Monday, July 11, 2011

Ruth Gavison: No to Solidarity March

In yesterday's Haaretz (Hebrew/English), Prof. Ruth Gavison explained why she will not join the march in support of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian Statehood, despite the fact that she supports a two-state solution. I couldn't have said it better:

From the time I became politically aware I have supported the "two states for two peoples" solution, for both diplomatic and ethical reasons. Still, I won't join the solidarity march in support of the Palestinian demand to declare independence. Not because I have more important things to do, or because I don't understand the voice of history, or because I'm a captive of fear or hatred, as Yael Sternhell claims. And not because I'm afraid that my participation will seem patronizing - a fear allayed by Talmudic studies professor Ishay Rosen Zvi. It's because I feel that a unilateral declaration at present represents more of a danger to the chance of implementing a two-state solution than a way to promote it.

I'm not very optimistic about the chance of implementing this solution in the foreseeable future, but I don't want to do anything that will weaken it even further.

The solidarity march is the answer of those of us who believe that the side that bears the main responsibility for the failure to implement the two-state vision so far is Israel, which is ruled by a right-wing government and the settlers. Making it clear that there are Jewish Israelis who support this agreement, and trying to greatly increase their number and specific gravity, is supposed to change this situation and put greater pressure on the government - as opposed to the diplomatic activities of the Palestinians themselves. According to this approach, there is no need to build incentives that will cause the Palestinians, too, to change their views, as a precondition for a just and stable agreement.

I don't accept this analysis. Alongside viewpoints of certain elements in the Israeli public that are strongly represented in the Israeli government and that really do want to prevent any chance of progress toward a division of sovereignty between the river and the sea, Israel has a large majority ready for a stable compromise agreement. Moreover, the present Israeli government, as right-wing as it may be, is officially committed to a two-state solution.

On the other hand, along with Palestinians who declare that they are ready for a solution involving a division of the land, significant groups clearly declare that as far as they are concerned, the goal is Palestinian sovereignty over the entire area. Just as important, the entire Palestinian leadership, including its most moderate elements, is apparently unable to declare that it understands that the two-state vision means waiving recognition of the "right" of the refugees and their descendants to return to their homes in the State of Israel.

The dead end in the negotiations is based on the Palestinians' positions no less than those of Israeli opponents of partition. Therefore, a proper process of progress toward implementing the two-state vision must include clear and consistent Israeli and international activity to create political, economic, social and ethical incentives that will convince the two sides to accept the "painful concessions" required.

Although the unilateral step in the United Nations, and particularly outside support for it from the international community and Jews in Israel, puts pressure on Israel to do what is necessary to achieve a solution, there is no element of similar pressure on the Palestinians. On the contrary. Such processes only reinforce the feeling among the Palestinians that someone else is doing the work for them and that they are likely to see their just demands met without committing to the necessary painful concessions.

I hope that history really is on the side of the two-state solution. To help it along, supporters of this solution in Israel and worldwide must show a greater effort than that reflected by taking part in the solidarity march.

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