It's the nation's responsibility
Today, as in the past, Israel has two options. The first is to achieve a decisive victory over the Palestinians' legitimate struggle and to pay lip service to peace through "territorial concessions" that would, however, keep the Jewish settlements in the territories intact. The second is the evacuation of all the settlements - a return to the borders of the Green Line and the removal of all resistance to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Recently more and more people have been criticizing the "leadership." Yet it must be stated unequivocally that the responsibility for the "situation" has always been in the hands of Israel's citizens.
Since the Six-Day War of June 1967, Israelis have become more nationalistic and since then have consistently chosen leaders of nationalist bent. This began with Golda Meir and Menachem Begin and has continued to this day - even the leftists elected prime ministers have been security-oriented ex-generals.
The public cannot discern how the political system has been channeling it to choose between personalities rather than ideologies. From the ideological standpoint, there is no substantial difference between Defense Minister Benjamin "Fuad" Ben-Eliezer and Prime Minister Ariel "Arik" Sharon - nor between Likud and Labor. Both politicians are partners in the same lie - the one that presents the Palestinian war of liberation as a cruel war of terrorism. The question whether there should be talks with the other side under fire or not is a tactical one and has nothing to do with ideology.
Prior to Israel's creation, there was a tangible difference between ideologies. The Israeli right supported the principle of "Two sides of the Jordan River - this side is ours, so is the other" while the Israeli left agreed to the United Nations' Partition Plan. The public stood the test, as far as the choice of ideology was concerned, and granted David Ben-Gurion a significant majority, which effectively neutralized the right's opposition.
Today, as in the past, Israel has two options. The first is to achieve a decisive victory over the Palestinians' legitimate struggle and to pay lip service to peace through "territorial concessions" that would, however, keep the Jewish settlements in the territories intact. The second is the evacuation of all the settlements - a return to the borders of the Green Line and the removal of all resistance to the creation of a Palestinian state; the cancellation of all demands for limiting the sovereignty of the future Palestinian state; and the establishment of a border between the two nations.
Israelis must conduct negotiations with themselves over what ideology they will choose before they can conduct negotiations with the Palestinians. A leader who will present the second ideology for public debate before the elections will certainly say the following to the public - "since the Six Day War, we have been misled by rightist and leftist leaders and have mistakenly thought that we can dictate the terms of a solution to the Palestinians.
"They used deception in leading you down the garden path. They gave you empty promises of `peace and security,' they conducted a policy that enabled the creation of settlements in the occupied territories in violation of international law, and they tightened Israel's control of millions of Palestinians while trampling on basic human rights.
"You were mistakenly led to think that our war is a war of survival - the truth is, no one is threatening our survival. We have created a country that is strong economically and militarily, a country that has the power to exercise its right to exist and to thwart any threat to survival as it stands armed with moral might.
"As a first step, I hereby pledge to evacuate our forces from the occupied territories within six months. I call upon the settlers to voluntarily evacuate the communities they have established. In order to help them rebuild their lives within the Green Line, they will be granted suitable monetary compensation.
"I call upon the Palestinian people to establish a state alongside Israel. I promise the Palestinians and their leaders that Israel will avoid any action that could be considered interference in their internal affairs. I extend to them my hand in peace and I promise them that Israel will do everything possible to help this young country to consolidate itself.
"The extent of the relationship and the extent of the mutual dependence will be determined bilaterally on the basis of mutual agreement once the Palestinian state is founded. We are not expecting the Palestinians to surrender even one element of their sovereignty, including the creation of security forces and the decision as to who has the right to live in their state.
"We will never accept the idea that Palestinians have a right to return to their homes in our own country, just as we will not demand that Jews have a right to return to their homes in the Palestinian state."
It is quite possible - and, sadly, logical to assume - that a leader courageous and credible enough to present such a position to the public will not be elected in the next election. Apparently, the winner of the next election will be former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
However, the presentation of this kind of position in a candid manner to the public will filter down into the public's consciousness when, during Netanyahu's second term of office, Israeli blood will continue to flow in such copious quantities.
In the Six-Day War, Israel fought for its survival and emerged victorious. In the War of Occupation being waged now, Israel is not fighting for its survival - this war is not a just one and that is why Israel is losing. Only after Israel implements the alternative ideology will it be armed with the moral might needed to protect that ideology and to guarantee its survival as a legitimate state.
I am absolutely certain that, in the end, Israel will be forced to adopt this ideology or at least to conduct a serious debate over it. The question is how much needless blood will have to be shed before Israel understands that salvation will not come from our Heavenly Father, or from the Cowboy from Washington. Neither will it come from the leaders Israelis have elected since the 1977 political revolution, when Begin became prime minister, nor from Netanyahu, whom Israelis will probably elect tomorrow. The reason is that the responsibility for the war being waged right now must be assumed by all of Israel's civilian population.