The New York Times opened its columns on Tuesday for an op-ed composed by three Israelis representing a left-of-center Israeli group, Blue White Future
The article, "Peace Without Partners
" is by Ami Ayalon, Orni Petruschka and Gilead Sher. Ayalon is a former commander of the Israeli Navy and head of the Israel''s GSS, the domestic security agency, and a failed politician formerly of the Labour Party. Orni Petruschka is an entrepreneur and chairs "pro-peace" group, The People''s Voice, which terms itself "a public initiative promoting a permanent peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians", and Sher was a peace negotiator and chief of staff to Prime Minister Ehud Barak from 1999 to 2001.
If pressed to characterize the piece, the notation would be neutral. It is neither anti-Israel nor pro-Israel but presents a program of policy and action that seeks to benefit Israel although a motivation for the program''s rational is expressed so:
...Israel could negotiate more easily with a state than with a nonstate entity like the Palestinian Authority. And statehood would undermine the Palestinians’ argument for implementing a right of return for Palestinian refugees, since the refugees would have a state of their own to return to...as Israel celebrates 64 years of independence later this week, it would let us take our destiny into our own hands and act in our long-term national interest, without blaming the Palestinians for what they do or don’t do.
and could qualify as pro-Israel.
Nevertheless, there are two difficulties.
In the first place, its publication highlights an unfortunate editorial decision of the NYTimes to welcome op-eds from pro-peace/left-wing Israelis, intellectuals, literary figures and others such as Amos Oz, AB Yehoshua, David Grossman, Yossi Beilin, Nimrod Novick, Uri Avneri among many others. Some mainstream, others on the fringes. However, despite attempts, the NYTimes has never published an op-ed from someone who is not an elected politician or government official, but rather an extra-parliamentarian who supports the viewpoint that Israel has a right and need to be in Judea and Samaria, and Gaza, and to contruct communities there. Last May, MK Danny Danon had his piece published
. But to portray the idea of Eretz-Yisrael, of a historic right to national territory, of special security needs as an opinion of a person of culture, from the academy? That isn''t permitted.
Secondly, the article, nevertheless, through the vehicle of unilateralism, places the burden solely on Israel.
...Israel doesn’t need to wait for a final-status deal with the Palestinians. What it needs is a radically new unilateral approach: It should set the conditions for a territorial compromise based on the principle of two states for two peoples, which is essential for Israel’s future as both a Jewish and a democratic state. Israel can and must take constructive steps to advance the reality of two states based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps — regardless of whether Palestinian leaders have agreed to accept it. Through a series of unilateral actions, gradual but tangible changes could begin to transform the situation on the ground.
This, of course, could be a recipe for disaster. There was the experience of the 2005 Unilateral Disengagement and even Oslo Process champion, Yossi Beilin
has made clear:
"The greatest risk underlying unilateral action is the strengthening of extremists," he wrote
The article also contains a contradiction, unexplained. They write:
Israel...should create a plan to help 100,000 settlers who live east of the barrier to relocate within Israel’s recognized borders. That plan would not take full effect before a peace agreement was in place.
But, what "recognized borders"? If unilateral and, regardless if accepted by the Arabs, where is the "recognition"? Is this unilateralism or not? Has the NYTYimes permitted something non-sensical to be published and if so, is that an expression, after all, of anti-Israel thinking?
To be fair, the authors attempt to deal with this internal problem:
Critics will argue that unilateral moves by Israel have been failures — notably the hasty withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, which left settlers homeless and allowed Hamas to move into the vacuum and launch rockets into Israel. But we can learn lessons from those mistakes. Under our proposal, the Israeli Army would remain in the West Bank until the conflict was officially resolved with a final-status agreement...
The article seems not to rise above the level of platidudinal prose. Too many will read it and think: no logic, no connection to realpolitik.