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Eye to Eye with The Economist

A year and a half ago, I wrote an entry on what I called the "great truths" that the Israelis and Palestinians would have to accept in order to make peace:

I think that the Palestinians and the Israelis each have a great truth that they have to face up to, but can't.

I believe that, for their part, the Palestinians have to realize that Israeli will never give them the right of return. They will never do this. If they did, they would be signing a death warrant for Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians would overwhelm the Jews, probably over time through higher birth rates, and then Israel as a safe haven run by and for Jews would cease to exist. So it won't happen. Not ever.

And I believe that, for their part, the Israelis have to realize that the West Bank is as gone as Gaza -- gone, gone, gone. Not tomorrow, not next year, but a hundred years from now at the outside, probably more like fifty, maybe even twenty, those settlements will be gone. Palestinian control of the West Bank is inevitable and once that happens, no matter what anyone says, the settlements are doomed.

This is from the latest issue of The Economist:

Despite all Israel's settlements, demography and justice still point to a border [with Palestine] based on the pre-1967 lines, with minor adjustments of the sort Bill Clinton suggested in 2000.

As Mr Clinton's failure at Camp David demonstrated, securing agreement for such a deal will be hard. The Clinton solution would require Israel to give up the bulk of its settlements in the West Bank, uproot a great many more settlers than it did in Gaza and share sovereignty over Jerusalem. The Palestinians would have to accept that most refugees would "return" not to their homes of 60 years ago inside Israel but to a new state in the West Bank and Gaza. Such compromises will hurt. But for either side to give less and demand more will merely tip the difficult into the impossible.

Right now both continue to offer too little and demand too much. Israel has at least abandoned the dream of a Greater Israel that bewitched it after the great victory of 1967. The illusion that the Palestinians would fall into silence has been shattered by two intifadas and every rocket Hamas fires from Gaza. Israel's present government says it is committed to a two-state solution. But it is a weak government, and has lacked the courage to spell out honestly the full territorial price Israelis must pay. The Palestinians have meanwhile gone backwards. If Hamas means what it says, it continues to reject the idea that Jews have a right to a national existence in the Middle East.

What self-defeating madness. For peace to come, Israel must give up the West Bank and share Jerusalem; the Palestinians must give up the dream of return and make Israel feel secure as a Jewish state. All the rest is detail.


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