There is hope that the Palestinians will soon hold the first democratic elections in their history. If the elected leadership so desires, it is possible for Palestinian autonomy to develop, eventually, into a Palestinian or a Jordanian/Palestinian state, which will maintain a peaceful relationship with Israel.
However, much depends on the question: Will the elected Palestinian leadership be stiff-necked, full of bitter, self-righteous indignation, or will it engender in its people a creative enthusiasm for building their homeland and for healing old wounds? Will Palestinian public opinion be wise enough to isolate those instigators of revenge and hatred? Will the words and actions of the Palestinian leadership be aimed, among other things, at soothing the apprehensions and suspicions that still cloud the Israeli psyche? If the answers to these questions are positive, then the day when Palestine will exist as an independent nation is not far off. A change in the Palestinian charter, which the PLO committed itself to at the signing of the Oslo accords, is an urgent and crucial step in this direction.
Israel, for its part, will have to give up the malignant notion that whatever is bad for the Palestinians must be good for us and vice versa: The tragedy of the Palestinians, their suffering, humiliation, poverty and desperation--all these are our problems, even if we are not to blame for them, or at least are not the principal culprits. So long as the Palestinian people live in the pits, Israel will have no peace and no security.
The help of the international community, together with that of the Arab world and of Israel in assuaging the suffering of the Palestinian people, is urgent and necessary.
The Israeli settlers in the occupied territories will have to choose between fulfilling their religious vocation and fully realizing their national identity. If, for religious motives, they want to make their home in close proximity to the Jewish holy places in a Palestinian state--as residents of the state, not as masters of it--they should be allowed to do so. On the other hand, if they choose to move back within Israel's peace boundaries, we must do our best to help them to reintegrate into Israeli society, materially, socially and morally.
Most of the Israeli settlers in the occupied territories are not enemies of peace, nor are they Arab-haters. They are people who crossed the Green Line in order to fulfill a dream, an impossible dream based on blindness. For more than 20 years, successive Israeli governments have piled large quantities of support, encouragement, sponsorship and applause on this dream. The idea of the settlers in the occupied territories originated both from a mystical-messianic vision and from a pessimistic-fatalistic aspect of Zionism: "The Arabs will never be reconciled to our existence; the rest of the world is against us anyway, so there's no point in trying to look for compromises, and therefore, between one war and the next, we may as well devote ourselves to creating facts and expanding our borders."
And now, it seems that this messianic reawakening did not bring in its wake any kind of messiah and that the fatalism was some secret wishful thinking. It appears that the conflict can be solved if the Arabs are willing to relinquish the realization of their dream to return to Jaffa and Haifa, and the Jews to relinquish theirs to go back to Jericho and Shiloh.
Relinquishing these dreams will involve a tragic shock for many people on both sides, who see this as no less than treason, sacrilege, or the first step to losing everything. Both Palestinian and Jewish extremists are asking themselves these days: "Both Palestinian extremists and Jewish extremists are asking themselves these days: If we forgo our claim for Hebron, what rights do we have in Haifa and vice versa."
The only feasible answer is quite simple: That Israel could not exist without Jaffa and Haifa, and Palestine, without Nablus and Hebron. On the other hand, Israel can exist and even thrive without Hebron and without Ramallah, just as Palestine can come to be and flourish without Lydda and without Jaffa.
The traumatic emotional upheaval involved in relinquishing rights to certain places is very real indeed and the pain is real, and we must take care not to rub salt into open wounds. It would be infinitely better if we were to seek out all possible ways of reducing the pain and soothing the feeling of defeat and insult in the hearts of many on both sides who are terrified at the sight of a compromise between the two nations. It may be possible to turn those victims of the peace--at least some of them--into partners, who can invest their future in making peace work, rather than in blocking it.