What do people say when visiting a sick person and wanting to be optimistic? “We wanted to bring encouragement and came away encouraged.” That is the way it was for me after a tour of the occupied territories organized by the Geneva Initiative for Haaretz staffers. The truth is that I did not go there to encourage others, but rather to mourn for the bisected homeland, for the state that died before it was born, for the two-state solution that is disappearing. My mood was like that of the poet Abdelrahim Mahmud, who asked King Ibn Abdel Aziz after the latter’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1935: “Did you come to visit Al-Aqsa or, before it is lost, to bid farewell.”
- Despair Won’t Advance Liberal Zionists’ Agenda
- Bibi's Non-democratic Jewish State
- EU Seeks Talks With Israel Over ‘Red Lines’ in West Bank
And how amazing! I had only just finished the visit and all the bleak prophecies vanished. Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli, who accompanied us on the tour, toppled all the apocalyptic theses with his well-informed narration. According to Arieli, 87 percent of the settlers over the 1967 borders are living in “blocs” in about 6 percent of the West Bank, and the Palestinians agree to exchange 2 percent of these areas for other areas. Some people say that they will agree to exchange more if they are offered something fair. The rest of the settlers are living in areas where there is no choice but to evacuate them, and many of them will agree to leave for proper compensation.
On East Jerusalem, it turns out there is no mixture of Palestinians and Jews. If we return to the Clinton plan, the borders of the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods can be outlined and thus determine the way the city will be managed. The attempts of the right wing to plant enclaves in Arab neighborhoods have been an utter failure. In 1948 the Palestinian communists paid a heavy price for their support of the Partition Plan. But over the years, their status rose because they were the ones who understood the magnitude of the forces arranged against the Palestinian people. The principle of two states for two peoples went through many transformations, until the world recognized it as the only solution that will bring peace and justice. Today as well, good people are turning back the wheel, claiming that Israel has already destroyed the two-state solution by continuing to build in the settlements.
Unfortunately, these good people have lost hope in light of the smokescreen put up by Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel and his friends, in the form of isolated settlements. But despite these efforts and tricks, the road is long – if there even is one – to dissecting the West Bank. What is more, history teaches that only what is right survives. Early in the last century, a Czarist officer asked Lenin: “You know, young man, that there is a wall in front of you?” And Lenin answered: “Indeed that is a wall, but it is cracked, and it will collapse at the mere flick of a finger.” Seventy-five years later, despite the power of the Soviet Union that Lenin founded, the Communist empire crumbled. This, it may be asserted, will be the fate of the occupation, precisely in an era when empires are dying.
Currently it is the fashion to present us, the supporters of a two-state solution, as archaeological artifacts whose time has passed. Thus, to the supporters of the one-state solution, we will say that this state has already existed for a long time. And if the Arabs, citizens of the lesser Israel who are considered to have equal rights, are shamelessly discriminated against in all areas of life, what will be the fate of the inhabitants of the Balata refugee camp in the greater Israel?
The situation is not easy, but that is no reason to abandon the principle of justice. Moreover, we are already at the last 15 minutes: Even Britain is fed up with the occupation, while Netanyahu is rolling along from crisis to crisis. Someone once asked the poet Antar Ibn Shaddad, the bravest of the brave, the meaning of courage. He replied that courage meant holding on for one more hour. The Palestinian people have no choice but to hold on. And Tawfiq Ziad and Emile Habibi quoted from Psalms at the time: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” (Psalm 118:22) The stone is the two-state solution. Even if it is cast into the depths of the sea, it will float. Without it there will be no peace.