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The art of saying Yes

Abu Mazen says "Yes" to Obama: "Yes" to a state of Israel, but "No" to a Jewish state, "no" "apartheid wall", an end to settlements, full control of water resources, removal of roadblocks and recognition of the right of return. In translation: this amounts to a negation of Israel, but with his accommodating and moderate approach, he wins over the American President who is seeking reconciliation with the Muslim world.

Netanyahu says "No" to Obama: "No" to a Palestinian state for now and for as long as the Palestinians are divided and represented by two separate governments, for as long as terrorism reigns, the Jewish state is not recognized, security is not achieved and the right of return is not waived. In the meantime, settlement must continue in order to cope with natural growth which is commensurate with President Bush's assurances to Sharon.

In translation: the "obstacles" he heaps on the road to "peace" render him a negative, recalcitrant war-monger.

How did Israel, for the first time in its history, slide into its current disadvantaged position in the US?  How did the Arabs achieve the stature of peace-seekers, much to the chagrin of policy makers in Jerusalem and to Israel's staunch supporters around the globe? In one word; Initiative.   In more than one word: Israel's ideological identity has been  eroded over the years by futile Israeli concessions initiated by The Oslo Accords. More wars were generated, more pressures were placed on Israel, impossible expectations of Israel were raised, more concessions extracted, and more incurable damage was caused to Israel's interests.

The world, and Israel's own self-inflicted fixation with the "Israeli-Palestinian dispute" has made Israel stand out in the international arena for its passivity and paucity of diplomatic initiatives.  It is as if the Israel-Palestinian issue is Israel's main concern, rather than the much more menacing Israeli-Arab conflict and the growing threat of Islam against the Jewish state and dare I say, against the rest of the western world.  Since Israel does not propose a clear program for the Middle East, nor address, in any imaginative way, the problems under consideration with the Palestinians, the Arab and the Muslim world, it finds itself constantly on the defensive, reacting to others' ideas. Since others are more concerned with their immediate economic interests in the Muslim world,  than with Israel's welfare, or the moral and long-term effects their policies may have, Israel's struggle for survival must embrace a short-term tactical accommodation with the world. Like Abu-Mazen's positions, Israel must respond with "Yes, but", rather than a "No, but".

A positive approach would be to announce a four-principle policy, which even if rejected at first by the Arabs and other Muslims should be egalitarian, just and reciprocal to the West, and especially to the US.  This would be vastly superior to drawing red lines which are constantly eroded and thus demonstrate weakness and lack of determination.

First, Israel should declare its recognition of the right of self-determination of all Arab and Muslim peoples, including the Palestinians, providing that they recognize the same for the Jewish people. Non-recognition of that right to the Jewish people would represent a non-starter for any negotiation. So far, Israel has recognized the Palestinians, but no reciprocation has been forthcoming,  evidenced by Abu Mazen's rejection of Israel as a Jewish state.

Second, Israel recognizes the national liberation aspirations of all those nations recognizing Israel's own national liberation movement, that being Zionism. In Oslo, Israel recognized the PLO, but her mindless negotiators never insisted on reciprocation. Hence the continued denigration of the national revival of the Jews, by all Arabs and Muslims, and the continued validity of the PLO Charter which derogates Zionism and vows its eradication.

Third, the entire land of historical Palestine, including Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza (the land of Israel in Israeli parlance), must be put up for negotiation and be re-apportioned between Israeli-Jews and Palestinian-Arabs, who are both the owners of the territory and the sole determinants of its disposition. How they each call their portion is according to their own discretion: Palestine, Israel, Zion, the Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine, the Arab State, the Jewish State etc. Palestinian Arabs, like the Israeli Jews, certainly deserve a state, large enough to accommodate most of the Palestinians, but not separate Palestinian entities in Gaza, Amman, the West Bank, the Negev and the Galilee, while the Jewish state is challenged and called into question.

Fourth, when the final and permanent border between the two entities is determined by negotiations, distinction must be made between sovereignty over territory and the personal status of the inhabitants. To wit, that Palestinian Arabs, including the Arabs in Israel who elect to identify as Palestinians, can continue to live in Israel as alien residents who owe their loyalty to the Palestinian state, and vice versa for Israeli Jews who would elect to reside in the Palestinian territory. There will be no better guarantee for peace than the mutual presence of each party's population in the other's territory. The gradual voluntary exchange of population might occur over the years, with each individual moving in and out of his/her present dwelling, according to each person's wish and pace, and within the rule of law.

The list of problems accompanying such a long term settlement is long and complicated. But many other existing options have been tested and failed. Great statesmanship consists not only in discriminating between good and bad (that would be too easy), but in seizing the bad before it grows worse. We have been set on a failing course over the past two decades. If we fail again to seize the opportunity, things will grow worse. If we take the initiative, we will have turned a corner and kindled a flame of hope at the end of the tunnel.

* The author is a professor of Islam and the Middle East at Hebrew University, Jerusalem


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Mr Israeli seems to ignore everything about Dhimmitude. I would respect Mr Israeli art of saying yes when I see arab countries living in peace with their own people and neighbours and their women have the same rights as their men.

Posted by E.E on 2009-06-30 12:08:15 GMT


Prof. Israeli is first-class expert on Israel"s Arab citizens as well as on counter-terrorism, but most importantly, he is one of very few academics who can "think outside the box."

Posted by Dr. Michael Widlanski (Shalem Center/Hebrew U on 2009-06-03 17:05:18 GMT


I give up. They have said themselves that there will be no peace until Israel is no more.

Posted by Jenny on 2009-06-02 09:26:45 GMT


The offer is: let"s live together, in peace. Peace for peace, not land for peace...

Posted by Steve Lieblich on 2009-06-02 06:58:33 GMT


What offer could Israel make that would be acceptable to the Arabs? Just answer that question.

Posted by Jenny on 2009-06-02 06:49:11 GMT


Jenny, of course I agree that Arab rejectionism is making it impossible to co-exist. However, what Prof Israeli is saying is that all the endless concessions, land-for-peace formulae and handshakes-on-the-lawn have achieved nothing. On the contrary, these responses are rewarding terrorism and keeping alive the Arab-rejectionist hope that they can eventually expel Jews from the region. Neither is it constructive to simply accept that we cannot and will not ever live in peace. Professor Israseli’s proposal takes the positive, constructive view: we want peace, and here’s how to achieve it. Note that Israel is most maligned, and has the worst “image” when it is making concessions. And it has the greatest respect when it is strong and firm. (Yes I’m the Steve Lieblich from Mt Lawley WA)

Posted by Steve Lieblich on 2009-06-02 03:12:33 GMT


Israel has been defending its very existence from rejectionist, aggressive neighbouring nations and terrorist groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, for decades. In 2000, Israel withdrew to a Lebanese “blue line” that even the demonstrably anti-Israel UN accepted as a full withdrawal. The recent hostilities were sparked by a cross-border attack by Hezbollah from Lebanon into Israel followed by 4000 rockets armed with ball-bearing-packed explosives launched into the Israeli civilian population. What does Dr Ali suggest that Hezbollah is ``defending’’? His support for terrorism is worrying. We have seen many so-called Muslim “moderates” seek acceptance by their pronouncements in English but take an entirely different stance in Arabic. Steve Lieblich Mt Lawley, WA Please tell me that this is not the same Steve Lieblich who responded to my comment.

Posted by Jenny on 2009-06-02 02:42:35 GMT


If you think that the "Palestinians" (Muslims) will allow the Jews to live in peace with them in a "Palestinian state" you need to get your head out of the sand. Sure, we would all like that but it will never happen. What is going to change the mind set of the Muslims? There is no man made solution to this.

Posted by Jenny on 2009-06-02 02:33:58 GMT


Prof. Israeli talks of "Historical Palestine" whioh was supposed to be divided into a Jewish state and an Arab one. The Jews decided to call their state Israel.How come the Arab non-existent state is called "Palestine"? Who sanctioned this? It has allowed generations of Arabs to believe that they have a right to "Historical Palestine ",namely all of it.

Posted by Jack Leder on 2009-06-02 01:55:37 GMT


Raphael Israeli makes perfect sense. I can’t understand why Jenny is so hysterically opposed to the notion that two peoples try to co-exists peacefully, including having citizens of the neighbouring nation resident amongst them. The “two-state” paradigm works from the premise that the peoples cannot peacefully co-exists. It assumes that the Arabs of Palestine cannot possibly have self determination unless they have a judenrein territory to start with. What sort of “peace is that? (See http://jiw.blogspot.com/2009/05/why-are-settlements-obstacle-to-peace.html.) Israel has after all accepted 1.5 million Arabs as permanent residents. It seems weird for me to even mention that, because…that’s how it should be….for Jews too… It also makes sense to put the entire area of the original League of Nations Mandate for Palestine back on the table. Churchill was not justified in giving 78% of that area to exclusive Arab sovereignty. It was intended that the entire area be shared between its original Jewish owners and the more recent inhabitants.

Posted by Steve Lieblich on 2009-06-02 01:47:18 GMT


Israel first has to decide what it wants, and then present a united front. Everyone in Israel"s political parties has a different concept, and the infighting weakens the strength and impact of the Israeli stand.

Posted by jbmittelman@yahoo.com on 2009-06-02 01:01:35 GMT


QUOTE "Palestinian Arabs, including the Arabs in Israel who elect to identify as Palestinians, can continue to live in Israel as alien residents who owe their loyalty to the Palestinian state, and vice versa for Israeli Jews who would elect to reside in the Palestinian territory." Just where is this Palestinian state going to be? And you think that the Palestinians would allow Jews to live in their state? Open your eyes people!!!

Posted by Jenny on 2009-06-02 00:45:37 GMT


We"ll be meeting Raphi Israeli in a couple of weeks in Israel so it"ll be nice to congratulate him on this piece of commonsense

Posted by Gabrielle on 2009-06-02 00:01:55 GMT


This person is a real idiot. Why give him the space.... QUOTE "Fourth, when the final and permanent border between the two entities is determined by negotiations, distinction must be made between sovereignty over territory and the personal status of the inhabitants. To wit, that Palestinian Arabs, including the Arabs in Israel who elect to identify as Palestinians, can continue to live in Israel as alien residents who owe their loyalty to the Palestinian state, and vice versa for Israeli Jews who would elect to reside in the Palestinian territory. There will be no better guarantee for peace than the mutual presence of each party"s population in the other"s territory. The gradual voluntary exchange of population might occur over the years, with each individual moving in and out of his/her present dwelling, according to each person"s wish and pace, and within the rule of law." This is close to being the most ridiculous thing I have heard!

Posted by Jenny on 2009-06-01 23:08:20 GMT