Encountering Peace: The house is on fire
By GERSHON BASKIN
This isn’t about the tragedy in the Carmel. This is about the proverbial fire under the house of the Zionist enterprise.
A week ago I wrote in this column that “the house is on fire and it’s time to
wake up before everything we have built is destroyed by our own doing.”
was, of course, not referring to the tragic fire in the Carmel Forest. The fire
is now out and Nature will have to work its wonders to bring life back where
cinders now took over, but Nature knows how to recover.
The fire I wrote
about is the proverbial fire under the house of the Zionist enterprise, and I
wonder how it will be defeated. The country is facing the most crucial period in
its history, with a need to make unprecedented decisions, and it seems that the
decision makers are not even aware.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has
defined one of the most significant threats as the movement to delegitimize
Israel. If he doesn’t put out the fire, he ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Israelis must
wake up to the reality that ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian
state are no longer negotiable.
The right of the Palestinians to live as
a free people in their own state is not questioned today anywhere in the world
except here. The world is tired of this conflict. The world is tired of Israeli
excuses, including its refusal to stop building in settlements.
does not understand what Israel wants. The world cannot understand what
Netanyahu’s strategy is, and where it’ leading. The world also cannot accept
that because of a belief that only the IDF can prevent terrorism, millions of
Palestinians should be denied their basic freedom, dignity and
ISRAEL HAS no strategy, no policy and no direction
with regard to negotiating peace. I recently spoke with one of its negotiators –
a rather senior fellow. He too admits that he does not know what the strategy
is, or what the prime minister seeks to achieve.
negotiators submitted a full plan to US envoy George Mitchell. He came back with
questions and they provided answers. Israel has not done the
Mitchell, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and even President
Barack Obama have no idea what Netanyahu wants or how he plans to do
After 18 years of peace process, it is clear that the Palestinians
refuse to enter another open-ended negotiation. In light of Israel’s continuing
to create facts on the ground, especially in Jerusalem, they cannot agree to
negotiations unless there is a settlement freeze. It is true that they
negotiated in the past without such a freeze, but look where it got them. Since
the beginning of Oslo, the number of settlers has more than
During Netanyahu’s first term, Har Homa was still a forest-
topped hillside. Palestinians cannot stand by and negotiate forever while more
possibilities for creating their state are removed by more
Israelis seem quite prepared to manage the conflict with no
real resolve to end it. The amazing thing is that ending the occupation and
creating a Palestinian state is not a favor to the Palestinians, it is the most
urgent strategic necessity for Israel.
It seems that Israelis have no
concept of the reality on the other side. Israel has removed checkpoints and the
Palestinian economy is blossoming. We have seen the new clubs, hotels and
restaurants in Ramallah on our news channels. The work of the Palestinian
Authority under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is indeed impressive.
entire logic of the successful Fayyad project is the establishment of a state in
2011. The rebuilt PA security forces, trained and equipped by the US, have
eliminated terrorism and terror infrastructure in the West Bank because they are
preparing for a state, not to provide security for the continuation of the
Why should any Palestinian policeman provide security for any
settler? If the Palestinians come to understand that they are serving the
occupation and not its end, the entire logic on which the PA is built collapses.
And at that point there is no reason at all for any PA official to continue to
Abbas’s threat to disband the PA should not be understood as an
empty declaration. There are significant forces within the PA and the PLO which
are seriously lobbying for it. In the absence of negotiations with substance and
a timetable, there is no sense in continuing to play the game of false
IN TODAY’S reality, Palestinians still live in a cage
controlled by Israel. Their economy is subjugated to Israel’s, their rights of
movement in and out of the West Bank are controlled by Israel. The population
registry is under Israel’s control. Israeli forces move in and out freely in all
areas of the West Bank. President Abbas requires Israel’s permission to move
around. Any planning, licensing or building in 60% of the West Bank called Area
C requires Israeli approval.
Netanyahu must be called to task – are you
ready to grant Palestinians their independence or do you wish to continue to
control them? There is no middle ground. We who work for peace had hoped that
the US would help us reach an agreement, but it seems it will not be providing
the friendly push to help make the difficult decisions. But the creation of a
Palestinian state is a Zionist imperative, not an American one. It is in
Israel’s interest to midwife its birth.
The implementation of the
two-states-for-two-peoples solution must come from the inner belief that we are
making a choice not to be enemies of the Palestinian people. The more painless
the birth of the Palestinian state, the more likely that we can move on to a
process of real reconciliation and create the stability and security that both
There are places in the Land of Israel which represent
the cradle of our heritage. We should be glad to visit them as welcome guests of
the Palestinian state.
We have the Coastal Plain, the Galilee and the
Negev and we will share Jerusalem, but the West Bank is Palestine. If Israel
would prefer to trade the Coastal Plain for the West Bank, I am quite sure the
Palestinians would agree.
In peace we will have our state on 78% of the
land between the river and the sea, and the Palestinians will accept the
principle of some minor swaps that will allow some 75% of the settlers to remain
in their homes, but the rest will have to come back to Israel or move into the
annexed areas. The price of our freedom is the freedom of the Palestinians.
Either we accept it now, while we have the overwhelming support of the West, or
we will accept it later after we lose most of our supporters and most of our
The writer is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for
Research and Information (www.ipcri.org) and is in the process of founding the
Center for Israeli Progress (http://israeli-progress.org).