Once again, hope tri­umphs over ex­pe­ri­ence

I was scep­ti­cal. But An­napo­lis moved me un­ex­pect­edly

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT&ANALYSIS - URI DROMI

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


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