Violence is part of the resistance to occupation. The basic fact is not the violence; the basic fact is the occupation. Violence is a symptom; the occupation is the disease – a mortal disease for everybody concerned, the occupied and the occupiers.
You have to fight for the soul of your people, you have to fight for the souls of millions of people on both sides, to overcome the legacy of this struggle [between Palestine and Israel] and create a readiness for peace.
Violence [in Palestina] is a symptom; the occupation is the disease – a mortal disease for everybody concerned, the occupied and the occupiers. Therefore, the first responsibility is to put an end to the occupation.
I have always been conscious of the importance and the strength of nationalism, and this has led me straight to the acknowledgment of the nationalism of the Palestinian people. I believe there is no way around this: We have to have a solution based on two national states, which will hopefully live and grow together and establish a relationship between them in something like a European Union.
By that time it was already clear that the next prime minster was going to be Golda Meir, a woman whom I frankly detested – a mutual sentiment, I might add. I knew her as an opinionated, obstinate person, primitive in her outlook, rigid in her attitudes, with a genius for reaching and exploiting the deepest fears and prejudices of the Jewish masses. I was certain that with her as prime minister, all peace efforts would come to a total standstill.
What is the alternative to peace? A catastrophe for both peoples [Palestine and Israel].
Violence [in Palestina] is part of the resistance to occupation. The basic fact is not the violence; the basic fact is the occupation.
There is the Jewish Agency, which gets a lot of money from the United States, from American Jews, whose sole job it is to create settlements. It enlists people all over the world – especially in Russia, and in the United States, by the way – to come and settle in the Occupied Territories as a kind of religious statement, a kind of nationalist statement: “This is a country given to us by God.” A lot of Israelis who do not believe in God believe that God has given us this country.
Well, I myself am a 100% atheist. And I am increasingly worried that the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, which dominates our entire life, is assuming a more and more religious character.
I have always been conscious of the importance and the strength of nationalism, and this has led me straight to the acknowledgment of the nationalism of the Palestinian people.
I believe that Israel must concede to the Palestinian right of return in principle. Israel must, first of all, assume its responsibility for what happened in 1948, as far as we are to blame – and we are to blame for a great part of it, if not for all – and we must recognize in principle the right of refugees to return.
If you are a Jewish Israeli, you go to Gaza, you get the villa of your life, the villa which you did not dream of ever getting in Israel, a beautiful two-story villa with green meadows and so on, practically for nothing. Then you put up hothouses of tomatoes or flowers; you take the very Arabs from whom you grabbed this land and employ them as laborers in your hothouses. Israeli law does not apply in Gaza: There is no minimum wage, no annual vacation, no compensation for dismissal – so you get the work very, very cheap. It is a wonderful setup economically.
You must get Israelis to understand the feelings and the hopes and the traumas of the Palestinians. You have to get the Palestinians to understand why Israel is behaving the way it does: What is the legacy of the Holocaust, what are the fears of average Jewish people?
It is our responsibility as the stronger party [Israel], as the occupying power, to convince the Palestinians that they can achieve their basic national aims, their just national aspirations, without violence. Unfortunately, the behavior of the Sharon administration, and before this of the Barak administration, has shown the Palestinians the opposite: namely, that they will achieve nothing without violence.
There are lots of signs that average Israelis want peace. But after such a long war – this conflict has been going on now for 120 years – you have a fifth generation being born into it on both sides. Such a conflict creates hatred, fears, stereotypes, and demonizations of the other. It would be an illusion to believe you can put an end to this overnight.
The solution is this: There will be a state of Palestine in all of the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Green Line, the border that existed before 1967, will come into being again. Jerusalem will be the shared capital – East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. All settlements must be evacuated. The security must be arranged for both people, and there must be a moral solution and a practical solution.
It is manifestly idiotic to believe that Israel, with five million Jewish citizens and one million Arab citizens, will concede to the return of four million refugees. It will not happen. We can wish it, we can think it’s just, that it’s moral – it will not happen. No country commits suicide.
I understand people who believe that without violence they will not achieve anything at all.
How do we solve the problem by allowing a number of refugees to return to Israel, allowing a number of refugees to return to the Palestinian state, and allowing a number of refugees to settle, with general compensation, where they want to settle? It is not an abstract problem. It involves four million human beings, and more than fifty years of various sorts of misery. But it is not an insolvable problem. It involves some good will, and a readiness to give up historic myths on both sides.
In 1949, the country of Palestine was partitioned after the war in such a way that the State of Israel-proper consisted of 78 percent of this country of Palestine. What was left to the Arabs was 22 percent, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
One of the main aims of Sharon is to prevent a Palestinian state – a real, viable, sovereign, free Palestinian state. It has been the major task of his life for the last forty years. What Sharon wants to do is “shorten the lines,” in military slang. He wants to give up some positions which are untenable, or which cost too much to keep, and to withdraw to where he wants Israel to be.
Critics of the war plans (including myself) have pointed to the disastrous political results that must be expected: Iraq would break into three parts (Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center, Shi’ites in the south), the Middle East would be exposed to the onslaught of Iranian fanaticism, pro-Western Arab regimes would collapse. Israel would be surrounded by aggressive Islamic fundamentalism, like the Crusader kingdom with the advent of Saladin.
In order to put an end to the occupation, you must make peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. This is the real aim, this is the real task.
Sharon’s so-called two-state solution will be, let’s say, twelve Palestinian enclaves, which will be called a Palestinian state. It will be connected by, perhaps, a series of bridges, tunnels, and highways, which can be cut off at any moment at the whim of the Israeli government or Israeli army.
Palestinians want a state of their own. They want to live in freedom. They want to get rid of the terrible misery in which they are living. They are ready after fifty years to accept a state of their own in 22 percent of what used to be the country of Palestine. I think it is the height of stupidity on our part if we don’t grasp this opportunity.