Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Future belongs to the Optimists

Uri Avnery                                       Gush Shalom                                     13 August 2016

FOR SOME weeks now, I have felt like a boy who has thrown a stone into a pool. Rings of water created by the splash get larger and larger and expand more and more. All I did was write a short article in Haaretz, calling upon Israeli emigrants in Berlin and other places to come home and take part in the struggle to save Israel from itself.

I readily conceded that every human being has the right to choose where he or she wants to live (provided the local authorities welcome them), but I appealed to them not to give up on their home country. Come back and fight, I pleaded.

An Israeli who lives in Berlin, the son of a well-known Israeli professor, answered with an article entitled "Thank you, No!" He asserted that he has despaired of Israel and its eternal wars. He wants his children to grow up in a normal, peaceful country. This started a debate which is still going on.

WHAT IS new about this verbal fight is that both sides have given up pretence. Nowadays, emigrants are not cursed anymore – something that would be hard to do, because many of them are the sons and daughters of the Israeli elite. Must we despair of our state, as do those youngsters in Berlin?

My answer is: not at all. Nothing is foreordained. It all depends on us. But first of all we must ask ourselves: What kind of solution do we want?

THERE ARE two kinds of highly motivated political fighters: those who are looking for ideal solutions and those who will settle for realistic ones. The first kind is admirable. They believe in ideal solutions that can be put into practice by ideal people in ideal circumstances.

I do not underrate such people. Sometimes they prepare the theoretical path for people to realize their dream after two or three generations. I will settle for a realistic solution – a solution that can be implemented by real people in the real world.

The form of the One-state Solution is ideal but unreal. It can come about if all Jews and all Arabs become nice people, embrace each other, forget their grievances, desire to live together, salute the same flag, sing the same national anthem, serve in the same army and police, obey the same laws, pay the same taxes, adapt their religious and historical narratives, preferably marry each other. Would be nice. Perhaps even possible - in five or ten generations.

If not, a one-state solution would mean an apartheid state, perpetual internal warfare, much bloodshed, perhaps in the end an Arab-majority state with a Jewish minority reduced by constant emigration.

The two-state solution is not ideal, but real. It means that each of the two peoples can live in a state it calls its own, under its own flag, with its own elections, parliament and government, police and education system, its own Olympic team.

The two states will, by choice or necessity, have joint institutions, that will evolve in the course of time and by free will from the necessary minimum to a much wider optimum. Perhaps it will come close to a federation, as mutual relations widen and mutual respect deepens.

Once the borders between the two states are fixed, the problem of the settlements will be soluble – some will be attached to Israel by exchange of territories, some will be part of Palestine or be disbanded. Military relations and joint defence will be shaped by realities.

All this will be immensely difficult. Let's have no illusions. But it is possible in the real world, worked out by real people. IT IS for this fight that I call the sons and daughters in Berlin and around the world, the new Israeli Diaspora, to come home and join us again.

Despair is easy. It is also comfortable, whether in Berlin or Tel Aviv. Looking around at this moment, despair is also logical. But despair corrupts. Despairing people create nothing, and never did.

The future belongs to the optimists. [Abridged]

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