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Jewish Journal

Mea Culpas

by Amy Klein

August 23, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Even for a journalist who tries to keep an open mind, it's hard to watch the world media equate the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis as a level playing field, tit for tat. They bomb, we retaliate; a war between equals, or worse, a war between unequals with Israel as the aggressor and the Palestinians as the victims.

As someone who has believed in the peace process for longer than the seven years I lived in Israel, it was hard to watch it crumble like a house of cards, and it's even harder to believe that it might really be over.

While Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat make plans to meet next week in Berlin to broker a cease-fire -- a far cry from peace agreements -- most people look on skeptically, to say the least. On the right, people decry further negotiations with a corrupt regime and demand action. On the dwindling left, people are afraid to believe that something will come out of the next meeting, and yet, we cannot help but hope.

Over the past 11 months since the Al Aqsa Intifada began, peaceniks in Israel and abroad have been renouncing their ways, changing sides, pounding their hearts in regret for their evil ways as if they were standing before God on the High Holy Days recounting their sins. Even former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, criticizing Peres this week for continuing to negotiate, said: "Whoever thinks Arafat is still a partner is either suffering from self-delusion or fantasy."

These mea culpas have generated unabashed glee from the right, who are quick to say, "I told you so."

The ones who haven't recounted their belief in peace now find that they are the ones on the fringe, taking the place of the far right-wingers who advocate transfer, reconquest, or the strong hand of military retaliation -- ideas that suddenly don't sound so insane after all.

So, where does that leave those of us who believed in an Israeli and a Palestinian state, who dreamt of both the Zionist dream and the Palestinian right to exist, but are dismayed by this last year of violence? The answer is not clear.

It's hard to join the ranks of the right wing, the ones who have said all along, "The Arabs will never be happy until they push all the Jews into the sea." It's hard to join them because the question still remains: What next?

Only time will tell. Perhaps this next round of talks just might prove effective, though I won't hold my breath. Perhaps the solution does lie in a strong military action, though I don't look forward to that. Whatever it comes to, I do not regret my past positions.

To paraphrase Tennyson: "'Tis better to have believed in peace, than never to have negotiated at all."

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