Nei­ther US nor Pales­tini­ans will ever cre­ate peace. Only Is­rael can


The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SHLOMO AVINERI

THERE IS no doubt that those who launched the peace process in Oslo 21 years ago truly be­lieved it would lead to a his­toric com­pro­mise be­tween us and the Pales­tini­ans.

Oslo’s spon­sors saw the con­flict as one be­tween two na­tional move­ments and be­lieved — as did I — that di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Is­rael and the PLO could find a so­lu­tion to the ter­ri­to­rial and strate­gic is­sues that were the cor­ner­stones of the dis­pute. We were wrong. The Pales­tini­ans don’t think this is a con­flict be­tween two na­tional move­ments. From their per­spec­tive, this is a con­flict be­tween a sin­gle na­tional move­ment — the Pales­tinian one — and a colo­nial­ist, im­pe­ri­al­ist en­tity that is des­tined to van­ish from the world.

The Is­raeli po­si­tion talks about “two states for two peo­ples”. But in the Pales­tinian ver­sion, the phrase “two peo­ples” does not ap­pear; it only talks about “two states.”

If any­one thinks this is hair-split­ting, let him ask a Pales­tinian in­ter­locu­tor for his opin­ion on the “two states for two peo­ples” for­mula. Sooner or later, he will get the an­swer that there is no Jewish people.

This is also why the Pales­tini­ans re­jected the for­mula pro­posed by US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry that spoke of an agree­ment be­tween “two na­tion­states”. The truth is that, in the Pales­tinian nar­ra­tive, the Jews are nei­ther a people nor a na­tion, but merely a re­li­gious com­mu­nity; there­fore they are not en­ti­tled to a state. This is also the rea­son for the sweep­ing, un­com­pro­mis­ing Pales­tinian re­fusal to recog­nise Is­rael as the Jewish na­tion-state.

This is the root of the con­flict. And, of course, the Pales­tinian re­fusal to give up the prin­ci­ple of the “right of re­turn” is tied into this.

In a con­flict be­tween two na­tional move­ments, com­pro­mise is pos­si­ble. But if you view your move­ment as fight­ing against a colo­nial­ist move­ment, there is no chance of com­pro­mise and no moral jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for it. What can be done? Noth­ing can be ex­pected from the United States or the Ne­tanyahu govern­ment. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has failed in ev­ery for­eign-pol­icy chal­lenge, from Crimea and Ukraine to Syria and Iraq. The Ne­tanyahu govern­ment is fo­cused solely on pub­lic diplo­macy en­abling it to con­tinue the sta­tus quo, which is dis­as­trous.

This pre­sents an op­por­tu­nity for the op­po­si­tion, headed by the Labour Party, to pro­pose an al­ter­na­tive. There is no rea­son to keep re­it­er­at­ing the mantra that we must re­sume peace talks, be­cause it is clear they will not bear fruit. With­out re­treat­ing from the prin- ciple of “two states for two peo­ples,” the op­po­si­tion must pro­pose in­terim steps right now as a way to move to­wards a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion.

It must de­mand a com­plete halt to con­struc­tion in the set­tle­ments, the evac­u­a­tion of il­le­gal out­posts, a re-ex­am­i­na­tion — once the cur­rent ten­sion has ebbed — of the Is­rael De­fence Forces’ de­ploy­ment in the West Bank, and the re­moval of what re­mains of the Gaza block­ade.

Fi­nally, it must pro­pose an ini­tia­tive to re­duce Is­rael’s civil­ian pres­ence in the West Bank by de­vel­op­ing an evac­u­a­tion-com­pen­sa­tion plan. Ac­cord­ing to it, West Bank set­tlers who would like to re­turn to Is­rael proper, will re­ceive a govern­ment sub­sidy which would make their re­lo­ca­tion pos­si­ble.

The op­po­si­tion, headed by the Labour Party, should ini­ti­ate these ideas rather than just re­peat the re­frain of “re­turn­ing to peace talks” which is just an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity.

Those of us who sup­ported Oslo must recog­nise that sal­va­tion will not come from the Pales­tini­ans. They are gen­uinely un­in­ter­ested in a so­lu­tion of two states for two peo­ples.

We can rely only on our­selves, not in the sense of our mil­i­tary power, but of our wis­dom, our de­sire to main­tain a Jewish na­tion-state here, and our abil­ity to re­alise this de­sire, even in the face of deep-seated re­jec­tion by the other side. Shlomo Avineri is a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at He­brew Univer­sity. This is an abridged ver­sion of an ar­ti­cle that orig­i­nally ap­peared in ‘Haaretz’


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