In the Second World War, the leadership of the Yishuv − the Jewish community in Palestine − adopted the slogan, “We will fight Hitler as though there is no White Paper and we will fight the White Paper as though there is no Hitler.” But to come up with that kind of concept you have to be David Ben-Gurion. Only a leader of his stature could have promoted the establishment of a Jewish Brigade to fight in the British Army, while simultaneously weapons were being stored in Haganah caches and plans for operations against the country’s British rulers were being drawn up.
Benjamin Netanyahu is not necessarily a leader on the scale of B-G. As a prime minister who already failed once quite embarrassingly, he is so far not rising to the occasion as everything falls apart around him. On the contrary: Some among the band of extremists in his close vicinity are saying, “What luck that we are not in a situation of peace with Syria and without the Golan Heights − absorbing the bloodshed there now, losing both the Golan and the peace.” Utter twaddle. Even though Mubarak, the faithful guardian of peace for decades, was deposed and may even be condemned to death, the peace between the two countries remains intact. Many believe that it will continue to stand firm.
Even the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, who is not exactly enamored with us, has reiterated that the peace agreement between the two countries is an Egyptian interest, no matter who is in power.
A key cabinet minister in Israel says that when it comes to a settlement with the Palestinians the government is doing nothing. Here and there it scares itself, saying that after Syria will come Palestinian intifada no. 3, even though Abu Mazen is sending an indirect message that an intifada will not be good for the Palestinians. Ephraim Halevy is of the opinion that a “no solution” situation must not be allowed to come into being. True, in the present state of affairs there is no chance of a permanent solution, but both sides have an interest in working to achieve partial or temporary arrangements. Anyone who does not want a peace settlement and a compromise, on either side, will sooner or later find himself at war.
Those who have known the taste of peace have savored it mightily. The fact is that the Egyptians do not like the Israelis, did not want cultural relations or hobnobbing, but sought us out as good tourists in Sinai (they were less pleased to see us in our masses in the heart of Egypt). The Kingdom of Jordan is another old love affair of ours, despite the wars. Now, when they aren’t eager for an overly warm embrace, they still trust us not to settle Palestinians on their border in the Rift Valley.
Despite what is happening in our region, we must be both initiators and generous. On the other hand, we have to ensure that the withdrawals we are being called on to make will be proportionate and gradual. And more important, that they will be padded with solid international guarantees, especially of the American variety. Under no circumstances should we bring about a situation in which we will be perceived as the main party to blame for blocking progress toward a settlement.
Bibi’s speech to both Houses of Congress must be delivered under the slogan that Israel is ready (“for real,” as the kids say) to take risks in order to achieve peace. This, on the premise that the Palestinians, too, must make an effort and be partners in risk-taking. The assumption is that there is or will be a dialogue between Obama and Netanyahu ahead of September. Leading Jews in the United States advised a Knesset delegation that visited there recently to tell Bibi that he has to project good will in his speech and in his arguments.
And the same goes for his assistant speechwriter, Sara.
It is not up to us to decide what kind of government Syria will have and whether a democracy will be established there or not. When we conducted talks with President Hafez Assad, we knew well that his hands were steeped in the blood of 20,000 residents of Hama.
Nevertheless, we often declared publicly that we were examining the possibility of reaching a peace agreement with him. The fact is that Syria meticulously upheld every agreement we signed with it − rather like “oriental yekkes.” It’s the same in regard to Egypt: Peace with that country has been preserved for decades, proving how greatly peace agreements are preferable to war and how vital the backing of the great powers is in our region.
The reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is not necessarily a negative development, if the Palestinians are bent on an agreement. It creates an opening for an Obama initiative to create order here, while neutralizing terrorism.
What’s not clear is why Bibi rushed in a panic to present an ultimatum of either Hamas or Israel. As Uri Zohar used to say: “What’s he jumping?”
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