It was here, eight years ago, that the famous Geneva Plan, conceived and signed by prominent figures of Palestinian and Israeli civil society, with the support of Swiss and French citizens, was launched.
And it is here on the 22nd of November, at the same university, perhaps before the same people, that we find, as we did then, the main protagonists from the two camps, apparently steadfast despite the freeze in all negotiations.
A speech by the President of the Helvetian Confederation, Micheline Calmy-Rey, telling why, just weeks before leaving office, she wished to hold this evening of commemoration and revival.
The intervention of Yossi Beilin, Israeli instigator of the initiative, explaining once again that, in order to escape the dreadful spiral of fanatacism and hate, there is no other choice than to accept, on one side and the other, the painful sacrifice of a portion of our respective dreams.
This seconded by Rabbi Yitzhak Vaknin, leader of the religious party, Shas, and Vice Presdent of the Knesset, reminding us that the sole alternative to peace would be the transformation of Israel into a bi-national State that would renounce, by that very fact, the Jewish character that is at the heart of its conception.
And a lyric flight on the part of Yasser Abed Rabbo, Beilin’s Palestinian partner, in his response to a student reproaching him for having abandoned the « right of return » for the refugees of 1948, their children and their grandchildren, and, in doing so, having sold out the sacred interests of his people. « It’s just the opposite! » he exclaims. « It’s quite exactly the opposite! This renunciation of an unrealistic right was, and remains, the only means of avoiding a new Nakba, in other words, a new catastrophe! »
As for me, I am trying to figure out the different ways not only to commemorate this fine initiative of 2003, but to pursue it, enrich it, and make it achieve its ends one day.
When one has done all you have done, I say, in substance, to Beilin and Rabbo, when one is at the origin of such a stroke of courage and political genius, when one is one of the authors of a plan which is the only one anyone has come up with that maintains that the co-existence of two peoples is, beyond desirable, possible — in short, when one possesses this idea of an accord whose minute details have been worked out, there are three ways, not four, to accomplish it.
There is the Kantian path, perhaps the prophetic one: an idea, yes, a grand and magnificent idea which towers over the confused and uncertain tentatives to find a way forward. A reference, a standard, a firmly-rooted idea, or a statue of Commander of Ideas enabling us to judge, to measure, I’m tempted to say to evaluate, the efforts of politicians, their more or less sincere tentative steps, their trials and errors.
There is the apostolic or, if one prefers, democratic path: take the idea out of mothballs, propagate it, spread it, seek to make a maximum of people, in Israel, Palestine, and throughout the world, adhere to a project in which not one parcel of desert, not one olive grove, not one pebble has not been fiercely negotiated. In other terms, bring the idea down to earth and, in a long term sense, convert an increasing number of men and women of good will.
And then there is the path in which you, friends and authors of the plan, commit yourselves, if you choose to place yourselves in the hands of kings, to the role of those the history of ideas calls the Saint-Simonians. You seek the king of the Idea, the man or the woman who will be its most enlightened spokesman, and you place it in his or her hands, leaving it as a legacy and in trust, counting on that person to embody it, and thereby make it part, one day, of the letter of a treaty.
Need I add that I would opt for the combination of the three options, and that on that day, this is what I recommended?
Option n° 1 involves other meetings like this one, where we will be satisfied to be the keepers of the flame (which is quite a lot already, and even more if such meetings can be held in Tel Aviv or Ramallah).
Option n° 2 is to spread the good word, one on one, of course, but also through the media, the social networks, the Net (all these tools of propagation whose immense efficiency we observed in the opening hours of the Arab revolutions), and thus further the rising of the good wind of a spring of Peace.
Solution n° 3, finally is to seek out, convince, and perhaps persuade Gideon and Saul, the new Sadat or the new Begin, those in charge in America, Europe, and the UN who are capable of adopting the idea (and, in adopting it, making it their own, to pursue it til the day it triumphs).
We must try everything. Put everything out there. For at the crossroads of these three paths, faithful to the spirit of Geneva, we have a rendezvous with peace.