Yes, Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu is right – why should Israel continue the
settlement freeze; after all, everyone knows Gilo will never be
Palestinian. Ramot Eshkol will not be part of the Palestinian
capital of al-Kuds, nor will Pisgat Ze’ev? Palestinians should
understand that there are certain facts that will not be undone.
The Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall will
remain under Israeli sovereignty in any peace agreement; without
this, there can be no peace and certainly the Palestinians
should realize this by now.
Yes, but Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also
right – why should the Palestinians enter new negotiations while
Israel continues to build settlements on land which will become
part of the Palestinian state? Haven’t too many Israeli facts
already been created on the ground? The last time Netanyahu was
prime minister, Har Homa didn’t exist, but now look at it –
another Israeli city built on Palestinian land. The whole need
to find land to swap comes from the facts that Israel has
created, illegally by international law.
YES, BOTH sides are right. Palestinians and
Palestinian-supporters will argue that there is no moral
equivalent in the above claims. Israel has acted illegally and
settlements were explicitly built by some former (and current)
politicians to prevent the eventual creation of a Palestinian
There are two defining elements of Palestinian identity – the
nakba (catastrophe) and dispersal of 1948 and settlements. For
43 years, Palestinians have watched their land get swallowed up
as their dream of liberation, freedom and independence has
withered with each new home built in the West Bank.
The settlement presence has meant land expropriation, bypass
roads, usurping of water reserves, confiscation of natural
resources such as stone quarries, and the entire system of
controls – fences, roadblocks, barriers, walls and lots of IDF
There is no way for any Palestinian to have any sympathy for
settlers or settlements.
Their very presence is a daily reminder of their lack of freedom
in their own land.
It is equally impossible for settlers, I imagine, to feel any
sympathy for the Palestinians. Almost no settler will understand
that Palestinians believe they made their most painful
compromise already when they accepted the two-state solution
within the 1967 borders. Settlers cannot see that when the
Palestinian national movement officially accepted the idea of
two states in November 1988 it was giving up 78 percent of what
it believed to be its birthright – all of the land that was the
State of Israel prior to June 5, 1967.
Palestinians sincerely believe that all of Palestine, from the
Jordan River to the Mediterranean legitimately belongs to them
(as many Israelis believe that the entire land from the river to
the sea belongs to them), and that the creation of the State of
Israel was an historic injustice to them as they had nothing to
do with the Holocaust. The Palestinians cannot see and accept
what I do – that the birth of Israel was a moral imperative and
that the Jewish people had the same right as all other peoples
to a state of their own in their historic land.
And yes, so do the Palestinians. The creation of a Palestinian
state today is a moral imperative for both Jews and
Palestinians, and the Jewish people should be the most vocal
advocates of the rights of the Palestinian people.
THE CLASH of the rights of these two peoples is the greatest
wrong to both of them. The lingering bloody and tragic conflict
must come to an end. Those leaders who cling to excuses to foil
the chance of finding a way out of this mess are criminally
negligent and dangerous.
Those Israeli and Palestinian citizens who encourage their
leaders to provoke an early death to the new negotiations are
nothing less than traitors to their own people.
There is a way out of this conflict. We are not destined to live
by the sword forever. There are solutions to the issues. Israel
can be secure and recognized; Jerusalem can be our eternal
capital, recognized by all the nations of the world. Israel can
be the magnet, the just and model society that will attract more
Jews to come here to live. Israel can continue to shine in the
field of hi-tech communications, biotech, agrotech and more.
Palestine too can prosper and shine. Palestine can be the first
truly democratic Arab state, with the most advanced education
system in the Arab region, the highest use of renewable energy,
modern technology in industry and agriculture, a new and
prospering hi-tech sector rapidly developing in cooperation with
Israeli companies. The entrepreneurial spirit which has enabled
the Palestinians to survive from one disaster to another can be
the fertile ground on which a new economy of Internet-age
Palestinians can be built.
We need to let loose the energies in both societies that are
locked up by the continued conflict. This is much truer about
Palestine than Israel, but in Israel as well, too much energy is
improperly invested in the survival mode necessary to sustain us
in conflict rather than in the creative mode which is sparked by
security and liberation. We must let that energy loose. We can
all be so much more than we are today.
This is not romantic kumbaya. Make no mistake, our spirit and
our belief in our own abilities is the essence of our life, hope
is the fire of our souls and the realization of our most noble
dreams is the goal that we must achieve. There are those of us,
maybe the majority, who cry woe about the horrible fate that has
been bestowed on us. There are those of us who see that real
peace is a real possibility and that the enormous amount of
energy and money that has gone into fostering conflict can now
be diverted to education, health care, science, discovery, the
environment, the arts, and not just the fact of our existence.
The rights of both peoples do not have to be mutually negating;
they can be mutually sustaining and fulfilling. The only way for
that to happen is for us to end the blood feud, recognize each
others’ rights to this land and make real peace.
The writer is co-CEO of the
Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information
(www.ipcri.org) and an elected member of the leadership of
Israel’s Green Movement political party.