When he demanded to put the "end of the conflict" into the
"frame-work agreement" (another Barak coinage), he put the
refugee issue squarely onto the negotiating table. Since then its
been lying there like a ticking bomb. It was self-evident that no
Palestinian leader could possibly put his signature under "the end
of the conflict" without a solution for the 3.7 million Palestinian
refugees, human beings dispersed throughout the region.
Let me remark here that this
problem like almost any human problem is soluble. The solution
will not satisfy either side completely, but both will be able to live
with it. I shall set out such a proposal ("a moral, just, practical
and agreed-upon solution", I believe) in this column soon. But even
this solution demands from both sides an immense amount of good-will, an
understanding of the other side, an honest desire for reconciliation,
sensitivity and tact. In short, the very qualities that are conspicuous
by their absence in the overbearing and patronizing statement of Amos Oz
and Co., the mythological sages of the "Zionist left", which
was published last week in Haaretz (2.1.01), rejecting any compromise on
A dentist will not treat the
roots of a tooth while it is in a state of acute inflammation. He will
heal the inflammation first. This is even truer when treating a tooth
causing intense pain to two peoples. First one has to treat the acute
problems Jerusalem, the Haram al-Sharif-Temple Mount, the
settlements, security, the borders before the right climate for the
solution of the refugee problem is created. And before the resolution of
the refugee problem, nobody will announce "the end of the conflict".
Ehud Barak, a person devoid of
any understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian question, surrounded by
generals and security-service types who understand even less, has raised
the "end of the conflict" issue because it answers deep and
basic anxieties of many Israelis and, therefore, goes down well with the
Israeli public. Like a child lighting a match next to a barrel of
gasoline, he did not understand the predictable results.
As to the matter itself: a
declaration of the "end of the conflict" is meaningless. If
the roots of the conflict are not eradicated, the declaration is useless.
If they are, it is not needed.
Lets take, for example, the
Franco-German conflict. At the end of World War I, in which millions
died on both sides, the vanquished Germans were compelled at Versailles
to sign a peace treaty declaring, in practice, the end of the conflict.
The treaty tore great chunks of territory from Germany, imposed
monstrous reparations on her and declared that she alone bore the blame
for the war.
The Versailles treaty played a
major role in the ascension of Adolf Hitler. In his hysterical voice he
cried out again and again against the "14 years of disgrace! 14
years of shame!" and demanded to put the German "criminals of
Versailles" on trial.
The result was World War II,
which killed tens of millions. After that war, everybody was a lot wiser.
They did not draft another treaty and did not announce "the end of
the conflict". Instead, they created a completely new reality
Europe was united, the economies intertwined, the armies affiliated to
Nato, the borders abolished in practice. Nowadays, a German can reside
in France and a Frenchman in Germany without even the need of a passport.
The hundreds-of-years-old conflict had come to an end without any
declaration to that effect.
Another, even more poignant
example: when the Germans agreed to pay Wiedergutmachung (reparations)
to Israel, they did not demand an "end of the conflict"
declaration. Had Ben-Gurion and Sharett signed such a declaration, they
would have been eaten alive. But the flow of the reparations created a
climate which put an end of the conflict and that less than 10 years
after the Holocaust!
If Ehud Barak had honestly sought
to end the conflict, he would have approached the problem quite
differently. Instead of haggling like a vendor at the bazaar, trying to
get as much as possible and pay as little as possible, he would have
proposed an agreement designed to fulfil the aspirations of the
Palestinian people as far as possible. A free State of Palestine, an
open border between the two states, a joint capital in Jerusalem, "partnership"
instead of "separation", a flourishing Palestinian economy and
the feeling that everybody gets something out of the partnership all
these would have created a new atmosphere of reconciliation and mutual
acceptance, in which the refugee problem, too, would have found a
solution acceptable to both sides.
That is the way to end a conflict.
But for that one needs people who are not thinking about the next war,
but about the next peace.
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