zeitgeist, I thought I’d contribute my own. What can it hurt? So here is a speech that I have written for Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Sure, he won’t give it. But it’s as fair a contribution to peace process fantasy as any other. I mean, if he would give it, then the status quo would shatter and the conflict would begin to unravel. Heck, even the Israeli political right would support the two state plan if they heard such a speech and believed it was sincere.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t Abbas already give a long speech at the U.N. that did the opposite? Yup.

And wasnt there a NYTimes op-ed printed in his name that did the same? Mmm hmmm.

But hey, this is fantasy. Not far fetched fantasy, as I think Abbas could conceivably give such a speech, and it would break the logjam. But he won’t, so I’m writing it for him. Here goes:

“People of Israel

I hope that the world, and my Arab brothers will listen to my remarks, but they are primarily directed to you.

Let me begin by stating the obvious, the situation that we find ourselves in. We are two nations, with two stories, each of which sees this land as our home. To you, Israel is your historical homeland that is the site of your national Renaissance. To us, Palestine is the home of our families and forefathers. For us it is the base where we want to become a full fledged nation and join the world community.

How tragic for the millions of both our peoples, that this is the only land that will do. Neither of us can choose another. And of course, we wouldn’t even if we could. If not for the fact that we both feel belonging to the same land, we could stand back and applaud each other’s movements. We could cheer your rebirth, and you could praise our fledgling nationhood. How sad that we have come to such a point of enmity and distrust, by this awful twist of fate.

We need a way out of this conflict. And nothing we have tried will get us there. So I propose a three point plan to do just that.

First: Our future depends on each of us acknowledging the simple reality of the other’s perception. There are several facets to this. I will now refer to a few basic examples as illustration.

You must acknowledge that we believe ourselves to be a nation, and we must give you the same understanding.

You must understand that we hoped to become a great Arab nation like so many others in the mid 20th century, but our dreams were thwarted by your Zionist movement. And we must admit that your plan for a third Jewish state was blocked by the descendants of people who came to the land long after you were there first.

We must admit that would be painfully difficult for you to lose hard won sovereignty over your Biblical heartland. And you must grant that it will be deeply painful for us to surrender almost 80% of the land that we deeply believe to be ours. Let neither side feel that it has a monopoly on compromise to reach peace. Let us have the empathy to see what the other feels that they are losing.

We must agree that while we have just complaints against each other for past mistreatments, we must put them behind us to build a better life for our children and grandchildren. We can only hope that such a future, built on those understandings, will slowly erode the enmity, antipathy and distrust that our people feel for each other.

Second: We must do our best to make you a secure Jewish state. That means we must take responsibility to prevent, and failing that, punish any violence from our people towards yours. In fact, as a respectful neighbor, we will admonish any hostility from anyone else in the region. But our primary responsibility is to ensure that Palestinians create meaningful lives of building and growth, not destruction and death. Violence has played too great a part of our national experience and culture, and it must be replaced by creativity and community. We may need the help of others to get there, and we will seek it as much as possible. But the bottom line is, we pledge to be good neighbors. If that necessitates strong fences, so be it. But in time, we will replace fear and distrust with amity and brotherhood. As we are all children of Abraham, I feel that it will be easier than we imagine to return to the peaceful coexistence that Jews and Arabs shared for centuries. Insha Allah, I will lead a successful battle against terror and extremism. And we will win.

Third: You must step back and let us be a free nation. Let’s put aside what it means for Palestinians for a moment, our needs, aspirations and dreams. Your Zionist movement was based on the principles of self-rule and national liberation. It would be hypocritical of you to continue your movement’s success at the expense of another people’s self-rule and national liberation. Let’s put aside the past and start here as square one. Help us achieve what you have earned. There are millions of us waiting to be free and control our own destiny. It is not a concession for you to allow this, it is a historical necessity that you must stop blocking.

I hope that my words, while forceful and strident, are diplomatic enough to bring the understanding I seek. And while here I do not lay out the specifics of our future agreements, they are not hard to imagine. We were already close to concluding them at Taba in 2001, and with some work we can resolve remaining sticking points. What I am trying to do today is to create the context for that work to take place in.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, you said at the U.N.  that you cannot risk the future of the Jewish State on wishful thinking. I agree. In the past, our respective leaders took brave leaps of faith and gambled for peace. No more. I say now, that the time for gambling has passed, and that the greatest risk to our peoples lies in maintaining the status quo. Let us agree to a peace that makes our tiny piece of land a place of safety, freedom and prosperity for all who live in it.

Brothers, sisters and cousins, I close in the word used at greetings and partings by both of our great and noble semitic peoples – Salaam, Shalom, Peace!”

The fact that Abbas won’t give this speech is the reason we have no peace. Beinart can fantasize about boycotting the West Bank, (as if such a thing were possible) but it would not move anything forward anyway. He’s looking in the wrong place. Israel is not the source of the jam. Getting this speech made is the key to a solution.

At least my fantasy makes some sense.

About the Author
Michael is a Senior Israel Educator at JerusalemU. He is a very proud father and grandfather, and lives in Efrat.