Home Page

Still A Possible Remedy

Johanan Bein, The Jerusalem Post:, 17.10.04

'It is easy to propose impossible remedies," said the old mouse, when none of the General Council of Mice knew how to attach a small bell, by a ribbon, to the neck of the cat.

This old Aesop's fable reminds us of some of the peace and security slogans and "solutions" we get fed with daily. Peace and security will not be achieved by "belling the cat," nor will it be attained by a fence, or a wall, or by unilateral disengagement.

Any unilateral act evokes suspicion. Unilateral disengagement evokes suspicion that the real plan is to establish permanent borders. The building of "temporary" walls and fences, supposedly only for the sake of security, reinforces this mistrust and the suspicion that the walls are actually meant to become permanent political borders.

And indeed, after almost 60 years of independence the time has come to establish permanent borders for Israel. This is probably the only country on earth without borders - and a state without borders is a state in danger, even when it is armed and strong like Israel.

In fact, it is a rule that agreed borders between neighboring states prevent wars and inspire peace; while the absence of boundaries - or borders established unilaterally and without agreement - might be the ground and pretext for the next war.

Although Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism and predictor of Israel, did not foresee the Holocaust, he did see the dangers of growing anti-Semitism in Europe. He knew that the solution was a Jewish state that would be a homeland and refuge.

Our common goal is to make this state of ours a real refuge where one can live in peace and security. In order to achieve it why not disengage ourselves from slogans and unilateral actions and return to our basic striving for true peace coupled with security: peace via negotiated agreement, security via agreed borders, guarded by our mighty army, with or without agreed fences and walls.

It was only a year ago that the Geneva Accord was signed. "Accord" isn't a dirty word. A negotiated settlement is not a treacherous act. This agreement was signed after almost three years of negotiation by teams, a major part of whom also led the negotiations in Sharm e- Sheikh, at Camp David, and in Taba.

On the Israeli team were ministers and senior officials of past governments, and on the Palestinian one ministers and senior officials from the acting Palestinian Authority's moderate center.

They agreed on permanent borders between two states that mutually recognize each other. These borders call for the resettlement of only about 15 percent of the settlers, while preserving the remaining 85 percent in the major settlement blocks near the border.

The teams agreed on a comprehensive solution to the refugee problem (no unfettered "right of return"). The accord also stipulated mutual and international recognition of an enlarged Jewish Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Jerusalem would be bigger, with more Jewish inhabitants than ever in history. In the Old City there would be no borders, but free traffic for tourists and citizens of the two states alike.

The parties also agreed on an international network of control, assistance and mediation to prevent friction. Most important of all, it was agreed that a final end would be put to the bleeding conflict between Israel and Palestine, and to their mutual claims.

Do we honestly wish to reach peace and security? If so, why not adopt these principles?

Yet to agree on this we need elections. To agree on a negotiated accord we need a change of government.

The present government was given a chance. It may have tried, but it definitely did not succeed in delivering the promised peace and security, not to mention solving the host of pressing problems that have been shunted aside by our one, over-arching preoccupation.

The government has one signal achievement: its own survival, while our hopes for peace languish, still hidden in the Geneva files.

We are reminded of one of the last poems of the late poet Yehuda Amichai: "You who prolong your lives with the best physicians and the best of medicines/ Remember those who shorten their lives in wars/ That you in your prolonged lives do not prevent."

Unilateral disengagement will not bring peace, nor will it further security. Fences and walls, without agreed borders, are not the wonder drug.

Let us stop "belling the cat" and vote for realistic solutions. Let us give peace a chance.