Saturday, June 9, 2007

Why Israel does not engage with the Saudi initiative

From Haaretz :
"Here, I believe, resides the deepest reason for Israel's reluctance to actively engage with the Saudi initiative. Israeli public discourse and national consciousness have never come to terms with the idea, accepted by historians of all venues today, that Israel actively drove 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1947/8 and hence has at least partial responsibility for the Palestinian Nakba.

This has not happened to this very day because this idea is seen as undermining the foundation of the Zionist enterprise and the legitimacy of Israel's existence. It is as if we were locked into an insoluble dilemma: Either we deny responsibility for the Nakba, or we need to accept that we have no right to be here.

This is the source of the deep fear that prevents Israel from meeting the Arab world face to face and saying 'we are here, and we believe that you accept our existence.' Since Israel has not come to terms with its part in the historical responsibility for the Palestinian Nakba, it cannot truly believe that Arabs could accept our presence in the Middle East. We are locked into a vacillation between self-images of either all-good or all-bad, and hence continue the occupation of the territories, with all the horrors it includes, because the idea of Israel being guilty of anything is still equated with the denial of our right to be here.

The only way out of this deadlock is to raise the question of how Israel can live with its responsibility for the Nakba into public discourse. The dilemma of "either we are morally impeccable, or we have no right to be here" needs to be replaced with a narrative that accepts that Israel's moral, historical and political reality is as complex and multilayered as that of most nations.

In the best of all possible worlds, an Israeli statesman (a rare commodity in an age of mere politicians) would arise and tell the Palestinians: "Israel came into existence in tragic circumstances that inflicted great suffering and injustice on your people. We accept responsibility for our part in this tragedy, even though we cannot fully rectify it. Let us sit together and see how we can end the vicious cycle of violence and suffering and live side by side."

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