Emanuel Shahaf

Israel 2013 – imagined reality

These days Israel is seriously embarking on peace talks with the Palestinian authority and most Israelis are skeptical if anything will come of them. We have seen it all, Oslo, Camp David 2, Shepherdstown (with Syria), Hebron, Wye Plantation, Annapolis, the Road Map, interim agreements, concessions, prisoner releases, terror attacks and we have seen our government lose power in 1996, in 2001, and to some extent, also in 2009 on the background of another round of failed talks. We have every reason in the world to be apprehensive and glib at the same time. Anything can happen, or not.

The one thing conspicuously absent from these 20 years of on and off peace negotiations has been a serious effort to courageously confront the public with the small lies fears and euphemisms many of us have become accustomed to and internalized so well during this time. It’s as if the politicians in power try to keep the public from knowing what’s really going on. That way they could continue with their peace process whenever it was convenient. The public wouldn’t have to get too upset since everybody understood that the peace process is really not going anywhere so nobody has to give up on their preconceived notions and confront reality.

So now before reality will hit too hard, this maybe a good time to reacquaint ourselves with ten little and big lies, fears and the associated imagined reality we have created wich many of us so fervently would like to believe in or were lead to believe:

1. There is no such thing as a Palestinian people: Maybe yes, maybe no, definitely maybe. Most of all however, absolutely not relevant. The world by and large thinks otherwise. What is more important, so do the Palestinians.  And they decide. Like we decided that we are a people. And if we are already at it, our own claim at peoplehood isn’t something to write home about either. Most of the world doesn’t buy it, they think we are a religion. Who cares ? We know otherwise.

2. The West Bank is unappropriated territory, we have a legitimate claim to it: Could be. Not really relevant, the world doesn’t buy it (nobody that is, not a single country) and there is no court which will hear our case. So we can keep claiming this but it is plainly useless.

3. The settlements are not an obstacle to peace: Wishful thinking at its best. I venture to say that if everybody says they are, they are. We can’t just wish this one away. This is not an issue that can be argued once there is universal agreement on this. And there is.

4. The Palestinians have 22 other countries to go to, the Jews have only one country: Excuse me ? The Jews have only one country? Half the Jews in the world live in other countries, apparently well enough to stay there. And 22 countries for the Palestinians ? They don’t want to live there and their Arab brothers don’t want them to come so what’s the deal here ? No deal.

5. We are not occupiers, it’s our’s in the first place: Sorry, if we aren’t occupiers why is the sovereign in the West Bank the CoC of the Central Command and not a civilian authority ? The world (including our very own Supreme Court) is in complete agreement that this is an occupation, and more important, the Palestinian population in the West Bank will testify that they are occupied. They will also testify that contrary to what we may think, this is not a benevolent occupation. They suffer, big time. For most of the 40 years we are there.

6.  Jerusalem will remain undivided under Israeli sovereignty: This is a good one because we are being brainwashed with this gem since day one and it’s an ongoing washing cycle. The lie is of course, that somebody actually wants to divide Jerusalem. Newsflash: Nobody in his right mind wants to divide Jerusalem and put up a physical boundary in the city. Nobody. Dividing the city doesn’t actually mean dividing the city, all it means that as part of an agreement there will be a dual administration. In one part (the Palestinian part) the taxes will be paid to the PA Municpality and in the other part (the Jewish part) to the Israeli Municipality. And these respective municipalities will take care of the garbage and all the other stuff. Each on its side. And everybody will have access to the relevant holy places, as agreed upon. And nobody will boss anybody around because it will all be done in heavenly agreement, under international supervision. The Women of the Wall will appreciate this arrangement. Now is that so difficult to grasp ?

7. We can’t possible remove 150,000 settlers who presently reside outside the areas which are likely to be incorporated into Israel under a future agreement: Admittedly, that is a tough one but actually, most of the 150,000 will likely leave on their own volition, once there is a law that will compensate them. And where will they live ? Well, the State of Israel has a long range plan called Israel 2020 that will accommodate all these people and more. It just has to be put into practice. It won’t be easy especially if the one third hard core settlers will resist but this is a national project. We have to do this together. The settlers are our own flesh and blood, The state sent them there (mostly). The state has to take responsibility for their return. And we all have to help on this and make it easier. And it may be possible, if we play our cards right, for some settlers to remain where they live, in a future Palestinian state.

8. The Palestinians will never give up on their right of return: Baloney, the Palestinians know that Israel and the world will not agree to a right of return by virtue of which a large number of Palestinians will return to Israel.  And any return of Palestinians to Israel will only be by agreement. How many ? Let me just remind everybody that the State of Israel had absolutely no compunctions about accepting 300,000 (that’s three hundred thousand) Palestininans into Israel and giving them access to citizienship. That’s what we did when we united Jerusalem under our sovereignty. So relax, everything will be fine.

9. The Palestinians will start shooting missiles just like we are getting now from the Gaza strip: The idea is to make peace. Should there be individuals who will continue with acts of terror, they will be taken care of. Let’s remind everybody that Israel is the mightiest military power (by far) in the Middle East and that once Palestine is established as an independent state, it bears all the responsibility that states bear for whatever happens on their territory. And believe me, they won’t like receiving periodic visits from the IDF, nor bombs or missiles courtesy of the IAF.

10. We are actually dealing with two Palestinian entities, Gaza and the West Bank. We can’t make an agreement with the PA in the West Bank without being sure that Gaza is on board. What is Gaza going to do? Declare its independence ? Without Egypt’s support ? Or Syria’s ? Or Hizbollah’s ? They’ll come around, earlier or later. Not a good reason not to sign with the PA in Ramallah.

So everybody who harbors dreams and hopes and fears along the lines I tried to debunk, get with it. The earlier you reacquaint yourself with reality, the easier it will be once the terms of an upcoming agreement will become public knowledge. And they will.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".
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