Bill asks: <<If you were [Israel’s] PM what would you do? And do you have any thoughts about what the Arabs, including Iran might do? Or are they obligated to do nothing.> >
I’d make a speech in the Knesset. I’d invite Arab diplomats and significant Palestinian notables, representing a wide spectrum of Palestinian opinion. And cameras. I’d say I didn’t become Israel’s leader to oversee the destruction of the Jewish state. I’d say that while Israel, like virtually every modern nation, was founded on an injustice, its founders were no strangers to injustice themselves. That It wasn’t my job or those of the present generation of Israelis to right all the wrongs of the past, which couldn’t be done anyway. But it could present and work to bring about a vision for the future that was much closer to fair for both the present generation of Israelis and for their Palestinian victims. That prospect was much better than the present course–which seems headed towards some sort national annihilation, either of Israel, the Palestinians, or most likely both.
I’d acknowledge the importance of the Saudi peace intiative, and the explicit recognition of Israel within its 1967 borders–now formally acknowledged by all (or almost) the Arab states. I’d point out how huge a step this is– how we all know that the Arabs long refused to accept Israel in any form, and now they do.
I’d also acknowledge that many Israelis, including the state’s founders, wanted all of Palestine, and no recognition of Palestinian national rights at all., though they ultimately realized it was “practical” and diplomatic to accept partition–at least on a provisional basis. So I’d acknowledge the mutual intolerance that existed in the 1940’s was a two-way street. I’d say that there are still people on both sides who want to deny national rights to the other side– Israel has its settlers, and its Likud; the Arabs have its Hamas. But even within those extremist camps are practical men, who could be brought into a two state solution coalition, if there was no alternative. I’d say that the Americans who have given us a blank check for forty years to colonize the West Bank are almost certainly not going to that for another forty years–that American perspectives are changing, there are Arab students in American universities, and a new President who has actually been a close friend of Palestinian intellectuals. So our ability to count on America to always use its UN veto to shield us from world opinion and its wallet to support us unconditionally will, this decade or the next, pass away. I’d say, neither friend nor foe should mistake our quest for a practical and fair solution as a sign of weakness: we have the most powerful armed forces in the region, and many dozens of nuclear weapons, and could destroy anyone we want. But we have more to offer as a peaceful, intelligent and scientific people than a war-like oppressor and colonizer. And our sense is that the Arab world does now, finally, understand this. I’d say we’re ready for a two state solution the way we weren’t in 1948, or 1967, or 1992. . As a start, we’re pulling out of the settlements of the West Bank: apartheid in Hebron will end, the checkpoints and settler only roads which strangle Bethlehem will end.
Anyway, Bill, that’s the general idea–if you know anyone in Jerusalem who wants me spend a longer time working on this, I’d be glad to. What would the Arabs do? Most of them would jump at the chance–as they did after Oslo before they realized that the “peace process” just meant more settlements. Iran? I think even the present regime has said that any solution acceptable to the Palestinians is alright with them. For much of recent history, Iran has been reasonably friendly to Israel, and I suspect that tendency would re-emerge. This speech, you have to admit, would be really big.