This time, peace may be real thingBy Alan M. Dershowitz
September 9, 2005
There have been many false starts in establishing a two-state solution to the Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but this time all the basic elements appear to be in place. Israel's successful evacuation of the Gaza Strip demonstrates the desire and ability of the Israeli government to make and implement tough decisions necessary for a pragmatic peace based on a two-state solution.
There still are many barriers to a real peace. Some come from the Israeli side, others from the Palestinian side. The greatest barriers, however, come from outsiders: right-wing American Jews and Christians who are more Israeli than the Israelis, Islamic fundamentalists and left-wing European and American academics, politicians and church leaders who are more Palestinian than the Palestinians.
Those who are more Israeli than most Israelis oppose any territorial compromise. They resisted leaving Gaza and they will resist giving up any of the West Bank, even if such compromise is essential to peace. They simply do not trust the Palestinians to make a real peace. They believe that ending the occupation will increase terrorism and weaken Israel.
Those who are more Palestinian than the Palestinians oppose the two-state solution, urging instead one binational state. They know, of course, that because of demographic realities, any such binational state quickly would become another Arab-Muslim state and that Israel would disappear from the map.
Some opponents of peace, such as Hamas and the current Iranian government, believe the only solution is the military destruction of Israel. The tragedy is that these naysayers and nay-doers are standing in the way of a pragmatic peace whose basic elements have been accepted already, at least in broad principle, by most reasonable Israelis and Palestinians. These elements include the following:
1) Two states based on Israeli withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip and nearly all of the West Bank, with territorial adjustments consistent with UN Security Council resolutions and existing realities on the ground.
2) Some symbolic recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees, including compensation and some family reunification, but no absolute right of return to Israel for the millions of descendants of those who claim refugee status--a questionable right whose exercise would produce the great wrong of quickly turning the Jewish state into yet another Muslim-Arab state. All Palestinians should have the right to return to what will become the Palestinian state.
3) A division of greater Jerusalem, with the Arab part becoming the capital of the Palestinian state and the Jewish part the recognized capital of Israel.
4) A renunciation of all forms of violence, including terrorism, and an undertaking by the Palestinian state to dismantle terrorist groups and take all reasonable efforts to prevent acts of terrorism, just as Israel has undertaken to prevent and punish Jewish terrorism against Palestinians.
5) An end to the singling out of Israel for demonization, delegitimation, divestiture, boycotts and the like by international organizations, many academics, religious leaders and media pundits; and the normalization and acceptance of Israel as a full and equal member of the international community.
Sometimes it's better to start at the end, when the final resolution seems obvious and widely accepted. The big problem is how to get there, and that journey will take bold compromises on each side.
The writer and philosopher Amos Oz does not expect old enemies "to fall in love" with each other. "Let's not be sentimental." He sees the conflict as a "tragedy in the exact sense of the word"--a "collision between one very powerful claim and another no less powerful." Employing a literary analogy, he believes that tragedies "can be resolved in one of two ways: There is the Shakespearean resolution, and there is the Chekhovian one. At the end of a Shakespearean tragedy, the stage is strewn with dead bodies and maybe there's some justice hovering high above. A Chekhov tragedy, on the other hand, ends with everybody disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, disappointed, absolutely shattered, but still alive. And I want a Chekhovian resolution and not a Shakespearean one for the Israeli-Palestine tragedy."
A Chekhovian compromise is the only true road to peace.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seem to understand this. The opponents of peace must not be allowed to stand in the way of compromise in this promising season of potential peace.
Alan Dershowitz is a law professor at Harvard. His latest book is "The Case For Peace."
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