Palestinian idealism

Ami Ayalon and Sari Nusseibeh’s peace plan (as summarized by Bradley Burston, original here):

The borders of the new state would be based on 1967 lines, with a territorial exchange allowing for Israel to annex major settlement blocs and an equal amount of area to be granted Palestine from areas now within Israel proper. No settlers would remain within Palestine.

The Palestinian state would be demilitarized, under agreements in which the international community would guarantee its security.

Regarding the right of return, “Palestinians refugees will return only to the State of Palestine; Jews will return only to the State of Israel.” In addition, Israel, Palestine, and the international community would set up a fund to compensate Palestinian refugees for their suffering.

As for Jerusalem, the Palestinians would have sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods, and Israel over Jewish neighborhoods. Neither side would have sovereignty over holy sites. Israel would act as guardian of the Western wall, Palestine as guardian of the Noble Sanctuary mosque compound.

I don’t want to talk about the justice or fairness of the plan. Just a couple of guesses about how such a plan would be received by Israelis and Palestinians:

My first guess is that if they were convinced that security guarantees would be effective (a very big ‘if’), the majority of Israelis would accept such a plan.

My other guess is that no imaginable Palestinian leadership would accept it.

Historically, since the 1937 Peel Commission and through the 2000 Clinton/Barak proposal, Israelis have been prepared to accept partition, even when it would be objectively disadvantageous, on the grounds that it would bring peace. Israelis who think that the entire Land of Israel should be in Jewish hands for religious reasons are a minority.

Most Arabs have always opposed partition. It has always seemed to them — even before the founding of the state — that the entire land belonged to them, indeed, that any land held by Jews was in some sense stolen (even if it was purchased). Compensation has never been considered an acceptable substitute for possession.

There is a fundamental asymmetry in the thinking of Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis are mostly pragmatic and most of them are more interested in peace than land. Indeed, opposition to withdrawal from the territories is overwhelmingly based on security considerations.

Palestinians are not pragmatic, they are idealistic. They are prepared to undergo great hardship in order to obtain what they think is theirs, and they are uncompromising. Even this proposal, signed by the moderate Nusseibeh — and if there ever was a moderate Palestinian, it’s Nusseibeh — has to take Palestinian idealism into account.

I’m referring, of course, to the statement at the end of the first paragraph: No settlers will remain in Palestine. Although one presumes that both sides envisage that Arabs will continue to live in Israel, the idealistic Palestinians require that Palestine must be completely Judenrein.

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4 Responses to “Palestinian idealism”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    This is a truly interesting analysis. The point about the assymetry of mentalities is a crucial one. In a strange way this assymetry parallels the division often posited between ‘lower class’ and ‘middle class’ people. The lower classes are those for whom the first value is physical possession of a thing. They are prone to violence easily in holding on to it. The middle- classes are more future- oriented and pragmatic, more willing to compromise. It would seem that the Palestinians almost completely fall into the lower class mode, while a majority of Jews fall into the middle- class mode. Thus my guess is that Rosenthal is right in suggesting most Israeli’s would accept a pragmatic compromise even involving Jerusalem. ( Again however the condition is that there be real security. And one of the basic arguments against concessions in Jerusalem, and elsewhere also is that it would bring greater insecurity) In any case Rosenthal sees the assymetry correctly which unfortunately many from the Left, even the good- intentioned Left like Bradley Burston, do not.

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    You are 100% right about the security issue. I didn’t mean to suggest that a withdrawal from the West Bank or division of Jerusalem was a good idea. I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that — if you leave aside the security question — most Israelis would think that such a compromise to be justified if it would bring peace.

  3. Jared Smiley says:

    I’m sorry folks, but I don’t see it that way. Nobody is talking about killing any Jews, so “Judenrein” doesn’t fit the bill here.

    Nobody said Jews could not live in Palestine. But they cannot live as Israeli citizens. Arabs could not live in Isreal as Palestinian citizens, with the Palestine army guarding them could they?

    I understand most of those settlements are built on land taken from the Palestinians. Making people give up the land they took seems to me to be a fair trade for not helping the Palestine refugees. Uncle Sam is going to have to foot the bill for that, let’s face it.

    I don’t like to say this. Harry Truman was a great friend of the Jewish people. When Harry became president my ma was real happy, and in fact he was elected the year I was born. We heard a lot about Harry when I was a kid. My ma’s people were from Missouri and my aunt Cecilia lived in Independence and knew Harry when he was a young man. Always defending the Jews. He had a store there with a Jewish guy. I think his name was Eddie Jacobowitz – something like that. But Harry later told them that it was impossible to please Jewish people, though he tried his best, and you are proving it, it seems to me.

    Here is a man putting his life on the line to make peace with the Jews, and you are telling us it isn’t good enough. As for deciding what the Palestinians want, and all that about mentalities, I don’t buy it. I didn’t see that the majority of Isreali Jews accepted any such plan. The Israel government doesn’t support that plan either. I think all that talk about mentalities is racist, if you will excuse my saying so.

    I want what’s best for the Jewish people and for Isreal like most Americans, but you have to give a little to get a little. Don’t forget who is paying for it.

    I heard a lot about Zionism when I was a kid, because it was just after the war, and because my family was always talking about Harry Truman whenever aunt Cecilia came down from Independence. So there was a lot about farm support and Korea and MacArthur being a jackass but also some talk about Zionism. Harry thought it was the best darn thing he did giving the Jews a country. The Zionists were for peace and progress and all the decent things. It is really disappointing to see that Zionism has degenerated in this way.


  4. Vic Rosenthal says:

    1) “Judenrein” means ‘free of Jews’ and that’s what they mean. And somebody IS talking about killing Jews: see the Hamas covenant.

    2) The Ayalon/Nusseibeh says “no settlers will remain in Palestine”. It doesn’t say “as Israeli citizens” or as anything else. At least in English – the Hebrew page can’t be found and I don’t read Arabic.

    3) Most settlements are not built on land ‘taken’ from the Palestinians. Peace Now recently claimed that this was so, but it turned out to be false. About the refugees — there were more Jews kicked out of Arab countries than Arabs that left Israel. And they were resettled, not kept miserable as a weapon of war. Why don’t the Arab nations care about the Palestinian refugees?

    4) I don’t know about Mr. Truman, but my idea is that they should stop firing rockets at us, digging tunnels under the border to try to kidnap soldiers, shooting electric company workers on power poles, etc. and then we can talk about peace agreements and giving up territory.

    5) It isn’t racist to say that two cultures have different ways of thinking about an issue. And regarding land vs. security, there is a difference.

    6) Israel ‘gave a little’ when it withdrew from Gaza. And what did it get?

    7) Zionists are still for peace and progress. They do not have to be for giving away the store in return for…more rockets.