Encountering peace: Money can’t buy you love – or your independence

No amount of money in the world could have convinced the Jewish people and its leadership to give up the dream and demand for independence, liberty and sovereignty.

May 29, 2019 22:00
CHEERING THE creation of Israel in 1948.

CHEERING THE creation of Israel in 1948.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Imagine it’s the beginning of May 1948. US president Harry S. Truman sends David Ben-Gurion a telegram (there’s no Twitter yet): “You are invited to an international economic workshop I am organizing (Stop) Calling on good people and countries to raise money to support the construction of infrastructure for the Jewish autonomous zones of the British Mandate – billions of dollars (Stop) You must withdraw your plans to announce independence (Stop) The British are staying in Palestine (Stop) You will enjoy full autonomy under the British (a state minus) with US support (Stop) No foreign policy (Stop) No independent defense forces (Stop) no capital in Jerusalem which will be under international rule as determined by the United Nations in the resolution that you supported (Stop) And no immigration policy (Stop) You will have your flag in your autonomous areas and your national anthem (Stop) Waiting for your positive answer within two weeks (Stop) Signed Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America.”

No amount of money in the world could have convinced the Jewish people and its leadership to give up the dream and demand for independence, liberty and sovereignty in their own state as an expression of their legal right for self-determination in their own homeland. Even knowing that they would have to fight a brutal war in which at least 1% of the population would be killed, any Jew who would have called to accept money instead of full independence would have rightfully been called a traitor.

That is exactly the Palestinian response to the American plans for an “economic workshop” in Bahrain scheduled for next month. The Palestinians correctly understand that this first phase of President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is another policy expression launched by his administration, in full coordination with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to delegitimize Palestinian national aspirations. The Israeli response to the Palestinian rejection, as expected and planned, is: “The Palestinians are once again rejecting every possibility for peace. They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” as so eloquently stated by former Israeli statesman Abba Eban.

The Palestinians see how the Trump administration, led by his settlement-supporting team of Kushner, Greenblatt, Friedman and Dermer, in concert with Israel, first moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and then claimed to remove Jerusalem from the table; then worked to defund UNRWA claiming to remove refugees from the table; then systematically removed US financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, including security assistance; then, with the Bahrain charade, now seeks to buy out the Palestinian national agenda.

But listen to the words of Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Sheikh: “Jerusalem is not for sale. All the billions are not worth a stone in the walls of ancient Jerusalem. We wonder about those who are crying for our alleged prosperity, and why they are besieging our people financially and calling for conferences and workshops under the banner of a liar calling for reviving the economic situation in Palestine!? Those who surround our people are not entitled to claim that they care.” Those words could have been the same expressed by Jews in 1948, if Truman had actually tried to prevent Israeli statehood by buying off Jewish national aspirations for billions of dollars.

THOSE ISRAELIS and Americans who honestly believe that Palestinians do not value their national aspirations, or care less about the homeland than we do, think that the Palestinians can be bought for suitcases full of US dollars. A moderate settler I know had a serious conversation with me in which he expressed his deep belief that if we offered the Palestinians enough money, they would leave Judea and Samaria and let us have it all. He seriously believes that the majority of Palestinians would pick up and leave.

This is an opinion that I have heard many times by right-wing Israelis and many settlers among them. It is part and parcel of the official plans put forward by MK (and maybe soon-to-be minister) Bezalel Smotrich. It is the working plan and model of the Elad Association in Jerusalem working to remove Palestinians from Jerusalem, along with their cohorts from Ateret Cohanim, who have been trying to buy properties from Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1967. Their “success” at buying Palestinians out of their homeland is extremely limited.

Now listen to the words of Ze’ev Jabotinsky writing in November 1923: “To imagine, as our Arabophiles do, that they will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism – in return for the moral and material conveniences which the Jewish colonist brings with him – is a childish notion, which has at bottom a kind of contempt for the Arab people; it means that they despise the Arab race, which they regard as a corrupt mob that can be bought and sold, and are willing to give up their fatherland for a good railway system.

“There is no justification for such a belief. It may be that some individual Arabs take bribes. But that does not mean that the Arab people of Palestine as a whole will sell that fervent patriotism that they guard so jealously, and which even the Papuans will never sell. Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonized.”

The Palestinian resistance to the Trump plan is reasonable, understandable and even admirable, and if we were in their place we would strive to do the same.

There are those who cheer in delight at the news that last year, some 35,000 young Palestinians left Gaza. The number of Palestinians who have left the West Bank over the past few years is not published. Many young Palestinians would like to find their future abroad because their situation at home is not very promising. This does not mean that they don’t care about Palestine or about building their home. There are an estimated one million Israelis living outside of Israel. How should we relate to them? That they have taken money and opportunity over love of the homeland?

The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. His latest book, In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine, was published by Vanderbilt University Press.

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