Text size

It is only on rare occasions that I agree with an editorial in Haaretz. Especially when the topic is political, and particularly if it deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, I think that might never have happened. And for a time, I thought it was impossible.

And yet, just as we once thought it impossible to run 100 meters in under 10 seconds - until Jim Hines did that very thing - so too did Friday's editorial in Haaretz ("A vision of the End of Days?" ) accomplish the unbelievable.

Obviously, I do not agree with every word in the editorial. The description of Judea and Samaria as "a giant prison" is completely unfounded and is reminiscent of the kind of propaganda that is cut off from reality. But these are trifles under the circumstances of the matter. Because I identify with both of the central messages of the editorial. In fact, I consider the permission granted to 130,000 Palestinians to visit "little Israel" - to swim in the sea in Tel Aviv and to have picnics on the lawns of the Charles Clore beachfront park - as a most welcome step. I also believe that this should be expanded, and should even become a routine practice - all of this, as Haaretz pointed out, subject to security considerations.

I also second Haaretz's words of praise regarding the removal of checkpoints and the freedom of movement granted to the Palestinians - with the utmost caution that the war on terror obliges.

Were Haaretz also to preach, as I do, increased freedom of movement by Jews in Nablus and Hebron and Jericho and all the other parts of the land where they are forbidden to go, then my joy would be complete. Every reasonable person (including Yossi Sarid) already knows there will never be a political border between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and that there will not be any sovereignty other than Israeli east of the Jordan River. This assumption is reinforced by what I call "the Razi Barkai test." Until a few years ago, the opinionated broadcaster Razi Barkai would declare: "After all, we all know what the solution will eventually be - two states within the 1967 borders, with an exchange of territories." Now, he no longer speaks of this prospect. Even one state - of all its citizens - is impossible.

For this reason, we have to ensure that the lives of both populations - both the Jews and the Arabs - are as normal as possible under the existing circumstances. The right to live - or, in other words, freedom from terror - is a supreme right. But when it is granted, freedom of movement is one of the basic tenets of human rights. We have to aspire to return to the days when a resident of Kfar Sava could go to a dentist in Qalqilyah, and a resident of Tul Karm could eat at a restaurant in Netanya.

This process must conclude with the removal of the separation fence, which has wounded the land, defaced it, and caused inconvenience to so many people - Jews as well as Arabs.

Apart from the security risks - and herein lies the difference between my opinion and that of Haaretz - the obstacle to this welcome process is not "the settlers and other rightists," but, in fact, the residents of Tel Aviv. They won't like it if the Arabs suddenly start to "get in their way."

Enlightenment is so much more convenient when it is merely theoretical. As someone who grew up in Tel Aviv, I know that my former neighbors would have to exert considerable effort to free themselves of preconceived ideas and also a little racism. I hope they will do so, on behalf of coexistence. From our experience, I can calm them down. We use the same roads every day, buy in the same supermarkets, and this is generally without any problems. People get used to things.

One of the initiators of the boycott against the cultural center in Ariel, a member of the Cameri Theater, explained her actions by saying her conscience would not allow her to appear in a place reached by "apartheid roads." The truth is that Route 5 and Route 60 lead to Ariel but both are open to all. On the other hand, if a Palestinian wants to see a play at the Cameri Theater, he will be stopped at a roadblock some 30 kilometers before Shaul Hamelech Street. From that point on, and within Tel Aviv, he is not at present allowed. The ball is in your court.

The writer is the head of the Yesha Council of settlements.