Q: I came hoping that you would have a map for us, for Israel. Given the mood of Israelis, they have hunkered down, and the Arabs’ love for freedom is rising. Can we have a peaceful solution? The Soviet Union and Iran were internal transformations. But here it is not confined to Israel. Do you see, short of a catastrophe, that there will be changes, given the mood of both Israelis and Arabs?
A: Let me give you something of a map that might not be catastrophic. What could Israel move toward now? Let’s imagine that we strip away this Zionist ideology, these preconceptions, these categories that are a hundred years out of date, and look at the reality. You see opportunities, such as a two-state solution, with a map that involves land swaps and a real Palestinian state with Al Quds as its capital. You see economic opportunities flowing from Europe, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia.
But this would require a sharable narrative. When Ben-Gurion and Sharett agreed to German reparations in the early 1950s, they forced Germany in secret negotiations to acknowledge what actually happened in the Holocaust before they would agree to take the German money. The amazing thing is that although Adenauer did give a speech including the paragraph they agreed on, the speech said almost nothing else that was true. He said the German people abhorred the Nazis and that most of them fought to rescue their Jewish brethren. But Ben-Gurion and Sharett still were able to use that little bit of truth about the Holocaust in the speech to take the money and build the Jewish state. It’s not true that the Palestinians need an admission of the whole truth by Israel, but there has to be a sharable narrative. Once you have that, other possibilities that have seemed impossible can open up.
There has to be generous refugee compensation, which would be obvious to anyone who wasn’t terrified about an end to the country because you thought the principle of Palestinian return was too difficult to admit responsibility for. You would have to agree, instead of accepting Ben-Gurion’s view that Israeli Jews need nuclear weapons to survive another Holocaust, that nuclear weapons, whether in Israel’s hands or anyone else’s hands, are a threat to the peoples of the Middle East. You would have to agree that Israel could use its nuclear capacity to arrive at a non-nuclear, non-WMD Middle East, and avoid this threat.
Professor Ian Lustick, University of Pennsylvania,