As a new year approaches, we are no nearer to resolving our ongoing conflict
with the Palestinians and, by association, with the Arab world.
week’s summit in Washington, forced on the two leaders by the one ally that
neither can afford to offend, was okay as far as photo opportunities go, but
none of us are particularly surprised at the “nothingness” which came out of
The brave statement by the US administration that a final agreement
was expected within a year was soon watered down to nothing more than a
The head-to-head summit between the two leaders is
to be continued via fortnightly meetings between the representatives of both
sides, which we assume are unlikely to continue for long. Heard it all before?
It has been pretty much the same ever since the false euphoria created by the
Apportioning blame is the easy part. “They” are guilty
because they continue to perform acts of terror (witness last week’s killings of
four West Bank settlers), and because they have allowed Hamas to take over the
antipeace agenda. “We” are guilty because our settlement freeze is a fiction.
The West Bank Jewish population has grown well beyond 300,000, creating a
political and ideological infrastructure which no government is able to
evacuate. “They” are guilty because they insist on the “whole” of the West Bank;
“we” are guilty because we are not prepared to withdraw from the “whole” West
Bank – a small part of Mandatory Palestine.
Are we fooling ourselves when
we use the term “peace”? Do we really believe it can be achieved? According to
the irresponsible comments of our hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman a
few days ago (as reported in The Jerusalem Post
), peace can never be achieved
and it is, in his words, irresponsible to think it can. This implies that our
present government is just talking to improve its international image, not
because it really believes peace can become a reality.
Have any of us
really internalized the phrase which our leaders (first Ariel Sharon, now
Binyamin Netanyahu) use – “painful compromises”? Compromise is much more than a
simple barter or exchange – a piece of territory for a piece of
Painful compromise means giving up on something that
you believe is yours by right. It is not painful to give up something you won’t
miss. It is painful, deep deep down, to give up something which you believe is
one of the core elements of your statehood. To be prepared to do that, you have
to believe that the “other” side is making as painful a compromise as you are,
and that the end result will be a better, safer and more secure
FOR MANY Israelis, this means giving up the dream of the “entire
Land of Israel.” For the Palestinians, it means giving up on the “right of
return,” even if they believe that this is the ultimate injustice. Failure by
either side to understand that this is the real meaning of compromise guarantees
the failure of the present, and any future, peace summit.
It is not easy
to translate slogans into concrete reality.
But the loose way in which we
use the term “peace” has transformed it into something akin to waiting for the
messiah. Our lives as citizens of a militarily and economically strong Israel at
the end of another year are not that bad, but we are all aware that something is
The one thing we still seek is an end to the
None of us can even begin to understand what a difference a
real “end of conflict” will make to our lives – so many critical issues which we
push aside as being of only secondary importance will have to be dealt
Peace with our neighbors will signify a new beginning.
of conflict” will allow Israel to enter Phase II of its existence and finally
focus on the positive: what we want Israel to be in terms of its internal values
and behavior, rather than continue to prioritize the external threat and the
negative – besieged and isolated, Holocaust, anti-semitism, Masada and “Never
“End of conflict” will allow us to think about Israel in a
totally different fashion.
In the Musaf service of Yom Kippur we recite
the prayer that the high priest said as he entered the inner sanctum of the
Temple. He beseeched God to grant a year of sustenance, a year of economic
well-being and, no less significantly, a year of successful “negotiation” (masa
umatan), peace and ultimate tranquillity (shalom ushalva).
slide easily along our tongue. Each of us chooses to focus on specific aspects
of the prayer. For some, the request for peace is just another slogan, for
others it is the very essence of what we must strive for, so that by the time
next year’s Rosh Hashana comes around, we can point to real
As I, a proud citizen of this amazing state, reach the
beginning of another year, these are some of the thoughts uppermost in my mind.
I must ask myself what I will do, in practical terms, to help transform the
abstract slogan of peace into a tangible reality, to make this country into an
even better place.
What will I, and my friends, be doing to start taking
Israel into Phase II of its existence so that it can meet the objectives of its
founding fathers and be a haven based on equality and social justice – first and
foremost for us, but also for our neighbors.The writer is professor of
Political Geography at Ben-Gurion University and editor of the
Journal of Geopolitics.