Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Palestinian People Are Not Ready for Peace

A lifelong dream came true in 1992 when I boarded an El Al flight with my one-way ticket to Israel. I had just graduated from Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary, and those were heady times. All my life I’d been an ardent Zionist who believed fervently in the justice of Israel’s cause and in her ability to make peace with her neighbors. And, in 1992, we seemed to be getting closer.
I will never forget the delight I felt when, under the encouraging gaze of President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn. That was September 13, 1993.
I remember my tears of pain and of hope as Rabin declared, “We the soldiers who have returned from the battle stained with blood, we who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you today in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears! Enough!” In the autumn of 1993, those words burned in my ears.
At the time I was serving in the Israeli Paratroopers and had just completed a bloody summer in Lebanon during which 11 young men from my unit lost their lives. Arafat’s response reinforced my belief in a better future for Israelis and Palestinians: “Our two peoples are awaiting today this historic hope, and they want to give peace a real chance,” Arafat had said.
The two decades that followed that famous Rabin-Arafat handshake have led supporters of the Two-State Solution on an emotional roller coaster ride.

As a Tel Aviv resident, I participated in the fateful Peace Rally on November 4, 1995, which ended in Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. Down, but not out,  in Israel’s 1996 elections, I joined the Peace Camp in voting for Shimon Peres as Prime Minister and for the left-wing Meretz party for Knesset. I viewed Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in that election as a disappointment, but not a defeat.
Subsequent milestones along the way caused a manic see-saw between elation and despair – the 1998 Wye River Memorandum, Ehud Barak’s 2000 Lebanon withdrawal and the Camp David Summit, the 2003 Road Map, the September 2005 Gaza Disengagement, followed quickly by Ariel Sharon’s tragic January 2006 stroke and coma.
But my faith in the Peace Process took a marked shift from “Glass Half Full” to “Glass Half Empty,” as I witnessed Hamas’s cynical response to Sharon’s 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza.
The rain of rockets on Israeli civilians that continues to this day begs the question – would we not see something similar from the West Bank following a further withdrawal there? If Hamas will not honor a deal that Fatah makes with Israel, must we now pursue a Three-State Solution?
Still cautiously optimistic, my attitude towards the Peace Process at the time of the 2007 Annapolis Conference and Ehud Olmert’s 2008 offer to Mahmoud Abbas can be summed up by the famous Woody Allen quip: “And the lion will lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.”
Very recently, in the first few months of 2014, I’ve lost my remaining faith in the Oslo Peace Process and the Two-State Solution.
I’m happily married, but imagine that what I’m feeling is similar to waking up after a 20 year marriage only to suddenly realize that it’s over. Just like in a failed marriage, who was right and who was wrong, assigning merit and blame, is meaningless. Pointing fingers and making accusations doesn’t help anybody and only exacerbates an already difficult and painful situation. The only thing to do is turn the page and begin a new chapter.
In the many conversations I have on this topic, I frequently hear the requisite arguments in favor of continuing to pursue the Two-State Solution – that time is not in Israel’s favor. Abbas is Israel’s last hope. If we miss this opportunity Israel will become an Apartheid State. And so on.
Over the past 20 years I’ve come to believe a number of things. Importantly, the Palestinian Authority does not have a mandate. Any deal Abbas makes with Israel would be immediately rejected by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Al Qaeda, and others. This is now complicated by the Fatah-Hamas talks on forming a unified government.
After the signing of a deal, these groups would attack the PA to challenge its authority. They would also attack Israel in pursuit of their goal of liberating all of Palestine. If you don’t believe me, just ask the many Palestinians who call for One Palestine “From The River To The Sea.”
If the early Zionists were guilty of ignoring the Palestinians they found in the land, then J Street and other advocates of the Two-State Solution are guilty of ignoring the voices of Palestinians who say that the issue is the 1948 “Nakba,” and not 1967. In my business experience, when people rush into bad deals under time pressure they end up regretting it. We are, to be sure, in a sticky situation. That’s no reason to buy a house from someone who isn’t the owner. In my opinion, if implemented, the Two-State Solution would result in another Intifada, at best, or an all-out war, at worst.
While I believe that an overwhelming majority of Israelis genuinely want peace with their Palestinian neighbors, at some point the prudent thing to do is admit that our efforts over the past 20 years have failed. We are all familiar with Albert Einstein’s famous definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Let’s be honest with ourselves, the Two-State Solution isn’t going to happen. Several alternative proposals are being discussed and promoted. Although the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations is uncertain, we must pursue alternative solutions.
On September 13, 1993, the day of the famous Rabin-Arafat handshake, more than 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton said: “Together let us imagine what can be accomplished if all the energy and ability the Israelis and the Palestinians have invested in your struggle can now be channeled into cultivating the land and freshening the waters; into ending the boycotts and creating new industry; into building a land as bountiful and peaceful as it is holy.” Yes Mr. President, imagine…
Marc Leibowitz is an Israeli Paratrooper turned Investment Manager. A New Jersey native and dual citizen of the USA and Israel, Marc is excited to be writing more than 140 consecutive characters for the first time in many years.
You can follow Marc on Twitter at @Marc_Leibowitz. More on Marc here.

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