Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lip service will not bring peace

Instead of playing to the gallery of public opinion, Palestinian and Israeli leaders should start telling their people the truth.

Salman Masalha ||
Lip service will not bring peace

Peace talks are resuming. There is no topic that has not yet been exhausted in this dialogue of the deaf. Teams from both sides will make their way to the United States, only to repeat their treading of water. We’re told that there is international consensus regarding a two-state solution. We’re also told that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians support this outcome. If this is how things stand, why is no solution at hand?

The truth of the matter is that these are only pipe dreams. On neither sides is there a sincere wish to resolve the conflict, with all that it entails. Leaders on both sides are busy with their deceptive tactics, only undertaken with the aim of retaining power. In order to keep ruling over the ignorant masses, Israelis and Palestinians alike, they are willing to fill the airwaves with slogans that sound pleasant to Western ears, at the same time enjoying the praise that they reap in abundance from Uncle Sam and his allies. The sweetness of peace slogans is the lip service paid in order to appease international public opinion. This is what Palestinian and Israeli leaders have been doing for decades.

However, in order to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it is necessary to address core issues, since in that core lie both the dangers and the solution. It seems that as time goes by we keep returning to the same point of origin.

The plan to partition the disputed land into a Jewish and an Arab state was never really internalized by the two adversaries. Both sides continue to claim ownership over the entire land, ignoring the reality which dictates the need for a two-state solution. These claims can only guarantee more blood, sweat and tears for all the inhabitants of this land.

This reality is also what prevented David Ben Gurion from conquering the entire area of Mandatory Palestine in 1948, despite the fact that his acceptance of the partition plan was only a tactical move. In a conversation with the poet Chaim Guri in the spring of 1949, he said that the conquest of the entire land would result in either “the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Arabs or their absorption into the newly born state. This would destroy it from within.” [Published in issue 359 of Maarachot, the IDF periodical.]

The Arabs did not accept the partition plan and dispatched their armies in an attempt to thwart the establishment of the Jewish state. They lost both the war and territory that had been intended for the Arab state that was to be established according to the partition plan. The ethnic cleansing that took place in the course of that war resulted in the Arab refugee problem.

Ben Gurion, as stated above, did not want to complete the conquest of the entire territory of Eretz Yisrael, formerly Mandatory Palestine. He left that for the future. “We’ve captured much more territory than was allotted to us in the partition plan”, he told Guri. “We have a lot of work to do for the next two to three generations. After that, we’ll see. History is not over yet.”

A Jewish state was established and a lot of work was indeed invested in it. An Arab state was never established, since no Arab leader was interested in it at the time. The area designated for the new Arab state remained under Jordanian and Egyptian rule until the 1967 Six Day War, during which it was captured by Israel.

Now we are back at the starting point. The conflict is presented as a struggle by two national movements for the same piece of land. However, this is an erroneous way of describing the dispute. The fundamentalists in Israel and in Palestine have jumped over the nationalist hurdle and have become mired in the swamp of religion, with its legends and non-historic myths. The more Israelis and Palestinians became captive to an imagined, religiously-tinted past, the more they lost touch with actual history, greatly complicating issues for the land and its inhabitants.

Therefore, instead of looking for bonus points in the arena of world public opinion, the leaders of both nations should speak truth to their peoples, in their own languages. The bitter truth is that if two nation-states do not arise here, with all its implications, no state or nation will remain here at all.
Published: Opinions-Haaretz, Jul. 29, 2013

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