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An Imposed Solution
is the Only Option

[Zur Notwendigkeit einer internationalen Intervention]

Ze’ev Sternhell, Ha'aretz, 22 August 2003


...Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not capable of putting an end to war. This is not because of this or the other leader, or any lack of good will on both sides, but because of the objective circumstances in which the two societies find themselves.

While a dominant military power and a population under occupation cannot be assigned the same degree of responsibility, the inability to rise above the situation is shared by all.
Indeed, the key question is not what Sharon wants or whether Abu Mazen is capable of controlling the Arab street, but whether the two societies have the practical ability to climb out of the rut into which they have dug themselves. The problem is immeasurably greater for the strong side. The truth is, Israel can no longer give up its stranglehold on the territories because it cannot even free itself from the shackles of occupation.

Since 1982, Israel has been imprisoned no less than the Palestinians by a monster of its own creation. The demise of the left, for whom the Lebanon War was a key station on the way to the garbage bin of Israeli politics, is only one illustration of what has happened to the entire society.

The same is true for Palestinian society. The Arabs are prisoners of their own myths, unable to extricate themselves from the dream of a right of return equivalent to our claim of a historic right to the Greater Land of Israel. Like us, they cannot control their extremists and fundamentalists - in their case, the armed terror organizations; in our case, the crawling settlement movement.

Let it be clear: From a moral standpoint, terror perpetrated against a civilian population is not the same as seizing land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and subjecting the inhabitants to needless harassment. Yet, historically and politically, terror plays a role that is similar to that of settlement: Both inflict paralysis that keeps the two societies from making any move to wrench free from the noose around their necks.

Today, there are two options: One is resigning ourselves to being stuck in a dead-end - meaning, telling ourselves that there is nothing we can do and allowing the hudna to be turned into another phase of the Intifada. In such a case, all the territories in Area A will be reoccupied, targeted assassinations will resume with a vengeance, and before we know it, more buses, malls and cafes will be blown sky-high. The army is already preparing for this option. Midway through the cease-fire, it has begun to establish bases in autonomous Palestinian territories.

The second option is to recognize the fact that the Israelis and Palestinians are not capable of reaching an agreement on their own. Hence, the only possible solution is an imposed settlement authored by the international community and implemented under its watchful eye. What is needed is swift, no-nonsense, U.S.-European intervention based on a comprehensive regional plan, and not just another road map to nowhere.

The question that arises, of course, is whether the United States is really interested in a solution that goes beyond plastering a few cracks. There is no guarantee that the White House is prepared to invest the kind of effort that is needed to find a truly creative solution, especially in an election year. At the moment, all the evidence points to the opposite; although by the end of 2004, the situation could change.

If George Bush does decide to take real action one day, he will have to use the carrot and stick approach. The stick will be the very imposition of an agreement that is bound to be perceived by each party as a defeat for itself and a victory for the other side. The carrot will be a comprehensive regional development program entailing massive investment in the resettlement of most of the Jewish settlers in Israel and most of the Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza, ruling out the possibility of the refugees re-staking a claim inside the 1967 borders.

Within a short time, the upswing in economic growth, the dramatic improvement in the job market, and the implementation of economic, scientific and technological aid agreements will have tangible results that every Israeli and Palestinian citizen will be able to see - a kind of throwback to Israel in the 1950s.

An imposed solution that also incorporates the physical presence of an international, rather than a purely American, observation force, is the only realistic option today - not only for peace, but for insuring the future of Israel as a Jewish national state. Those who still believe in the goals of Zionism as it was originally conceived must accept Israel’s withdrawal from the territories. Because in the short term, occupation serves only devotees of a colonialist state; while in the long-term, it gives hope to those who wave the banner of a bi-national state.

Anyone who wants to live in the kind of Israel we once had - which was far from perfect, and yet a home of which we could be proud, whose sons in uniform were its defenders and not detention camp guards - must recognize the fact that a third option does not exist.

From the Common Ground News Service
hagalil.com 10-09-2003



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