Recently I was asked by the German Else-Laker-Schueler-Gesellschaft, which commemorates the German-Jewish-Israeli poetess, to describe how peace would look like. On the eve of Yom Kippur, the day of reconciliation, I would like to distribute it instead of my weekly article.
A Fairy Tale
"If you want, it is no fairy tale!"
Theodor Herzl, founder of Zionism
"You don't want? Forget it!"
Hebrew graffiti with Herzl's picture in Tel Aviv
SEPTEMBER 10, 2015.
It has happened.
In a solemn ceremony, on
a stage bedecked with Israeli and Palestinian flags, the peace treaty between
Negotiations did not take long. The essential elements of the treaty had been known for a long time. The document held no real surprises.
In Jerusalem, the Arab
neighborhoods, including al-Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount) became part of
Palestine, while Jewish neighborhoods and the Western Wall stayed in Israel. The
two halves of
On the refugee problem, a complex solution was found. A Committee of Truth and Reconciliation (CTR) was set up to investigate the events of 1948 and 1967 which led to the displacement of the refugees. Both sides agreed to abide by its findings. The CTR was composed of respected Israeli, Palestinian and international historians.
Another committee was appointed to see to a just distribution of the water resources, and especially to the large-scale desalination of sea water, with international help, for the benefit of both sides.
After the Presidents of Israel and Palestine shook hands, all present shared in a minute of silence, in memory of all those who died in the generations-old conflict.
The secretary of the Arab
League declared the treaty to be in conformity with the Arab Peace Initiative
of 2002, and confirmed that all member states of the League would establish normal
THE HISTORIC event was preceded by far-reaching changes on both sides.
After a long and painful rift, the new Palestinian President had succeeded in uniting the warring Palestinian factions in a rejuvenated PLO and a Provisional Government of Palestine. After some recriminations, both Hamas and Fatah supported the treaty.
When the two new Presidents shook hands, the whole world heaved a sigh of relief.
BUT THE signing of the document by the politicians was only the beginning of the struggle. As everybody knew, a decisive confrontation between the Israeli government and the settlers was looming.
The settlers and their allies had spent years preparing for this test. Supported by major elements of the army and the various ministries, they had access to large resources of arms and money. Many of them were determined to wage a civil war, if it came to it.
However, when the clash came, it was much less dramatic than had been feared. As agreed with the Palestinians, the settlers were allowed a year to leave voluntarily in return for very generous compensation. After initial hesitation, about half of the settlers accepted the offer and actually left the occupied territories. The rest were demoralized by the solid support of the great majority of the Israeli public for the peace treaty.
In the end, actual fighting was sporadic. In the hour of crisis, Israeli democracy stood the test and the army remained solidly loyal to the government, despite the efforts the settlers had been making for years to infiltrate the officers' corps.
THE COMPARATIVE ease with which both governments overcame the often violent opposition in their respective countries was also due to the active support of the international community.
Many commentators doubted
whether the peace treaty would have been possible without the profound change
While Arab businessmen
were filling the hotels in Tel Aviv, looking for joint ventures, their Israeli
counterparts were flocking to
Owing to their position
In this atmosphere, the
return of several thousand Palestinian refugees to
Politicians and economists
on both sides started to raise the idea of a "Middle Eastern Union",
a political, economic and security organization on the lines of the European
Union. Others were talking of a confederation of
THE ISRAELI army remained
a powerful instrument for protecting the state. But as in the
In the end, the old adage that "peace is not made between governments but between peoples" was prove once more. Human relations, economic interests and the passage of time completed the process that started with the formal peace treaty.