Forum — From the September 2014 issue

Israel and Palestine

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AVISHAI: Just a moment. Basically what you’re saying is: Don’t look at me and say that I am precluding the possibility of reconciliation. It’s just that mainstream —

DAYAN: Never underestimate national sentiment.

AVISHAI: But if you just insist there’s no possibility of reconciliation, you don’t have to win an ideological debate. That goes for those on both sides who don’t want reconciliation. You don’t have to make the case for your vision. You just have to sow cynicism.

DAYAN: My plan does not preclude any political solution to the conflict. You can adhere to it as a staunch two-state supporter or an opponent of the two-state formula. It’s a way to live until peace arrives.

AVISHAI: But if we open up freedom of movement, that’s a gesture toward some vision of the future, right? This is what I hear you implying, that at some point in the future there will be some basis for an accommodation.

DAYAN: Contrary to what you say, I do have an ideology. But I do not superimpose my ideology on reality.

KHOURY: What is it? What is your ideology?

MARGALIT: You said these are the circumstances until peace prevails. What does peace look like to you? What conditions do you see?

DAYAN: I think that as Shimon Peres suggested in the ’70s, before he converted to the Oslo religion, it will be based on two precepts: a Jordanian option as opposed to a Palestinian option, and a functional compromise as opposed to a territorial compromise.

One implementation of that could be two states with the Jordan River as their limit. Nevertheless, that Arab state east of the Jordan will have authority — real authority, real governance — over the Palestinians on the other side of the river. I call it functional enclaves. And that will achieve three principles. Security will be in Israeli hands from the river to the Mediterranean, which is a precondition for any situation to be sustainable. Israel will stay as a democratic and Jewish state. And this is the third one: Every individual will be a full-fledged citizen of the state that governs his life.

KHOURY: This whole concept of a Jordanian option is a pipe dream. It didn’t work in the ’60s and ’70s when there were proponents of the Jordanian option among Palestinians, as Dr. Shikaki described. It will definitely not work now.

I was born in Jordan, I spent most of my life in Jordan, most of my family lives in Jordan, but I was never and I will never be a Jordanian. Why? Because just as there are dynamics, maybe not as much in the open, that exist against integration with Israel in Palestine, there are dynamics against integration with Jordan. Dr. Shikaki described how the Jordanian option lost gradually to the national option for Palestine. It is important to remark that for Jordanians — who are now a minority in their own country due to the influx of refugees — Palestine is not Jordan. We thank the Jordanians for sixty-six years of hospitality, but we will never take their land as ours. My home is Palestine.

MARGALIT: But you agree that economic cooperation, economic joint ventures, can give a flavor of how cooperation is attainable. It’s happening now. And this is something that I don’t understand with some of my colleagues, you know, the business colleagues, in the Palestinian Authority.

KHOURY: I presume you mean in Palestine?

MARGALIT: Yes, in the — well, it’s not Palestine yet.

KHOURY: It is. Why can’t Israel accept that?

MARGALIT: It’s not.

KHOURY: It’s a state under occupation according to international law. 

Flares illuminating the sky following an Israeli air strike over Gaza City early on July 3, 2014 © Ali Jadallah/APA Images/ZUMA Wire

Flares illuminating the sky following an Israeli air strike over Gaza City early on July 3, 2014 © Ali Jadallah/APA Images/ZUMA Wire

MARGALIT: Okay. You want it to be Palestine, and I support you. Maybe some people look at economic peace as something cynical because they don’t want a political agreement. But most of the people who are involved in joint ventures are interested in a political agreement. And they’re looking to culture, education, and the economy to be pillars of trust. They don’t want cynicism to prevail over the mainstream. The mainstreams of Palestinian society and Israeli society need to be building bridges now. Great things are built one step at a time.

SHIKAKI: I would like to disagree with you. I think it’s a good idea in theory, just like Dani’s ideas are good in theory. Israel can go ahead and implement those unilaterally and I think this will significantly improve the mood in the West Bank and will contribute to better relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

But the idea that you can actually do that for a prolonged period of time I believe is nonsense. Palestinians whose land is confiscated, where settlements are built — they will rise. You simply cannot convince them that nonviolence is the way to go. They will resist. And there will be violence. It’s just like what we saw in the past few days. It might be six months before we see something, it might be a year, but there will be violence. There might not even be violence. Palestinians might actually resort to diplomatic moves in the international community. And Israel will feel that the Palestinians are not behaving and in order to convince the Palestinians to behave, Israel will impose sanctions and punish them.

MARGALIT: Going to the U.N. would be counterproductive.

SHIKAKI: Yeah, but this is the point: You don’t like what we do, we don’t like what you do, because of occupation. Now you want to ignore all of that. The idea that you can improve economic conditions or improve living conditions for Palestinians and expect them to say, “Yes, sir, we’re not going to do anything to harm the interests of the state of Israel,” is absolute lunacy. The Palestinians will resist in one way or the other, and you will punish them. And you will punish them severely, depending on what exactly they do. And the casualty, the first casualty, will be Palestinian freedom of movement. The Palestinian economy will be destroyed. That’s what Israel does all the time. Israel uses freedom of movement, economic progress, as leverage against the Palestinians. This gives you a menu where you can hurt us best — and you can hurt us economically, you can hurt us by putting up checkpoints — every time we do something you don’t like.

AVISHAI: Let’s say we can easily agree that you can’t have economic peace without a political track and you can’t have a political track without economic initiatives to provide an image of cooperation between the two sides.

MARGALIT: That’s what leadership is about, and it’s lacking on both sides at this time. But it’s a political battle. It’s a political battle within our societies. It’s a political battle about the nature of our own states.

AVISHAI: I just want to come back to the question of federal arrangements of some kind because that was a long-term vision for three people coming at it with different configurations. There seems to be a kind of implicit long-term vision here, which we keep circling back to and not acknowledging. Now, do you buy that?

DAYAN: No. What I buy as an ultimate solution is what I already suggested. But I want to be more explicit on a point that is related but somewhat different: there was an implicit assumption around the table that — there was a discussion whether a two-state formula is attainable. But there was an implicit assumption that if attained it brings peace and stability. I beg to differ with that. The two-state formula is not only unattainable; it will also not bring peace. It will be, as a matter of fact, the prelude to another armed confrontation. I have no doubt at all about that. And the reason for that is, as I said earlier, one should never underestimate national sentiment. The thought that an arbitrary line — and every line will be arbitrary — that is delineated between Jordan and the Mediterranean will be stronger than the mutual national sentiments in my view is completely out of touch with reality.

If you ask me, very shortly — I will say it in two sentences — what is my scenario if the Palestinian state is established in Judea and Samaria. As Bassim said, there’s going to be a flow of refugees, some of them forcibly moved there by their host countries.

KHOURY: Coming back home.

DAYAN: Okay. Coming back home. But that will be a hotbed of extremism.

KHOURY: Let us deal with that, and you deal with your extremists.

DAYAN: No, it’s not for you to do that because the —

KHOURY: Yes, it is.

DAYAN: Just let me finish the sentence. The tensions that it will create will move westward, into Israel. And if you ask me what will be the final outcome of the establishment of a Palestinian state, it will be a new armed conflict in which the best scenario — not the worst — is that Israel will manage to recapture Judea and Samaria. And we will find there an additional half a million Palestinians, and we will start the whole loop again.

KHOURY: Let me remind you one more time: There is already a Palestinian state. This is a state that was recognized by the overwhelming majority of the countries of the world. I would like to return to something Dr. Shikaki mentioned, which is that Palestinians might go back to the U.N. We also have a chance to go to the International Criminal Court about war crimes committed by colonists and occupational forces, whether ethnic cleansing, ill treatment of prisoners, water issues, or economic issues.

This is what John Kerry referred to as Palestine’s nuclear option. I hope we will not be forced to go that way. However, I can tell you bluntly if it continues like this we’re going to. And to be honest, I would be very happy if the judge between us were international law, not who has more men, not who has more guns. We’ve been trying to resolve this between us for so long, through honest or dishonest brokers, whatever you want to call them, through countless efforts. We have discovered what we can do under international law, and we will push to attain it. I hope we will do it peacefully. I am confident we will do it peacefully. We don’t want to fight. Let the ICC decide. Let them be the judge. If two people are fighting over a car accident, they go to a judge.

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