There are a small number of extremely vocal right wing Jews who believe that retaining the entire West Bank is more important than trying to make peace with the Palestinians. Some of them believe that God gave the Jewish people the West Bank and it is a sin to give any of it up. It was that kind of thinking that led to the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when he tried to exchange land for peace with the Palestinians. There are others who believe that because Jews lived in Judea and Samaria thousands of years ago, Israel has no right to end any current Jewish settlement on the West Bank. There are still others who believe that it is foolish even to try to trade land for peace with the Palestinians, since the Palestinian leadership has no real interest in arriving at a peaceful solution.
This noisy clack boos disrespectfully when they hear the name of President Obama, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or anyone else who favors a two-state solution that does not compromise Israel’s security. I have now joined this distinguished company of people who get booed for advocating territorial compromise in the interest of peace. I was booed and jeered at the Jerusalem Post Conference on April 28, 2013 when I proposed an idea for restarting peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
These same people cheered loudly when Carolyn Glick, a right wing opponent of any territorial compromise, announced that: “There are no competing narratives. There is only the truth.” For her, the only truth lies in history and archeology. Of course it is true that the Jews lived on the West Bank for many years two millennia ago. (It is equally true that Native Americans populated Manhattan Island as recently as four centuries ago.) For some right wing opponents of the two state solution, this archeological truth ends the debate. The fact that the West Bank has been largely populated by Arabs over the past several centuries is not part of any narrative. Many of those who booed favor a one-state solution, with Israel simply annexing the West Bank and either expelling or disenfranchising the indigenous Palestinians.
It’s interesting to note that my statement that drew the loudest boos and the most derision was my suggestion that President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority might consider not bringing a case against Israel to the International Criminal Court as a way of showing good faith and making a concession calculated to encourage restarting the peace process. But just days after the booing and mocking, President Abbas did just that. Two days after my talk, the Palestinian Authority—according to the Jerusalem Post—
“pledged to the US that it would freeze its efforts to join United Nations agencies or turn to the International Criminal Court, PA Foreign Minister Riyad Malki announced on Wednesday.
Malki said that the promise was made to US Secretary of State John Kerry as a “gesture” on the part of the Palestinians “and in order to prove our true intentions to give a bigger chance to the peace process.”
The right wing Jewish extremists who boo everyone who wants to make compromises for peace, are every bit as dangerous as Jewish extremists on the hard left who also demand a one state solution—a binational state that will cease being the homeland of the Jewish people. Both are unwilling to compromise their ideological claims. Both make peace more difficult to achieve. Both boo and jeer any effort to offer compromise in the interest of peace. The difference, and it is a real difference, is that the right wingers love Israel—at least their conception of a Jewish Israel that extends from the river to the sea. Many of the left wingers hate Israel and want a binational Palestinian state that extends from the same river to the same sea. Motives are important, but the road to war is often paved with good intentions.
The writer J.J. Goldberg characterized the Jerusalem Post Conference as “an odd combination of high-level exchanges on security policy and raucous, far-right pep rally”. He reported that among the former and present ministers and generals, “the most enthusiastic reception was reserved for Post columnist Caroline Glick, a passionate opponent of Israeli-Palestinian compromise known for her slashing attacks on liberals.”
Those in the large audience who booed and jeered were not interested in the “high level exchanges on security policy” or in subtlety or nuance. They were there to cheer the right wing bumper stickers, bon mots and clichés of their champion and to show disdain for anyone who disagreed with her simple-minded “bombs away” solutions to complex problems.
That’s why I will no longer lend my support to “far right pep” rallies of the kind I spoke at last week.
This op-ed originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post on May 5, 2013.