Akiva Eldar: The Israeli perversion

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz – 9 Nov 2009

Akiva Eldar

Akiva Eldar

What does Mahmoud Abbas want from us? He should stop crying and start talking. Even Benjamin Netanyahu, born in the rightist camp, has promised him a state; and Shaul Mofaz, the horror of Palestinians, is willing to hand over, on credit, 20 percent of the West Bank. Abbas may be able to fool the Americans, but the Israelis are no suckers. We are not impressed by all of these resignation tricks. We know that no one throws out the keys to his office because of a few thousand settlers. Every child in Ramallah knows that, in the end, the settlements located outside of the “settlement blocs” will be part of Palestine.

The attitude of the average Israeli on the issue of the settlements is one of the effects of a chronic illness threatening the existence of the Jewish State: an inability to walk in the shoes, even for a minute, of their neighbor. What would we say if Abbas were to ask that we agree to the return of refugees to their home in Jaffa? Not much, just a few hundred, temporarily. In any case, we will eventually have to reach an agreed upon solution to the refugee problem. How would we respond if Syria, during the Yom Kippur War, had managed to conquer the Galilee – and years later refused to stop building its own settlements in the territory of “Greater Syria,” despite continuing peace talks with Israel? Because it is not that bad, it’s only lands that are part of the “settlement blocs” in Area C that are under Syrian military and civilian control? (Sixty percent of the West Bank is described as Area C, and no Palestinian building is allowed there.) After all, it is only a matter of a few kindergartens and day care centers. And we must give consideration to their natural growth.

If the Syrians had decided to disengage unilaterally from Nahariya, would the Israeli freedom fighters in the broader area of Tiberias have put down their arms? How many Baruch Goldsteins would blow themselves up in mosques if Syrian soldiers were searching the vehicles of Jews at road blocks, or were imposing a curfew on them on Muslim holidays? And what would happen to an Israeli leader who promised that in September 1993 Syrian occupation would end by the end of the decade – only the end of the decade would come and he would be caught up in empty maneuvering on temporarily freezing construction in part of the Galilee? How many days would a government of the Israeli Authority – set up as a temporary entity, an intermediate arrangement on the way to political independence, only to become a subcontractor in the management of the occupation – actually last? What terms would be used to describe the Israeli Abbas and Salam Fayyad?

In his book “The Social Order of the Multiple Selfs,” Prof. Shlomo Mendlovic, who heads the psychotherapy program at Tel Aviv University, takes on the characterization of perversion. The similarity between what defines perversion and the characteristics of the collective Israeli behavior makes one nauseous: an attack of forces that can assist a person (or society) to survive; collapse of the distinction between what is useful and damaging, between life and death; confronting fear and suffering by retaining the status quo and the struggle against ideas that suggest change; and undermining necessary, painful processes in order to achieve change. This is how we missed out on the Jordanian option, this is how we are ignoring the Arab Peace Initiative, and this is how we will lose the Palestinian partner for a two-state solution.

There is no Arab identified with insistence on this solution more than Abbas, through his courageous opposition to violence and patience in the face of the acrobatics of Israeli politics. But no leader is capable of carrying out negotiations on loaded issues, such as borders, Jerusalem, and the refugees, without public backing from his people. No public will grant him the legitimacy to carry out negotiations concerning the fate of its country and avert its gaze while the other side bites into chunks of it.

Now we are being assuaged and told that nothing will affect the good-old status quo. We are promised that Abbas will cancel elections and will continue serving the occupation until his final days. At the same time, we rally our perversion against the Fayyad initiative to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state. The option has been and remains one of the following: two states for two peoples along the 1967 borders; or one state, in which two peoples continue to make each other miserable. Israel is galloping toward this latter disaster with eyes wide shut.

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