Nov. 27, 2006
An end to darkness?
Ceasefire may mark first step towards Israeli-Palestinian peace deal
by Amos Oz
Published: 11.27.06, 20:06
The ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians, should it
hold up, is the first step. It should be followed by at least
three more steps: The release of captives and prisoners, the
establishment of a new Palestinian government that does not
espouse Israel's elimination, but rather, coexistence, and the
start of negotiations for a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian
Will the second, third, and fourth step follow soon? This depends
on the first step – the truce.
There's a chance the Palestinians learned the hard way that
bombarding Israeli communities does not advance Palestinian
independence, just as the Israelis learned that wide-scale
military operations do not silence the Palestinians.
Currently we see signs that the Hamas government reached a
dead-end because it brought to Palestinians only an international
and Israeli siege, ongoing suffering, and needless victims. There
are also signs that the Israeli government realized there are no
unilateral solutions and that there is no choice but to attempt
to reach an agreement.
Significant forces, those of zealots on both sides, are
continuing to fan the flames, and to condemn any compromise as
defeatism and every negotiation session as a sign of weakness.
Palestinian zealots aspire to continue the "armed struggle" until
the State of Israel is eliminated. Israeli zealots demand that
the government of Israel reoccupy the Gaza Strip and banish
forever the notion of evacuating the occupied territories.
Atmosphere of despair
The Palestinian-Israeli cycle of blood and the feeling there is
no way out of this cycle lead to gloom among moderates on both
sides. Olmert's and Mahmoud Abbas' weakness boosts this hopelessness.
An atmosphere of despair is overcoming many in the peace camp who
feel that radicalism managed to drown the chances for peace in
blood. Yet this weakness, this sense of helplessness, only boosts
the extremism of radicals on both sides.
After all, only several years ago peace supporters filled public
squares, toppled the Shamir government, toppled the Netanyahu
government, and opened a window for a move of mutual recognition
by both peoples.
In the last elections, only a few months ago, peace supporters
voted in a center-left government that held the banner of
unilateral Israeli withdrawal from most occupied territories.
And yet following a Hizbullah attack on Israel, this center-left
government launched a military operation in Lebanon, but turned
what should have been a short, limited and justified campaign
into a long and miserable war. After it, this government lost the
desire to advance towards peace with the Palestinians - it in
fact lsot any desire aside from the desire to survive in power.
The Palestinians, on their part, were led by Hamas' minority
government to radical, belligerent views that are unwilling to
recognize Israel's right to exist. Similar positions brought
about the great Palestinian disaster in 1948.
Yet perhaps these days we see a change emerging on both sides.
The sense of dead-end and the fear of the vicious cycle are
apparently shared by both. If the ceasefire indeed takes root and
if it's followed by the release of captives and prisoners and the
establishment of a pragmatic Palestinian government – we may be
at the outset of a new move: We do not need another international
conference, but rather, direct negotiations between the sides.
Two capitals in Jerusalem
Negotiations over what? Not for another "realignment" and not for
another "Hudna" or "Tahadiya", but rather, talks on a
comprehensive, all-inclusive bilateral agreement to resolve all
components of the Israel-Palestine war.
What will this agreement include? Here of all places we find
hope: It's found in the fact that both Israelis and Palestinians
know deep in their heart what will be found in this agreement,
and what will not be there. Even the objectors on both sides
already know deep in their heart what this deal will include and
what it will not.
Even those, on both sides, who view the agreement as treachery
and disaster, even they know deep in their heart that in this
agreement there will be two states, Israel and Palestine, based
on the 1967 borders, with mutual adjustments. There will also be
two capitals in Jerusalem. And there will be no "right of
return," just like most of the settlements will be gone.
Both peoples already know this. Is this knowledge bringing joy to
their hearts? Certainly not. Will Israelis and Palestinians dance
in the streets on the day this inevitable agreement is
implemented? Certainly not. We're talking about a compromise of
pain and clenched teeth. Yet the good news is that both peoples
already know that this compromise will indeed be waiting at the
end of the road.
How much time, suffering, and innocent blood will the leaders of
Israel and Palestine need before they reach the place that both
peoples, with a heavy heart, already reached? The ceasefire, if
it holds up, may perhaps be the first flickering light at the end
of the darkness.
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