There is a well-documented phenomenon in societies as they reach the final
stages of a deeply rooted, bloody conflict. I call it “digging in the heels
against the current.” During this final phase, some societies show their ugliest
face. I am talking about the stronger side, the one required to make truly hard
concessions on real assets such as land. Such societies face a growing sense
that the world fails to see the justice on their side. Indeed, the world usually
supports the side perceived as the “underdog,” even when that side uses
terrorism to support its cause. The world sympathizes with its weakness and
often discounts its shortcomings.
The stronger sides often loses any
sense of its own strength and adopts an attitude of weakness. By portraying its
weakness internally, it ends up justifying behaviors which it would normally
Israel is not the first nation in this
There are many examples of societies that failed to accept the
inevitable and, instead of acting with intelligence and dignity, sacrificed
their own humanity in defense of their ‘right’ to defy what almost everyone else
sees as their wrong. The final two years of South African apartheid were among
the most repressive and aggressive of its too-long existence. The final period
of British rule in India witnessed atrocities committed by the most civilized
army on Earth at the time. The last years in Sudan provide another example of
horrendous brutality, misery and death.
When Israel resorts to calling
pro-Palestinian activists trying to enter the country legally through its
international front door “hooligans,” “terrorists,” and “Hamas lovers,” and
needs 600 policemen to prevent their entry, something is happening here that
When Israeli society feels a deep sense of threat
because a few hundred pro-Palestinian sailors aboard a group of 10 barely
seaworthy boats try to break the siege of Gaza, then something is happening
beneath the surface that should not be ignored or explained away as
anti-Semitism or de-legitimization campaigns.
There was no real threat
from the recent flotilla. Yet the perceived danger was expressed with
When Israel feels threatened by Palestinian
villagers who organize a march from their village to their spring every Friday
for the past two years (in Nebi Saleh), and has to resort to shooting hundreds
of teargas grenades at 50 protestors armed only with flags and songs, and the
public justifies this state-sponsored violence by calling the villagers
terrorists, then we have entered that final stage of the conflict described
THE LEGISLATIVE agenda of this Knesset, sponsored by this
government and promoted by hate and fear mongers, is further evidence that
Israel is digging its heels in against a current whose strength is increasing.
The ‘Nakba Law,’ the allegiance oath, the Anti-political NGO laws, the
Anti-boycott Law – all these are symptoms of a society which has lost control of
its own sense of legitimacy, and therefore uses a temporary coalition majority
to impose limits on its own democracy in order to create a façade of strength
Israel is in a race against time, and if it doesn’t
change course, it’s going to lose.
Israel’s speedometer and compass are
currently focused on September or shortly beyond, but even if the current
government manages to convince enough countries not to support the Palestinian
bid in the UN, the end of Israel’s control over the Palestinian people cannot be
Israel wants and needs security. It wants and needs recognition
of its legitimacy.
Israel wants and needs to resolve the Palestinian
refugee issue within the Palestinian state. It wants and needs recognized and
secure borders. Israel wants and needs the entire world to recognize Jerusalem
as its capital. None of these can be attained without first meeting similar
needs and desires of the Palestinian people.
But instead of declaring its
readiness to recognize a Palestinian state, Israel is busily working to prevent
All declarations of support for a two-state solution are
irrelevant in the face of the hard reality that the Israeli prime minister,
foreign minister and all its diplomatic service are actively trying to prevent
the Palestinian people from achieving liberty. This is how most of the world
perceives it; this is how every Palestinian sees it.
THE OPPORTUNITY is
at hand to turn the page on this conflict and to begin a new era. Israel can
change the way that almost every Palestinian views it. Israeli recognition of a
Palestinian state on the basis of the Obama principles – ’67 borders with agreed
territorial swaps, real security arrangements, a non-militarized Palestinian
state, Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and Palestine the homeland of
the Palestinian people, and a willingness to open sincere, honest and time-bound
direct negotiations – would be like a magic wand. Both sides would be compelled
to enter negotiations, and both would then have to make hard decisions and
Instead, Israel is digging in its heels.
will use its strength, sometimes with sophistication and cunning – as it did
with the flotilla and the airlift of pro- Palestinian activists – and sometimes
with mere force, as it does every Friday all around the West Bank. But none of
this will buy security, legitimacy, or the end of conflict with the
This conflict will not simply go away.
Palestinian people will not bury their yearning for freedom and
The majority of nations around the world will not forever,
and not even for a long time, bow to Israel’s refusal to remove its control over
the Palestinian people.
The end of this conflict is inevitable. It has
been long; it has been painful and bloody. It has created deep-rooted hatred,
anger and despair. It generates fear, and fear feeds the sense that it is
impossible to arrive at peace. There are ways to make that route a lot less
dangerous. In the end, Israel and Palestine will live in peace and we all know,
more or less, what a peace agreement must look like.
Why do we still
refuse to see the inevitable? The writer is founder and co-director of IPCRI,
the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, he hosts a weekly
radio show in Hebrew on All for Peace radio (107.4 FM in Israel), and is a
voluntary columnist for
The Jerusalem Post.