December 20, 2007
Chanukah— the pink elephant of Annapolis
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Everyone knows that nothing can move forward unless Israelis are convinced that a final-status agreement will be considered permanent by the Arab side, and not be used as a stepping-stone for another armed struggle. Likewise, everyone knows that Palestinians would not consider an agreement permanent that unjustly expropriates their land to a "colonial intruder" (i.e. Israel). Thus, the road to permanency and commitment must go through a paradigm shift, whereby the intruder becomes a legitimate, equally indigenous, co-owner-partner, one who returned from 2,000 years of forced exile holding a wrinkled trust deed: Chanukah.
Such a profound paradigm shift in the Arabs' perception of the conflict would obviously be a slow and gradual process, but it is a process that must somehow be triggered, the first step of which is recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state" (more accurately, "a state of the Jewish people") as demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert prior to the Annapolis meeting. Such a move would have sent an irreversible message of historical co-ownership to Arab schoolchildren and thus would have given Israelis the first- ever proof of an Arab intention to make the "final-status agreement" truly final.
It is no wonder that when PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat proclaimed "the PA would never acknowledge Israel's Jewish identity," Olmert reacted angrily with: "we won't hold negotiations on our existence as a Jewish state.... Whoever does not accept this cannot hold any negotiations with me." Translated: "Whoever refuses to tell his children that Jews are here by moral and historical imperative has no intention of honoring his agreements in the long run, so why negotiate?"
Olmert's subsequent retraction of this condition may mean one of two things. Either he believes that the needed recognition can be obtained in the course of further negotiations, or he already wrote off the negotiations as a meaningless exercise and is now just waiting for an exit strategy.
In either case, since the final joint communique at Annapolis omitted any reference to a Jewish state, it seems apparent that both sides find it expedient to turn a blind eye to the pink elephant on their table, at least for the time being. The message of Chanukah and of President Bush's remarks merely reminds us that the elephant is still there and that it is getting harder and harder to pretend otherwise.
Judea Pearl is a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, named after his son. He is a co-editor of "I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl (Jewish Lights, 2004).
1 | 2