יום שישי, 27 בינואר 2012

Peace Is not a Piece of Paper

The underlying assumption of Israel in its agreements with Arab partners has been that the regimes of those countries or entities were “strong,” or perhaps dictatorial. Because of that they were able to control their citizens much better than Israel. Less democracy, less human rights, no freedom of the press, no independent courts and lack of similar headaches make ruling easier. Furthermore, Israel presumed that such Arab regimes will continue to manage their affairs in this manner during the foreseeable future.

The Arab revolt, or spring turned those assumptions upside down. The Arab protests are hardly a harbinger of democracy in the Western sense. Probably the fastest way to commit suicide is to go to Tahrir square wearing a yarmulke and shouting “I love Israel.” Calling these protests spring stems from the 1848 Spring of Nations in Europe. It took more than 100 years to establish democracy  after 1848 events. If it had had as many experts, former Ambassadors, commentators, journalists and other kibitzers, who usually fail to understand what has happened yesterday but are pundits and gurus as far as tomorrow goes, as the Arab Spring has, it would have taken 200 years. It will take many years for the Arab Middle East to change and transform itself into stable, hopefully democratic, although nobody knows for sure, political system. Nevertheless the Arab Spring shuttered the belief of Israel in stability and long range survival of the party with whom an agreement is executed. Peace or interim arrangements are not any more only questions of borders, checkpoints, military power and other physical characteristics but also, perhaps mainly, the internal social structure of the neighbor. How to influence it, if at all, so that peace would survive political changes which may occur inside the neighbor-partner is now the primary focus point. The peace, if real, should stay in place whether Palestinian leaders are elderly survivors of Fatah in Tunis, or Hamas, or Muslim Brothers, or Salafists or democrats.
The UN resolution 181 of November 1947 called for an establishment of an Arab state and a Jewish state in the territory of Palestinian mandate. It envisaged a Jewish minority in the Arab state and an Arab minority in the Jewish state.

Mahmoud Abbas strongly objects even to a single Jew in the future Palestinian state. His objection may be explained by personal antisemitism, by conviction that antisemitism is a core belief of his people, or by damaging social and political implications of an Israeli minority in the Palestinian state, or by a combinations of these factors.
The doctorate that Abbas wrote in the early eighties is based on Holocaust denial, at least in the sense that the number of Jews was much smaller than the one accepted by community of nations and on the claim that the Holocaust has been conceived by the Zionism movement to attain sympathy of the world for a Jewish state because Jews were exterminated. Those claims are certainly expressions of the worst antisemitism. Still, it is not clear whether they stem from personal hatred and obsession of an antisemite in the sense depicted for instance by Jean Paul Sartre, or his work is in fact a pamphlet of political convenience. Be this as it may, even if he is an antisemite, he is a skilled politician, who can certainly put his anti-Jewish convictions aside, if political circumstances call for it.

Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the founding leader of the Palestinian movement was and ally of Hitler. During World War II he lived in Berlin, was engaged in Nazi propaganda and organized Muslim SS units. Antisemitic declaration by religious leaders are daily events in Palestine and in other Arab countries. Even so, it is doubtful whether the antisemitism in Palestine and the Arab world is wider than, say, in Germany where according to recent polls one fifth of the people hate Jews. Atisemites are certainly a vocal group, consequently antisemitic statements are frequently a source for loud applauds and may create a political advantage. Many Palestinians hate Israel and Israelis, however on personal level of one two one, they get along usually in a friendly manner.

Politically, democracy and human rights that Israeli minority may bring about is the most troubling point for the current Palestinian leaders. Strangely as it may seem to an outside observer, Fatah is in power in the West Bank primarily because of Israel Army bayonets. It cannot survive real democracy. It lost election to Hamas, not because Palestinians became more religious or more radical in their opposition to Israel, but because of protest against Fatah corruption in contrast to Hamas effort to built schools and provide other social services.

On the face of it Israeli minority in Palestine will cause no harm and will do a lot of good. Five or ten percent of Israelis will not change the existing social culture. On the other hand such minority may help to make Palestine a democracy, it will contribute to economic success and bring in foreign investment capital. In addition, the border issues between the two neighbors will be much easier to solve. Democratic Palestine with Israeli minority could also become a model country for democracy and economic success of the whole region. Palestine with Israeli minority integrates the advantages of both the two state and the single state solutions, while avoiding the weaknesses of both.

Logical arguments do not necessarily prevail in political context, however stating the goals clearly may become a step in the right direction. One objective would be an attempt for wider dialog between the Jewish and Palestinian communities, working for a peace reflecting not a legal piece of paper between leaders, but a wish of living together in proximity. Israel has now a sort of interim arrangement with the West Bank. This arrangement could be expanded by providing more freedom to Palestinians, without new risks to security. In addition, Israel should abandon the practice of negotiating with Hamas through third parties and start direct contacts. There is nothing new in talking with the enemy, even during a war, if by this some ends are met. Except of rhetoric there is not much difference between Fatah and Hamas. The Palestinian main street craves for unity. Israel can be of service in this respect and thus emphasize its importance in political processes that take place among Palestinians.  

Israel laments about Hamas charter, antisemitic propaganda and hatred, lack of education for peace and many such other. Regrettable as these phenomena of hatred are it is a mistake to present them as if going away from hatred is a concession. Palestinians should abandon hatred because of their own interest and not as a favor to Israel or Jews. If they cannot do it let it be. If they prefer war and or de-legitimization of Israel it is their choice. Hopefully by recognizing their interests they will make a better one, but it is not a negotiating issue. Israel is, and must continue to be strong enough to defend, sometimes by attack, its own self interests. Peace is one of them, hopefully with an equal partner.

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