And finally, the concluding post of the Crossing Swords debate between Doron Isaacs and Joel Pollak. It’s been a long series and the end of the year is a fitting time for its finale. Also fitting, is the final question from the floor, asking both Joel and Doron if we will ever see peace in our lifetimes.
The delegates of the SAHRD enjoy an excess of access to our media, partly because of the high degree of credibility that many of its members have earned in working within civil society towards the common good of our nation. The irony, argued by us at IAS, which triggered this very debate, is that it is a dearth of precisely these type of people, prepared to build a country from the bottom-up by strengthening and inventing institutions critical to a free and successful nation, that prevents the Palestinians from achieving their freedom.
We have already thanked both Joel and Doron (see our conclusion to this debate here: Q&A with Doron and Joel – Part 1 of 3) but we also need to send out a warm thank you to the people who make this debate possible – our readership. Thank you for taking the time to read the debate and a special thank you to those who got involved by writing to us or posting your thoughts and questions in the comments. The debate only exists because of the audience and we appreciate the views of everyone, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with our decision to host it.
And so, without any further ado, we present to you, the closing 2 questions from the floor.
Question 6 for Joel
|Doron has called you an apologist for Israel. Do you give blanket support to all Israeli policies and action? Can you name some instances where you have disagreed with Israel?
No. Some examples: I opposed the route of Israel’s security barrier when it was first built, and I was vocal in my opposition to the Israeli use of cluster munitions in southern Lebanon in 2006.
Question 6 for Doron
|The terrorist attacks existed before Israel conquered Judea and Samaria, so what indication is there that they will end if we leave?
There is no guarantee that the attacks will end – we must be honest about that. But before I answer you further, I must provide some context.
From very early on Arabs have violently resisted Zionism. Once Zionist settlement passed the threshold from quaint and novel to significant and viable, local Arabs understood that its success would mean, even partially, their dispossession. One can say that the Arabs were xenophobic, that they underestimated totally Zionist military strength and resolve, that they lacked compassion for Jewish persecution, and that they attacked or resisted with violence when other options were available; but the main point they got: Zionism was on a collision course with them. A minority of Zionist leaders worked actively for a peaceful accommodation, but it was not to be.
So yes, the terrorist attacks, like the Hebron massacre in 1929, in which 67 Jews were killed “existed before”. But this was usually in the context of a conflict in which – then like now – casualties were higher on the Palestinian side. In the 1936-1939 Great Arab Revolt Jews lost their lives in the hundreds, whilst the Arab death-toll was in the thousands.
It is also worth noting that suicide bombing – the symbol of terrorist attacks as we know them – began on April 6, 1994 with a Hamas bus bombing in Afula, in which 9 people were killed. This tragedy took place 27 years into the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. In fact it occurred six weeks after Baruch Goldstein, on Purim, February 25, 1994, entered a mosque in the Cave of the Patriarchs, wearing, according to the Shamgar Report, “his army uniform with the insignia of rank, creating the image of a reserve officer on active duty”, and opened fire, killing 29 people.
One hundred Baruch Goldsteins do not justify one suicide bombing, just as one hundred suicide bombings do not justify one Baruch Goldstein. But such phenomena are not unrelated and can help to explain one another.
There are no guarantees. But just as violence has its roots in a political context, so too can wise and humane politics reduce the chance of violence. What I do know, is that staying guarantees that violence, by both sides, will never end.
Final Question for Both Joel and Doron
Will there likely ever be peace between Israelis and Palestinians? If so, will there likely be peace within our lifetimes? What will the eventual solution look like (1 or 2 states)? What evidence supports your answer?
Response from Joel
Yes, there will be peace within our lifetimes. I will even say, optimistically, within the next ten years. It will be a two-state solution, or perhaps a three-state solution (the Gaza-West Bank conflict may prove more intractable than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict).
There are two options. In the best case scenario, we will see an agreement emerge between the two sides. In the West Bank, the borders will generally follow some line between the security barrier and the 1967 boundary, with compensatory land swaps elsewhere in the Negev. Parts of East Jerusalem will be ceded to Palestine as a capital city. A few Palestinian refugees will return to Israel; the rest will have a limited right of return to the Palestinian state, or will be resettled in their current countries of residence, perhaps with the aid of some American-sponsored compensatory payments from Israel. In the worst-case scenario, talks will fail and Israel will withdraw to the line demarcated by the security barrier and declare the occupation over.
This will not formally end the conflict but will perhaps end military hostilities while the Palestinians create a society and a government that can, eventually, return to negotiations and finally bring matters to a close.
Response from Doron
My personal view is that the two-state / one-state dichotomy is a false one. The Geneva Accord, a recent proto-solution, combines elements of political integration and separation, of independence and interdependence, of national self-determination and international cooperation. So for example, the states have independent governments, education systems, national symbols, language policies, fiscal bases, and security apparatus – the essentials of statehood – but there is co-governance over water, parts of Jerusalem, and other interests. One could imagine the two countries sharing a common labour market and monetary policy.
I would support any solution that the parties willingly agreed to in negotiations. I support the two-state model because it is the least unfeasible, and also because it is the stated preference of both sides.
The majority on both sides want to live in peace, and that means a lot and gives me hope. But in the short term I am pessimistic. Peace cannot come without justice.
As Rabban Gamaliel said:
“The world stands on three things: on truth, on justice, and on peace, as is said, ‘Execute truth, justice, and peace within your gates.’ (Zechariah 8:16) These three are interlinked: when justice is done, truth is achieved, and peace is established.” (Pirke Avot 1:18).
Rabbi Elazar put it more bluntly:
“The whole Torah depends upon justice.” (Exodus Rabbah, Mishpatim 30:19)
Peace requires choices many are not willing to make – choices than can only be made by those committed to justice. To do justice, Israelis – and those of us Jews who connect to them – must recognise not only, as Joel does, that there are things in Israel (like the Occupation) that are problematic, but also that choices, Israeli and Jewish, have willed, partly, these tragedies; that, as Ehud Olmert acknowledges, “we were wrong”. Once Israel has accepted its share of responsibility it will do the difficult things that must be done for justice and peace. As the dominant party, the greater burden rests on Israel, but the exact same logic applies to Hamas, the PLO and the Palestinians.
Peace also means urgency. We must work for it now, and not waste a day.
Benny Morris Righteous Victims (New York: Vintage, 2001) p 159.
Geneva Accord Text available at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=351461&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y; Note: Some of the staunchest Zionists implicitly push for comparable diminutions of national sovereignty in their efforts to have Israel admitted to the European Union.
Shahar Ilan ‘Olmert speech urging settlers to prepare for withdrawal sparks outrage’ Haaretz at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1036083.html
- Part 1 - Doron Isaacs instalment 1
- Part 2 - Joel Pollak instalment 1
- Part 3 - Doron Isaacs instalment 2
- Part 4 - Joel Pollak instalment 2
- Part 5 - Doron Isaacs Closing
- Part 6 - Joel Pollak Closing
- Q&A - part 1 of 3
- Q&A - part 2 of 3
- Q&A part 3 of 3
[Correction] I initially said that the communal leadership had rejected Joel's offer to respond in the mainstream media to opinion pieces by the SAHRD. This is incorrect. They did not reject Joel's offer and he did respond in the Cape Times.