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Hebräische Buchstaben im Spiel
Zeitung in einfachem Hebräisch
Jüdische Weisheit
Translation of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on January 10, 2001

by Uri Avnery / o6.o1.o1

Conflict’s End


The devil knows who put into Barak’s head the four words "end of the conflict".

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 it’s 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 this subject.

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.

Let’s 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.

Get this article in Hebrew

Gush Shalom

ua / hagalil.com / 11-01-2001



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