Say 'yes' to the 'hudna'

Considering our earlier peace efforts, we might as well start from scratch.

masked gunmen 298 88 (photo credit: AP)
masked gunmen 298 88
(photo credit: AP)
On those mornings when I take a bus from my southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot to the Post offices on the other side of town, I always scan my fellow passengers - checking for suicide bombers. Several years ago, a colleague found himself sharing a ride with a randy "martyr" on his way to collect 70 virgins. Perhaps that's why I found myself receptive to an op-ed in Thursday's International Herald Tribune calling for a hudna. The piece had been written by one Ahmed Yousef, "a senior adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh." I have to confess, I had never paid much attention to Yousef. He appears to be a Hamas liaison to the foreign press on such issues as the elusive Palestinian unity government, non-recognition of Israel and the exchange of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. The Christian Science Monitor calls him a "moderate." Yousef's op-ed (which also ran in The New York Times) is part of a larger charm offensive. The Foreign Office in London facilitated visas to allow Yousef and another Hamas member, Said Abu Musameh, to hold private meetings and be interviewed by journalists. Yousef came pushing the hudna, telling the Guardian: "We hope Europeans will become aware of the concept of hudna, and that it can become a substitute for recognition of Israel. Debate about a political nation's right to exist seems infantile. Israel is a state now, it is part of the UN, it is de facto there, and we deal with it every day." In his op-ed, after explaining what a hudna is and why it is acceptable under Islamic jurisprudence, Yousef pledges that "when Hamas gives its word to an international agreement, it does so in the name of God, and will therefore keep it." Yousef continues: "This offer of hudna is no ruse - as some assert - to strengthen our military machine, to buy time to organize better or to consolidate our hold on the Palestinian Authority. "We Palestinians are prepared to enter into a hudna to bring about an immediate end to the occupation and to initiate a period of peaceful coexistence during which both sides would refrain from any form of military aggression or provocation. "During this period of calm and negotiations we can address the important issues like the right of return and the release of prisoners. The next generation of Palestinians and Israelis will have to decide whether or not to renew the hudna and the search for a negotiated peace." I'M NO adviser to the prime minister, but my first inclination - mindful of the politics of the bazaar - is to say: you want a hudna, you got a hudna. Now, let's talk details. Our Foreign Ministry is hung up with getting Hamas to unequivocally recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism and embrace commitments the Palestinian Arabs made under the 1993 Oslo Accords. I'm not much bothered about such things. After all, Yasser Arafat demonstrated that one can "renounce" terrorism while engaging in it; "recognize" Israel's right to exist while trying to bomb us to smithereens, and sit for photo-ops with visiting peace delegations while brainwashing Palestinian children to hate Jews. Maybe the problem was that we tried to cut a deal with Palestinian factions that couldn't deliver their people. We ought to abandon such impotent and disingenuous partners and do business with the people that can deliver. And considering how little our earlier peace efforts have actually accomplished, we might as well start from scratch. LET'S RESPOND by offering the Palestinian Arabs a Jewish hudna: 10 years of tranquility for the Arabs of Gaza, Judea and Samaria. If they stop all violence from the Jordan to the Mediterranean - no drive-by shootings, no rock-throwing, no firebombs, no bus or cafe bombings (you get the idea) from any Palestinian source - Israel will offer peace and quiet. If the other side can live without smuggling weapons and without training its young people for the next round of warfare, if it can retool its schools to teach hudna instead of intolerance, we should meet them halfway. Of course, we can't withdraw to the suicidal armistice lines of 1949 (which some call the 1967 borders), but we can commit ourselves to genuinely freezing the territorial expansion of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (we can always build higher); we can remove outposts not approved by the government; we can make it as easy to travel from Ramallah to Gaza as it is to journey from Safed to Eilat. Naturally, we will never agree to the "right of return" of the refugees (and their descendants) who left this land generations ago, but we can - with EU and US help - help those in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the territories demolish their refugee camps and build permanent housing; we can facilitate the building of industries in Palestinian Arab population centers; we can even welcome Palestinian Arabs back into Israel proper for business and pleasure. And, assuming the Palestinians do deliver, devoting themselves for the next 10 years to rebuilding their morally, politically and economically devastated society, relearning humane values and rediscovering a spiritualism that's not fixated on blood, I predict they will find most Israelis willing to compromise - even to the point of helping create a Palestinian Arab state. So, were I advising our premier, I'd urge him to invite Haniyeh to Jerusalem and start the hudna haggling.