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SAD AND HAPPY -- THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION
By Uri Avnery
Source: Gush Shalom
“WILL THIS be the happiest day of your life?” a local interviewer asked me, referring
to the approaching recognition of the State of Palestine by the UN.
I was taken by surprise. “Why would that be?” I asked.
“Well, for 62 years you have advocated the establishment of a Palestinian state next
to Israel, and here it comes!”
“If I were a Palestinian, I would probably be happy,” I said, “But as an Israeli, I am
LET ME explain.
I came out of the 1948 war with four solid convictions:
There exists a Palestinian people, though the name Palestine had been wiped off
It is with this Palestinian people that we must make peace.
Peace will be impossible unless the Palestinians are allowed to set up their state next
Without peace, Israel will not be the model state we had been dreaming about in the
trenches, but something very different.
While recovering from my wounds and still in uniform, I met with several young people,
Arabs and Jews, to plot our course. We were very optimistic. Now everything seemed
What we were thinking about was a great act of fraternization. Jews and Arabs had
fought each other valiantly, each fighting for what they considered their national
rights. Now the time had come to reach out for peace.
The idea of peace between two gallant fighters after the battle is as old as Semitic
culture. In the epic written more than 3000 years ago, Gilgamesh, king of Uruk (in
today’s Iraq) fights against the wild Enkidu, his equal in strength and courage, and
after the epic fight they become blood brothers.
We had fought hard and had won. The Palestinians had lost everything. The part of
Palestine that had been allotted by the UN to their state had been gobbled up by
Israel, Jordan and Egypt, leaving nothing for them. Half the Palestinian people had
been driven from their homes and become refugees.
That was the time, we thought, for the victor to stun the world with an act of
magnanimity and wisdom, offering to help the Palestinians to set up their state in
return for peace. Thus we could forge a friendship that would last for generations.
18 years later I brought this vision up again in similar circumstances. We had won a
stunning victory against the Arab armies in the Six-Day war, the Middle East was in a
state of shock. An Israeli offer to the Palestinians to establish their state would have
electrified the region.
I AM telling this story (again) in order to make one point: when the “Two-State
Solution” was conceived for the first time after 1948, it was as an idea of
reconciliation, fraternization and mutual respect.
We envisaged two states living closely together, with borders open to the free
movement of people and goods. Jerusalem, the joint capital, would symbolize the spirit
of the historic change. Palestine would become the bridge between the new Israel and
the Arab world, united for the common good. We spoke of a “Semitic Union” long
before the European Union became a reality.
When the Two-State Solution made its extraordinary march from the vision of a
handful of outsiders (or crazies) to a world-wide consensus, it was this context in
which it was viewed. Not a plot against Israel, but the only viable basis for real peace.
This vision was firmly rejected by David Ben-Gurion, then the undisputed leader of
Israel. He was busy distributing new Jewish immigrants across the vast areas
expropriated from the Arabs, and he did not believe in peace with the Arabs anyhow.
He set the course that successive Israeli governments, including the present one,
have followed ever since.
On the Arab side, there was always support for this vision. Already at the Lausanne
Conference in 1949, an unofficial Palestinian delegation appeared and secretly
offered to start direct negotiations, but they were roughly rebuffed by the Israeli
delegate, Eliyahu Sasson, on direct orders from Ben-Gurion (as I heard from him
Yasser Arafat told me several times – from 1982 to his death in 2004 – that he would
support a “Benelux” solution (on the model of the union between Belgium, the
Netherlands and Luxemburg), which would include Israel, Palestine and Jordan (“and
perhaps Lebanon too, why not?”)
PEOPLE SPEAK about all the opportunities for peace missed by Israel throughout the
years. That is nonsense: you can miss opportunities on the way to a goal that you
desire, but not on the way to something you abhor.
Ben-Gurion saw an independent Palestinian state as a mortal danger to Israel. So he
made a secret deal with King Abdullah I, dividing between them the territory allocated
by the UN partition plan to the Arab Palestinian state. All Ben-Gurion's successors
inherited the same dogma: that a Palestinian state would be a terrible danger.
Therefore they opted for the so-called ”“Jordanian option” – keeping what is left of
Palestine under the heel of the Jordanian monarch, who is no Palestinian (nor even
Jordanian - his family came from Mecca).
This week, the present Jordanian ruler, Abdullah II, flew into a rage when told that yet
another Israeli former general, Uzi Dayan, had again proposed turning Jordan into
Palestine, with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as “provinces” of the Hashemite
kingdom. This Dayan is, unlike his late cousin, Moshe, a pompous fool, but even a
speech by such a person infuriates the king, who is mortally afraid of an influx of
Palestinians driven from the West Bank into Jordan.
Three days ago, Binyamin Netanyahu told Cathy Ashton, the pathetic “foreign
secretary” of the European Union, that he would agree to anything short of
Palestinian statehood. That may sound strange, in view of the “historic” speech he
made less than two years ago, in which he expressed his support for the Two-State
Solution. (Perhaps he was thinking of the State of Israel and the State of the Settlers.)
In the few remaining weeks before the UN vote, our government will fight tooth and
nail against a Palestinian state, supported by the full might of the US. This week
Hillary Clinton trumped even her own rhetorical record when she announced that the
US supports the Two-State Solution and therefore opposes any UN vote recognizing a
APART FROM the dire threats of what will happen after the UN vote for a Palestinian
state, Israeli and American leaders assure us that such a vote will make no difference
If so, why fight it?
Of course it will make a difference. The occupation will go on, but it will be the
occupation of one state by another. In history, symbols count. The fact that the vast
majority of the world’s nations will have recognized the State of Palestine will be
another step towards gaining freedom for Palestine.
What will happen the day after? Our army has already announced that it has finished
preparations for huge Palestinian demonstrations that will attack the settlements. The
settlers will be called upon to mobilize their “quick-reaction teams” to confront the
demonstrators, thus fulfilling the prophecies of a “bloodbath”. After that the army will
move in, pulling many battalions of regular troops from other tasks and calling up
A few weeks ago I pointed to ominous signs that sharpshooters would be employed to
turn peaceful demonstrations into something very different, as happened during the
second intifada. This week this was officially confirmed: sharpshooters will be
employed to defend the settlements.
All this amounts to a war plan for the settlements. To put it simply: a war to decide
whether the West Bank belongs to the Palestinians or the settlers.
In an almost comical turn of events, the army is also providing means of crowd
dispersal to the Palestinian security forces trained by the Americans. The occupation
authorities expect these Palestinian forces to protect the settlements against their
compatriots. Since these are the armed forces of the future Palestinian state, which is
opposed by Israel, it all sounds a bit bewildering.
According to the army, the Palestinians will get rubber-coated bullets and tear gas,
but not the “Skunk”.
The Skunk is a device that produces an unbearable stench which attaches itself to
the peaceful demonstrators and will not leave them for a long time. I am afraid that
when this chapter comes to an end, the stench will attach itself to our side, and that
we shall not get rid of it for a long time indeed.
SAD AND HAPPY -- THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION
By Uri Avnery
Source: Gush Shalom
LET’S give free rein to our imagination for just one minute.
Imagine that in the coming UN debate something incredible happens: the Israeli
delegate declares that after due consideration Israel has decided to vote for
recognition of the state of Palestine.
The assembly would gape in disbelief. After a moment of silence, wild applause would
break out. The world would be electrified. For days, the world media would speak of
The minute of imagination has passed. Back to reality. Back to the Skunk.