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01 2012

Identity. Legitimacy. Existence

Syndicated from: Steve Paikin

Yossi Klein Halevi disputes today’s conventional wisdom in describing the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. “It isn’t borders, it isn’t settlements, it isn’t water rights,” he says.  “It’s all the intangibles. Identity.  Legitimacy.  Existence.” Polls show 70% of Israelis accept the need to create a Palestinian state in the territories where most Palestinians live, but which Israel has occupied for some or all of the past 44 years, since the Six Day War. Palestinian apartments in East Jerusalem.   Public opinion surveys also indicate that a majority of Palestinians now recognize they aren’t about to drive the Israelis into the sea, as their more radical leaders have been pledging to do for six decades. Is that acknowledgement of “reality” by both sides something to build on?  Most Israelis, Klein Halevi says, have given up the dream of Greater Israel --- an Israel that would include the West Bank of the Jordan River, where Israel’s greatest prophets such as Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, and Rebecca are believed to have been buried, but where today, the vast majority of inhabitants are Palestinian Arabs. Yossi Klein Halevi   However, Klein Halevi says the problem is, while the majority of Jews have given up their historic rights to return to cities in the West Bank such as Hebron and Jericho (where Israeli Jews are today forbidden from traveling), Palestinians still insist on their right to return and reclaim their former land in Israel proper. Given current birthrates, Israelis fear the Palestinian “right of return” would overwhelm the Jewish state, rendering Jews once again a minority in the one country in the world where they say they need to be a majority for security reasons. “Palestinians say Jaffa belongs to the Arabs,” Klein Halevi says, referring to the city near Tel Aviv currently dominated by Arabs.  The Jaffa part of Tel Aviv, which has a significant Arab population.   “But Hebron belongs to the Jews. The only way to have peace is to find a way to share this land. We have lived in Tel Aviv for only 100 years. But we’ve lived in Hebron for nearly 4,000 years and are prepared to give it up. “I don’t know how the Jewish people will ever recover from giving up Hebron,” he continues.  “But each side has to emerge from an agreement feeling profoundly cheated.” The trade-off, he says, is that each side needs to retract its historic claims. “The price is a self-inflicted act of injustice against the deepest sense of identity for both peoples,” Klein Halevi says. So, the question becomes, if everyone knows what an ultimate solution looks like, can they get there from here? We’ll pick up that story in our next blog post.

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