What else can we concede?

By Yoram Getzler

Co-host of Israelseen

MK Benny Begin; my response to Haaretz article “What else can we concede?” Dec 4 ’09


Thank you MK Benny Begin,

It is comforting to read that someone has finally had the courage, intelligence, understanding and ability to explain in plain words the absurdity of the emphasis currently being focused on the illusion of continued negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. It should be obvious to all that the offer made to the Palestinians by former Prime Minister Barak and more recently by former P.M. Olmert as quoted from the Washington Post ’09 interview, does not leave much room for further compromises or concessions by Israel.

It would have been a real challenge for the Barak or Olmert governments, even without all their personal legal impediments,  to have gained the consent of the governed (the Israeli citizens) to the offers he reportedly made. As Mr. Begin notes, even these more than generous offers were rejected. As far as the Palestinians have been concerned in the past, and continue to demand in the present, they will agree to no less than their maximum demands. To paraphrase Mr. Erekat “why make any compromises after all we (the Palestinians) have suffered!”  There simply is no government in the forcible future of our state that could make that sort of deal and have the backing of its citizens. Unless the negotiators who sit opposite us around the negotiation table are total fools or idiots, they too know this. They also know that it is Israel that will always be blamed for the lack of success of any negotiation process.

That is a very comfortable situation for the Palestinians to be in, thanks in large part to the corruption of the moral compass of the world community. Although he does not say so out rightly Mr. Begin knows well in what direction we are heading. After Abbas the Palestinians will find that they have only one direction offered by their leadership, and that will be more militant politically if not actually a new intifada. The future of Israeli politics also appears to be more of the same, the same being Netanyahu as the left wing of a future government. Thank you again MK Begin for your clarity and lucidity on this issue of fantasy and illusion, smoke and mirrors within which the negotiation debate and the negotiation themselves have been held.

Of even more critical importance, I would now like to emphasize one of the closing statements in your essay which I believe is of greatest importance and profoundly true and significant. You understand and state correctly, that in your view, we must face “the reality (that) must not be whitewashed” you also note that “new illusions won’t help. It is a regrettable situation, but we cannot allow it to make us despair.”

Mr. Begin, an additional reality that we and you need to face, that we must not whitewash and dismiss is the unfeasibility, and impracticability of the continued presence of hundreds of communities populated by tens of thousands of Israelis east of the former Israeli borders. It is simply not viable. YES, it’s the demography argument again. Surrounded by more than a million hostile angry Palestinians who in turn are generally supported in their uncompromising attitude by most of the world and without question by a billion fellow Muslims. Our continued investment in supporting and protecting these individuals and communities is a net drag on our economy, our belief in the justice of our cause, and in addition, also undermines and confuses the commitment of millions of Jews and Israelis to the continued existence of our precious fragile state.  We see this very week (Dec 10th) that this mania for these territories brings the government to sacrifice territory all the Jews and most of the non-Jewish world agree constitute the legitimate  State of Israel for lands that only a minority of even the Jewish people consider critical for our survival.  I get the feeling that we are sacrificing our future for the sake of our past. It was always the power of Zionism to successfully combine these powerful impulses into a feasible, viable,  practical and logical policy. That’s why we have had a state for these past years and the Palestinians have had refugee camps.

So Mr. Begin I would hope you also have the integrity to look at the issue of continuing support to those individuals and communities without the old or “new illusions” of long held political beliefs, and the whitewash enabled by historical religious commitments.

Yes, it is truly “a regrettable situation” in which millions of Palestinians live in the small area of Judea and Samaria which was the heart of our biblical homeland  and that the world is more than willing to preserve a small reservation in which Jews will for all intent and purpose not be able to live. It is even more outrageous, unjust and absurd that this reservation should be in our historical physical and spiritual homeland! But as you say, “we can not allow it (this reality, these facts) allow us to despair”! Or render us unable to make rational decisions based on our true needs. We can not allow this to divert us from our sacred task; to provide a secure physical base for our people to develop our full spiritual potential and free us to engage in full creativity in the service of humankind.

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