Friday, March 22, 2013

To everything there is a season; a time of war, and now a time of peace

Thank you President Obama for your visit in Israel. 

You won the hearts of all. The truth is, the minds of most are already oriented in the same direction as yours: a majority of Israelis, even of those who voted for PM Netanyahu, prefer a viable Palestinian State alongside Israel to stalemate, and would prefer ploughshares to swords.

Impressively, you corrected some mistakes of the past – such as not to make negotiations conditional on a settlement freeze.

President Abbas, now it is your turn not to repeat the mistakes of the past: You keep insisting on a settlement freeze as a pre-condition for entering negotiations. When PM Netanyahu agreed to President Obama’s request and implemented a ten-month settlement freeze, you did not return to the negotiation table, but asked for more.

And if you were truly honest, you would recognize Israel as a (the) Jewish State (with a sizable Arab minority), just like the State of Palestine, doubtlessly, is an Arab State (which you prefer without Jews).

PM Netanyahu – this is your third government. Fortune has brought you yet another opportunity. In spite of your hopes and the expectation that you would win a giant election victory, you barely escaped embarrassing defeat. What seemed like an unalterable long-term trend toward the right, received a surprising blow, and the Israeli people clearly said, “We want change.”

This is the time to seek your place in the annals of the people of Israel. You probably wanted to be recorded in the history book of your father, the right-wing historian. But your father is dead, and now, as we celebrate Passover, in commemoration of liberation from slavery, you are free to abandon the too grand fantasies and enter into the freedom of realistic implementation.

Please do hold on to the sense of historical rights of the Jewish people to the entire Land of Israel, yet do also realize that this earth is shared between two peoples, each with its grandiose fantasies, wanting it all for themselves, but having to compromise in the balance of reality.

If, likewise, the Palestinian leadership, who adheres to the idea of Greater Palestine, abandons their written desire to actually cleanse this land of the Jews, then both sides may approach each other.

This is a golden opportunity. President Obama has expressed and demonstrated his firm commitment, and will provide the help the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael need.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, you will have a strong majority behind you if you:
  • declare a stop of building in all settlements beyond the security fence, and a step-by-step process of “evacuation-compensation” of the Jewish settlers there, rather than wasting the country’s finances on settlements that in any case at some point will be evacuated; and
  • recognize the State of Palestine, within temporary borders.

You could then suggest the beginning of a process of negotiations of partial agreements, in which every agreed-upon step is implemented, rather than complete agreements, to be implemented only at the end of negotiations (which has not been successful).

It may be more convenient for the Palestinians to negotiate as a Palestine – Jordan confederation, which makes it more sustainable during interim stages, and puts the pressure off the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish State early in the process.

That way, areas of West Bank land not yet under Palestinian control can be handed over, step by step, to the Palestinian State, which together with Jordan can implement the necessary security to prevent rockets and other military equipment from entering, which might threaten for instance Israeli air traffic.

In exchange for the settlement blocs along the former Green Line (a few percent of the West Bank), in which the great majority of Israeli settlers live, Egypt could provide area in Sinai to enable the necessary expansion of Gaza, while Israel turns over part of Western Negev to Egypt.

Map by Shaul Arieli 
Whatever procedures, processes and arrangements, this is the season and the time to be liberated from rigid conceptualizations. President Obama clearly showed the way, including learning from past mistakes. Many claim your government has a too strong right-wing element. That will not be a big problem; just like your mentor Menachem Begin, who signed a peace treaty with Egypt relying on the left, you can safely rely on a parliamentary majority in favor of peace. All it takes is a courage, creativity and leadership.

Happy Passover ! חג שמח 
From the Arthur Szyk Haggadah

Further readings: The Hero & His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel; Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return.

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