As a believer in the cause of the two-state solution, which would preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state by ending the occupation, I ask myself: Who is our leader?
Until recently, I said: Barack Obama. But he caved in to the Netanyahu government and its supporters in the US. As a Mideast peacemaker, Obama has become a joke, and nobody takes his envoys or these “proximity talks” seriously.
Before Operation Cast Lead, I said the leader of our movement was Tzipi Livni. But in the Gaza war she showed that when push comes to shove, she’s still a Likud hawk, no matter what party she’s in.
For a short while, when he was floating his “convergence plan,” I said our leader was Ehud Olmert. But he turned out to be the worst political schizophrenic of all our prime ministers – he talked more peace and made more war than any of them.
Before Olmert, it was Ariel Sharon. And what a tragedy it was for the peace movement when he was struck down.
Before the 2000 intifada, of course, it was easy to identify the leader of the movement for a two-state solution: It was whoever stood at the head of the Labor Party. That meant Ehud Barak, and before him Shimon Peres, and before him Yitzhak Rabin.
And prior to Labor’s “conversion” in the 1993 Oslo Accord, the two-state cause had no single leader but rather a collection of them: MKs Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid, the heads of Peace Now, Amos Oz and others.
NOW LOOK around today. The idea that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has raised the flag of the two-state solution only dramatizes how hopeless, how pathetic the cause has become around here. “Hopeless” and “pathetic” also describe the Obama administration’s contribution.
So the movement for a Jewish, democratic state alongside a Palestinian state, as mainstream as it is, as accepted internationally as it is, has gone stagnant, right? It has no direction, no leader anymore, right?
Wrong. The cause that I and literally billions of people in the world support has a leader. He lives in Ramallah, his job title is prime minister of the Palestinian Authority and his name is Salam Fayyad.
Everyone who isn’t in the “national camp” or the Republican Party understands that Fayyad is the real thing – a man of peace, a democrat, a realist, a Palestinian statesman who is at once honest, skilled and visionary.
He’s the leader and symbol of something completely new in history – a non-violent Palestinian national liberation movement. What’s more, not only does he recognize Israel, he turned down the prime minister’s job some years ago when Hamas, then a PA coalition partner, refused to recognize Israel as well.
Last year he invited West Bank settlers to remain in a future state of Palestine as citizens, saying they “certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the State of Israel.”
He got his PhD in economics at the University of Texas, made his career with the US Federal Reserve, World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and was a favorite of the Bush administration. Never a member of Fatah or any other militant organization, he ran in the PA
election as head of a liberal list called “The Third Way.”
If we’re looking for a Palestinian leader to make peace with, exactly what more do we want?
I think PA President Mahmoud Abbas has gotten a badly undeserved rap; he’s a courageous man who won the Bush administration’s support by speaking out against Yasser Arafat and the “militarization” of the intifada. But he doesn’t have personal charisma (not that Fayyad
does), he doesn’t speak English and he doesn’t have his prime minister’s bold ideas. So Fayyad – who, at 58, is also nearly 17 years younger than Abbas – is the man to watch.
He’s trying to build Palestine from the ground up – by developing the national economy, security and government. He’s enforcing an economic boycott of products made in the settlements, and aims to stop Palestinians from working in the settlements by providing them jobs.
He’s not a terrorist, he’s just not a collaborator, which is what bothers a lot of Israelis, including the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which doesn’t like this “popular resistance” stuff and hasthreatened to punish the PA for it.
FAYYAD IS also encouraging the demonstrations in Bil’in, Na’alin, east Jerusalem and other hot spots where Palestinians are trying to reclaim their land. The IDF and the government denounce these demonstrations as violent, even as “terrorism,” because there’s some stone throwing.
I would make two points: 1) no other national liberation movement in history, including Israel’s, was less violent than this one; and 2) as usual, the Palestinians are taking incomparably more violence from IDF soldiers and border policemen than they’re dishing out.
As for the Zionist peace movement’s place in all this, we can’t and shouldn’t line up with people who are throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers and policemen. We shouldn’t boycott products made in the settlements, either – unless we’re also ready to boycott products made
in the country that builds those settlements, and we can’t very well do that and go on living here.
What we can do, though, is say publicly that the “popular resistance”
is fighting for a just cause with admirable restraint, and that the
best way for Israel to end the stone-throwing and the boycott is to
give the Palestinians back their land.
We can proclaim that the Palestinian Peace Now that Israelis say
they’ve been waiting for is in the streets of Bil’in, Na’alin, Sheikh
Jarrah and other rightful parts of Palestine. We can announce that the
Palestinian Mandela whom Israelis say they’ve been waiting for has
And we can ask: Where, today, is Israel’s Peace Now? And where, today, is there an Israeli de Klerk?