An Indian poet once wrote: “I am alone, you are alone, let’s be alone together.”
This phrase admirably sums up the current positions of Israel and
Israel’s solitude is glaringly obvious to everyone in the
world, except possibly Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman. Approximately 130 of 193 UN members support a
Palestinian bid for statehood. There is a universal consensus for the
1967 lines and against settlements. The United States is a friend and ally, but
disagrees with our policies and is irritated to have been forced into isolation
In Europe we are witnessing a dangerous and growing
delegitimization of Israel. Europe puts the blame for Middle East stalemate on
our policies; occupation contradicts the most basic values of Europeans.
Israel’s policies are perceived as archaic in a modern world that gave up on
foreign rule and opted for open borders. There are growing calls for different
types of boycotts on Israel, academic, commercial, etc. This situation is even
more grave in Asia, Africa and Latin America. We have never in our modern
history been so isolated.
There are few countries that have enjoyed so
much international support as Israel did for its dramatic rebirth. All over the
world there was admiration of our nation-building process after the Holocaust –
the kibbutzim, the IDF, the industry, the vibrant democracy etc. Yet we feel, as
Golda Meir once stated, that “haolam kulo negdeinu,
” the whole world is against
us, a notion taken from the dark days of persecution and the ghetto. As
the saying goes, “It’s easier to take Israel out of the ghetto than the ghetto
out of Israel.” But today it has almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Today
we are indeed alone and isolated.
The Palestinians may be more popular,
but they too have been left to their own devices. While the international
community has in general adopted a line supportive of a Palestinian state with
east Jerusalem as its capital, it has not really engaged in enforcing such a new
reality, despite the Palestinian quest for it. The United States is more
sympathetic to their demands than before, yet remains a staunch ally of Israel.
Europe may be on their side, but gives in to its own complacency. When it
comes to the rest of the world, there may be a will but not a
Paradoxically, the biggest betrayal of the Palestinians emanated
from their Arab brethren. It actually started in 1947, when all Arabs rejected
the United Nations partition resolution that granted the Arabs a state in
Palestine, alongside a Jewish one. It continued with their refusal to assist the
Palestinian refugees, even economically. To this day most Arab countries’
support for the Palestinians remains rhetorical and emotional. Economic support
for nation-building is extremely limited, relative to the wealth of the Persian
Palestinians, somewhat like us, seem to be enamored with their
state of isolation. We hear at length of the supposed international
American-Zionist conspiracies against them, of their being the only people in
the world to be under occupation and without a state.
So both of us are
in isolation, in reality and psychologically.
That was very evident in
the UN speeches of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and
Netanyahu. Each depicted his nation as a victim of history, deeply
misunderstood by the rest of the world. This spectacle was sad, as neither man
seemed to understand that the only way to find a place under the sun in the
family of nations is to get their act together and link their neighborly futures
with a real, viable peace process. Should that occur, both of us, Israel and
Palestine, will be encouraged by the whole world.
For that reason, and
for reasons of national security and national aspirations, the two sides have to
advance down the path outlined by the Quartet on September 23.
take courage from both of these leaders. In their speeches at the UN last
Friday, they actually addressed their home constituencies, maybe even
successfully, but now the time has come to lead their people, and not be led by
The outcome of negotiations, a permanent- status agreement putting
an end to all claims, according to the Quartet by the end of 2012 at the latest,
is well known to every realist.
It will be close to the visions outlined
by presidents Clinton and Obama. The border based on the 1967 lines, with
mutually agreed swaps, (for the Israeli settlement blocs), stringent security
measures, a demilitarized Palestinian state, a limited Israeli and international
military presence along the Jordan Valley and a joint effort to prevent
Jerusalem a capital for two states, divided politically along
demographic and religious lines. A solution to the Palestinian refugee problem,
through the right of return to the new State of Palestine, and international
compensation, as well as resettlement of some in other countries.
are difficult and emotionally loaded issues to resolve, forcing each side into a
dramatic internal struggle for their own identity. It will not be a harmonious,
European-like peace, but rather a rational arrangement that serves the national
interests of both sides.
Even more important than resolving the issues of
the past is to structure the relations of the future, in three areas:
Israeli-Palestinian relationship must take the shape of normal neighborly
relations, gradually transforming a culture of conflict into a culture of
peace. Linking their two economies through joint ventures and free trade,
and linking their societies by creating a meeting place and dialogue for their
• Regional relations – Israel must insist, even
condition, its treaty with independent Palestine on all Arab countries (except
for Syria at this point) establishing full diplomatic and economic relations
• The international system must support Israeli-Palestinian
peace, Palestinian nation-building and (mainly the US) must be sensitive to
Israel’s new national security predicament.
If these things come to pass,
Israel and Palestine will be respected members of the family of nations. Not
isolated, not boycotted, not in a ghetto, but supported in their quests and
efforts. This is the challenge for the two leaderships. The alternative is for
two isolated countries to condemn themselves to a violent and dangerous future,
strengthening the forces of fundamentalism and radicalism.
There is one
scenario that is impossible after September 2011: the maintenance of the status
quo.The writer is the president of the Peres Center for Peace and served
as Israel’s chief negotiator of the Oslo Accords.