know when I really get mad? It's when my wife tells me I'm not helping
around the house — and I have not been helping around the house.
There is nothing more enraging than someone exposing your faults
— and being right.
What is true
at home is true in diplomacy. I was reminded of that watching the
enraged, hysterical reaction of Israel's ruling Likud Party to the
virtual peace treaty — known as the Geneva Accord — that was hammered
out by Yossi Beilin, the former Israeli justice minister, and Yasir
Abed Rabbo, the former Palestinian information minister. Mr. Beilin
and Mr. Abed Rabbo, with funding from the Swiss government, decided
to see if they could draw up a detailed peace treaty, with maps,
at a time when their governments were paralyzed. After three years,
they did it. They shook hands on it Oct. 12 and today they are mailing
copies in Hebrew and Arabic to every home in Israel, the West Bank
and his far-right coalition threw a fit, crying treason and sputtering
about the gall, the "chutzpah," of Mr. Beilin drawing up a virtual
peace treaty with Yasir Arafat's deputy. The Likud's over-the-top
criticism of Mr. Beilin — and of the Israeli Army chief of staff
when he pointed out the Sharon government's reluctance to strengthen
Palestinian moderates — had all the earmarks of a ruling party that
knows it has not washed the dishes, not made any creative initiatives
for peace since coming to power, and hates being exposed.
Accord fleshes out the peace initiative first outlined by President
Clinton. You don't have to accept every word to see its basic wisdom
and fairness: In return for peace with Israel, the Palestinians
get a nonmilitarized state in the West Bank and Gaza. They also
get the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and sovereignty over
the Temple Mount, but under a permanent international security force,
with full Jewish access. The Israelis get to keep settlements housing
about 300,000 of the 400,000 Jews in the West Bank (in return for
an equivalent amount of land from Israel), including virtually all
the new Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem built in the Arab side
of the city. About 30,000 Palestinian refugees get to return to
their homes in Israel proper, and all refugees receive compensation.
Polls show 35 to 40 percent of Israelis and Palestinians already
support the deal, without either government having endorsed it.
is virtual, because we are not the government and do not pretend
to be," said Mr. Beilin, whose deal was co-signed by a former Israeli
Army chief of staff, a former deputy Mossad chief and leaders from
Mr. Arafat's Tanzim militia. "But we need to create a virtual world
that will impact the real world by demonstrating that a workable
deal is possible. It is inconceivable that for the past three years
there have been no official meetings between Israelis and Palestinians
about a permanent solution."
By 2010 or
so, there will be more Palestinians than Jews living in Israel,
the West Bank and Gaza put together. "We will fairly soon be losing
the Jewish majority," added Mr. Beilin. "This may not interest President
Bush, but it interests me and should interest Sharon. If we don't
do something to create a border with the Palestinians, we're going
to put an end to the Zionist dream."
What I have
always admired about Mr. Beilin is that he is a fanatical moderate
— as committed to his moderation as the extremists are to their
extremism. In a Middle East where extremists tend to go all the
way and moderates tend just to go away, the example that he and
his Palestinian partners are setting is critical. It shows that
civil society in Israel and the West Bank is still alive and refuses
to give in to pessimism. But they need, and deserve, courage and
help from America now too.
We owe them
that. We owe ourselves that. Because the same struggle is afoot
in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, where extremists have been intimidating
moderates, by going all the way — by blowing up the Red Cross, the
U.N. and fellow Muslims. We can train all the police we want in
Iraq or around the Arab world, but unless we can strengthen moderates
there — those ready to act on the hopes of the intimidated majorities
— a decent future will be impossible.
of the world unite! We have nothing to lose but our pessimism. Either
we make the future bury the past, or the bad guys will ensure that
the past buries the future.