Once again, hope triumphs over experience
I was sceptical. But Annapolis moved me unexpectedly
WHEN ALL TV channels on Tuesday night carried the proceedings of Annapolis, I had a serious dilemma: on the sports channel, at precisely the same time, my favourite football club, Barcelona, was playing Lyon in the European Champions League. Before you wonder how come I prefer a football match over a historic event that might decide the future of my children and grandchildren, let me explain. On September 13, 1993, I was in the White House, and till my dying day I will remember the outcry of joy coming from the crowd when the two arch-enemies, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, shook hands.
Then everything went wrong. Arafat turned out to be a liar, Rabin was assassinated, and Oslo was derailed. Since then, you may consider me one of the Oslo disappointees.
But while holding the remote control, ready to switch to football, I heard the words of Palestinian President Abbas: “I say to the citizens of Israel, on this extraordinary day, you, our neighbours on this small land… we stretch our hands to you as equal partners in peace.” My cynicism melted away and I was moved again. Maybe it’s like second marriage: the victory of hope over experience.
Suddenly it occurred to me that it was 60 years ago, to the day, that the UN decided that Palestine should be partitioned. The Jews in 1947 responded with celebrations, while the Arabs started shooting. Six decades later, the Arabs are paying for their rejectionism. While the Jews have a prosperous state, the Palestinians are fragmented, scattered in refugee camps, with the world wondering whether they could ever pull themselves together.
I listened carefully when Abbas addressed his fellow Palestinians: “I do recognise that each one of you has his personal pain, personal tragedy as a result of this conflict and of the years of tragedy and occupation. These are very bitter years. Don’t be depressed. Don’t lose hope, for the whole world today now is stretching its hand toward us in order to help us put an end to our tragedy.”
These were moving words, which should also have touched the Israelis. Israel can’t afford to sit idly and wait until the Palestinians sort their inner feuds. Strong and confident, Israel should now act with generosity and help Abbas reaffirm his position vis-à-vis Hamas.
Israel shouldn’t be ruling the West Bank anyway. Better pull back, and maintain a solid Jewish majority within a smaller Israel, than keep the West Bank and become a bi-national state, where Arabs eventually become the majority. We shouldn’t be risking the great Zionist accomplishments of the last 60 years. Israel, smaller in size but stronger in spirit, should be ready to stretch a helping hand to its Palestinian neighbours, if they choose to live in peace, or to defend itself rigorously, if attacked.
When I finally switched to the sport channel, I realised that I had missed the two goals scored early in the game. Never mind, there will be a replay. The peace process, on the other hand, in its present phase, has only begun. Uri Dromi was the spokesman of the Rabin and Peres governments, 1992-1996