An Imposed Solution
is the Only Option
[Zur Notwendigkeit einer internationalen
Ze’ev Sternhell, Ha'aretz, 22
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
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
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
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
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