Remembrance Day and Independence Day elicit for me conflicting feelings of pain
and pride, of grief and joy, since they fall only one week apart.
a deep sadness for my close friends who are no longer with us and for our
nation’s great loss. But I also feel happiness for our blossoming and prospering
country, as well as for our booming economy and our far-reaching scientific
Israel today is democracy at its best.
But this year,
unlike in past years, I am angry. Angry at decision-makers who throughout the
years have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It turns out that
the claim that Israel has no partner in the Egyptian leadership was just a
cover-up for Israel’s ineffectual governing; a type of armor to protect it from
having to make important decisions and from the fear of having to pay the
political price for progress.
Recently, correspondence between prime
minister Moshe Sharett and Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had just
begun his term, was released for public scrutiny. It appears that the Egyptian
president had indeed expressed readiness to sign a peace agreement with Israel.
According to reports, Sharett welcomed the initiative, but did not take the bull
by its horns.
Instead, he set unrealistic prerequisites that of course
were never met, and the rest is history: Fedayeen, reprisals and the Six Day
Sharett did not share this initiative with the public or even with
his cabinet. We had to wait 60 years to learn about it. It turns out that at the
beginning of his career, Nasser could have been a partner for Israel, albeit a
tough and complex one. He might not have been trustworthy, but it definitely
would have been worthwhile to give negotiations with him a
Sharett had no right to disqualify Nasser outright.
Kipnis’s disturbing book, 1973, The Road to War, which was recently published,
is based on documents that describe Israeli efforts to torpedo Egyptian
president Anwar Sadat’s peace initiative just before the Yom Kippur War.
According to Kipnis, Sadat sent his foreign minister to the US with a peace
initiative that was much more generous than the one signed after the
The Israel of Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan and Yisrael Galili used every
trick in its diplomatic arsenal to quash the initiative – from the bizarre
request to receive the initiative in writing, which surprisingly the Egyptians
agreed to provide, to dragging out the process for an unrealistic amount of
Looking back, the book says, the US wanted Israel’s word that it
would not to strike preemptively even if it knew for sure that Egypt was about
to declare war.
We know all too well how terrible this war was. On
Remembrance Day we visit the graves of more than 2,700 young people who paid for
this refusal to pursue peace with their lives. It is important to remember that
the phrase, “We have no partner to talk to,” was often heard at the time from
policy-makers who were hiding the Sadat initiative from the government and the
public. They would systematically use the words “We have no one to talk
Today, after 65 years of Israeli independence, I have a feeling of
The “We-have-no-partner” attitude regarding the Palestinians has
taken root and become ubiquitous. Since the founding of the state, the
Palestinian issue has not been a priority for Israel. Granted, Tzipi Livni and
Amir Peretz’s Hatnua Party based its platform on the issue, and Zehava Gal-On of
Meretz is also keen to deal with it. But these two parties won only six and five
mandates, respectively in the recent election. The vast majority of the public
is convinced that there is no one to talk with, and therefore none of the other
parties focused on diplomacy.
Following the Sharett-Nasser and
Golda-Sadat affairs, we need to make an effort not to miss signals from the
other side. Mahmoud Abbas is not a member of the Lovers of Zion and will
probably not join in the future. He is a patriotic Palestinian looking out for
the well-being of his people. His ideas on how to find a solution to the
conflict are hard to digest and some of his statements are
His actions are disturbing, however he is not so extreme that
we can truly say that there is no one to talk to on the other
Abbas, who was born in Safed, has publicly stated that he is
reconciled to the fact that he will never live again in the Galilee city. If
this is not a retraction of the demand for the right of return, I don’t know
what would be. Abbas has proclaimed that he rejects terrorism and advocates
diplomacy. Doesn’t this prove that we have someone with whom to talk? Lessons of
the past show us that there is always going to be a partner for
A partner who is an opponent, and whose opening statements
we cannot accept, but with whom we can negotiate and – with joint efforts – even
reach a stable agreement.
The writer is a senior adviser to President
Shimon Peres. Translated by Hannah Hochner.