Time for peace

The time has come to transcend. The time has come to talk. The time has come to compromise. This is the time for peace.

Tel Aviv memorial for Yitzhak Rabin in 2001 370 (R) (photo credit: Havakuk Levison/Reuters)
Tel Aviv memorial for Yitzhak Rabin in 2001 370 (R)
(photo credit: Havakuk Levison/Reuters)
One of the PLO’s major excuses for its current appeal for UN recognition is what it describes as “the tragic events” of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence – a depiction of the events of 1947-1948 that doesn’t match what I know to be historical reality.
November 29, 1947, was a special day for Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel, or Palestine as it was then called by the international community.
The Jewish population in Israel at that time numbered approximately 600,000, most of them refugees from the Nazi hell whose escape route to a safe harbor had been obstructed by British navy destroyers.
THE UN General Assembly held a special session regarding the Jewish-Arab conflict.
Sometime before 1947, a UN committee suggested a two-state solution called “The Partition Plan,” which called for the creation of a Jewish state for the Jews and an Arab state for the Arabs. Safed, for example, the city in which Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas was born, was included in the Jewish state. Voting on the plan took place on November 29, 1947.
David Ben-Gurion, the leader of Israel at that time, was not satisfied with plan; the Jewish state had been allotted insufficient land, he felt, without territorial continuity or logical borders. However, Ben-Gurion had to weigh 2,000 years of history and a promise from God against the stark reality of having to save the nation, to build a national shelter.
Thus, Ben-Gurion decided to accept the two-state solution.
The Jewish population of Israel followed the events unfolding in the UN on a radio broadcast.
A two-thirds majority was required for the passage of the plan. Thirty-three countries, headed by the United States, voted in favor. Thirteen countries, mostly Arab, voted against. Despite the small territory and the geographic limitations, the Jewish population erupted in joyful, celebratory dancing in the streets of Israel. The Arabs rejected the UN resolution and set the land on fire.
They tried to dismantle the Partition Plan via military occupation. Immediately following the UN resolution to create two states, the Arabs attacked Jewish population centers in at attempt to drive Jews from their homes.
On November 30, 1947, a Jewish bus (Egged bus No. 2094) was attacked by Arab forces and five of its passengers killed. Conventional armies and militias from seven Arab countries, joined by local Palestinian Arabs, attacked small, isolated Jewish towns as well as cities with mixed Jewish-Arab populations.
Defense was very difficult. The Arab attacks were brutal. Jewish neighborhoods in Safed (the city were I, too, was born), Tiberias, Haifa and Jerusalem were targeted.
The Arab leadership attempted to occupy these cities and neighborhoods as the first step toward violently “cleansing” them of Jews.
At the same time, many local Palestinian Arabs followed the calls of their leadership to temporarily abandon their homes and get ready for an eventual takeover of all the areas populated by Jews, who were to be chased away and their property confiscated.
This, the Arab leadership contended, would only be until the forthcoming victory.
Neither the superior numbers of the Arab forces, their abundance of armaments, nor their military training determined the outcome of the struggle, however. Objectively, those elements clearly favored the Arab aggressors. It was the historical justice, willingness to compromise and sheer faith of the Jews that tilted the scale.
THE ARAB attempt at conquest failed. The effort to torpedo the UN resolution failed.
The wish to forcefully impose one Arab state, rather than accept the two-state solution, failed.
We, the Jews, paid a steep price for our independence. One percent of our population fell in battle, and many thousands were wounded. But the aggressors were defeated.
Unfortunately, the Arabs, too, paid dearly – for their aggression, their obstinacy, for blindly following their leaders.
At the same time, a Jewish state was forged in the land of Israel. A new democracy was born. The war did not delay the establishment of democracy by a single instant. The violence against us, coupled with Arab obstinacy, did not diminish our wish for peace.
The obstacles did not dampen our spirit. The Arab public proclamations against us did not dishearten us, did not diminish our resolve.
Time and again, we clenched our teeth at the sight of the injuries inflicted on our citizens.
We were steadfast in our quest for a partner in peace, in our search for a breakthrough.
We gave back territory, oil fields and airports to achieve peace with Egypt.
We gave back territory and water resources to Jordan so that we could achieve peace.
We have retreated from Lebanese territory to a line set by the UN. Three Israeli prime ministers have deposited with the US government written commitments for a peace agreement with Syria.
Israeli governments have repeatedly shown willingness to make painful concessions to the Palestinians. We dismantled settlements and removed settlers by force.
The essence of Israel policy, in my opinion, is to ensure both our own security and the independence, respect and economic development of our Arab neighbors.
The moral compass of our nation was bestowed upon us by the Bible, which is our guide. We did not liberate ourselves from slavery in ancient Egypt in order to become slave-masters in our own land.
Most of us do not want to continue the occupation or rule over another nation.
We are dedicated to Ben-Gurion’s vision of dividing the land. In my opinion, every nation is entitled to self-determination, independence and sovereignty. These are basic, universal values that are the cornerstone of our belief system.
One has to look to the future. Dwelling on the past – and certainly distorting it – will not contribute to the resolution of the conflict. The Palestinian mistake of 1947 was very costly, and there is no rhyme or reason in repeating it. We, too, have erred in the past. The time has come to transcend. The time has come to talk.
The time has come to compromise. This is the time for peace.
The writer is a senior adviser to President Shimon Peres.