Yair Lapid's Imaginary Palestinians
I have long argued that the Israeli government and far too many of my fellow Israelis conduct their relationship with the Palestinian people with a kind of willed and willful ignorance in which they are consistently talking about what amounts to an imaginary enemy, one who bears a distinct resemblance to real Palestinians, somewhat as GI Joe bears a distinct resemblance to real soldiers.
But rarely have I seen it so baldly stated as I did in yesterday’s HaAretz.
Speaking on Tuesday to Israel’s Council for Peace and Security (a group of former high-ranking security officials who advocate for a negotiated two-state peace), Yesh Atid party chairman (and wannabe coalition kingmaker) Yair Lapid reportedly said:
We cannot blink on [the issue of East Jerusalem]. When it comes to Jerusalem, there are no compromises. If the Palestinians realize they won’t have a state unless they give up on Jerusalem, they’ll back down from that demand as well.
No, Yair, they won’t.
East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state has been a central piece of each and every peace negotiation/draft proposal/framework/partition plan to ever come under consideration by any Palestinian leader, ever.
Even on the one recorded occasion that Palestinian leaders offered to give up some of East Jerusalem, they did not offer to give up all of it—and even then, they got absolutely nothing in return from their Israeli interlocutors.
Lapid is basing his flight of fancy in the fact that Mahmoud Abbas (known in Palestinian and Israeli circles as Abu Mazen) recently publicly acknowledged that a two-state peace will mean that the Palestinian people will have to cede their 64-year dream of a complete right of return to all of historical Palestine:
“Abu Mazen gave up the right of return because the Palestinians realized that there is a definite consensus among the Israeli public on this issue, so they’re moving on to the next topic,” added Lapid. “The same thing needs to happen with regard to Jerusalem.”
Two problems with this.
First, this reality has long been acknowledged by the Palestinian leadership and many Palestinian opinion makers and shapers. Leading Palestinian nonviolence advocate and President of al-Quds University Sari Nusseibeh began talking publicly about the need to give up on the right of return a full decade ago, and in quiet, private circles, such a position had been held by many Palestinians for even longer. And though “quiet” and “private,” these discussions have not been state secrets. One need only read the occasional book to learn of them.
Second, and not incidentally: Did Yair Lapid not see the reactions of the Palestinian people, in Palestine and around the world, to Abu Mazen’s brave honesty? (Abu Mazen, who, it must be noted, has been calling for a two-state solution since the mid-1980s).
The anger that many Palestinians expressed over the notion of giving up the right of return is as nothing compared to what would happen if any Palestinian leader ever suggested giving up their political, cultural, and spiritual capital—and justifiably so. Wouldn’t we Jews flip our collective lid if the Israeli leadership suggested we give up ours?
Earlier this week, the American people learned what can happen to political leaders who are so bound and determined to believe their own spin that they fail to see the reality before them. That reality crushes them.
The only reason that Israel has been able to cling to its vision of a malleable, monolithic, non-reality-based Palestinian people for so long is the fact that Israel actually forcibly controls the lives and destinies of those people. The occupation is not only bad for Israel because it’s immoral, unjustifiable, and, if not ended, a threat to the Jewish dream of statehood—it’s bad for Israel because it creates a nationwide version of Fox News, telling leaders and citizens alike exactly what they want to hear and believe about the people living under occupation, without once asking anyone for accountability or honesty.
Not to mention the fact that the “Jerusalem” which Lapid and everyone else in Israeli politics talks about is, essentially, a lie.
Eventually, though, reality being real and all, Israel will find itself facing the consequences of its willed and willful ignorance. And it won’t end well.
Ask the Republicans.