Throughout my life, if only in sponsoring the Israeli-Palestinian plan of Geneva and in welcoming its main authors, Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, at the Palais de la Mutualité in Paris in 2003, I have never ceased to say and to repeat that this is the unique solution that is morally sound and conforms to the cause of peace.
Yet today, I am hostile to the strange request of unilateral recognition that is to be discussed in the coming days by the United Nations Security Council in New York — and I am compelled to say why.
First of all, this demand is based upon a false premise, that of the supposed « intransigence » on the part of the Israelis, which leaves the opposing party no recourse other than this diplomatic putsch. I am not even mentioning Israeli public opinion, which, according to a poll conducted by the Truman Institute for Peace, at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, massively (70%) supports the idea of a partition of the land. I am talking about the Israeli government itself and of the progress it has made since the time when its current leader still believed in the dangerous chimera of a Greater Israel. Today, of course, the question of the West Bank « implantations » persists. But the disagreement regarding this affair opposes those who, like Mahmoud Abbas, demand that they be frozen before negotiations are resumed and those who, like Netanyahu, refuse to consider as a precondition one of the objects of negotiation — it concerns neither the question itself nor the necessity to arrive at an agreement. Everyone, myself included, has his own opinion on the subject. But to present this disagreement as a refusal to negotiate is a falsehood.
This request, then, is based upon the generally accepted fact that Mahmoud Abbas has been miraculously and entirely converted to the cause of peace. I am far from denying the progress he also has made since the days when he was the author of a « thesis », which reeked of negationism, on the « collusion between Zionism and Nazism ». But I read the speech that he gave in New York. And if I find genuine sincerity in his words and am moved, as we all are, by the evocation of the Palestinian calvary that has gone on too long, if I even sense, between the lines, how the man who has pronounced these words could actually become, should he wish it and should he be encouraged, a Palestinian Sadat, a Gorbachev, I cannot help but hear as well more disturbing signals. This emphatic homage to Arafat, for example. The evocation, on this occasion and in this place, of the « olive branch » brandished by the man who then, at least once, at Camp David in 2000, refused the concrete peace that was offered to him, within reach. And then the deafening silence on the accord he concluded five months ago with a Hamas whose very charter is enough, unfortunately, to exclude anyone associated with it from a UN that is bound to accept only « peaceful states » that eschew terrorism. Of course, it is with Abbas that Israel should make peace. But not there. And not like that. Not with this bluffing, and these silences and half-truths.
And this request assumes — what am I saying? It demands that, with the stroke of a magical signature, the most inextricable knot on the planet, of opposing interests, of diplomatic aporias, of geopolitical contradictions, should be untangled. Is this really serious? Here we’ve been discussing for 40 years (often, but not always, in bad faith) the question of just borders between the two peoples and that of their capitals. Forty years this debate has been going on, among people whose lives and destinies are at stake, concerning the least bad way to ensure the security of Israel in a region where its full legitimacy has never, to this day, been recognized. And for the last 63, the world has been wondering how to deal with the wrong done to refugees in 1948 without, for all that, compromising the Jewish character of the State of Israel. And we are supposed to solve all that, arbitrate these nearly insoluble dilemmas, wrap up the package of complexities where the devil lies in the details with one spectacular and expeditious gesture, set against a background of rhetorical and lyric enthusiasm? Really! How rash! And what lousy theatre!
Most certainly, we must help the protagonists of this interminable drama rise to the occasion and carry the process through to a conclusion which, in the last few years, they have barely sketched out.
It is obvious that the international community should bring them to an understanding or, as Amos Oz says (but it’s the same thing), to a divorce; and, in fact, that is the very purpose of the recent French proposal and the deadlines that it imposes.
But nothing can spare them the painful and costly confrontation without which there is never, not anywhere, true recognition. Nothing and no one can make it possible for them to skip this action that would appear so simple but that will be, for both of them, the longest of all voyages: the very first step towards the other, a hand reaching out, a direct negotiation.