I am referring to the opportunities for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In more than 70 years they have been very few and unlikely, but, considering the stalemate, they deserve to be remembered.
As a child, in Israel, I was proud of my country. “Those were the times when the successes of my native country in the conquest of the desert and in technological and scientific development, when the conviction of most that peace with the Palestinians was necessary and possible was still strong – this is what I was taught in school. – were reasons for the world’s admiration for Israel. At the time, respect for Israel also seemed to have dampened the millennial anti-Semitic sentiment. Then slowly things changed […], Israeli policy towards the Palestinian people hardened and the oppressed people took on the role of the oppressor. In this manner, I lost my country for the second time”1.
In a recent article published in The Guardian, the film director and writer Roy Cohen also refers to his youthful memories. He recalls the teenagers’ hopes for peace at the time, when one day his Palestinian friend Aseel was killed by Israeli soldiers2.
But let us return to the attempts made in the pursuit of peace, all of which were evidently aborted.
1937 – The Peel Commission
In that year Palestine was still a British mandate. The Peel Commission (named after the British foreign minister), during the Great Arab Revolt (1936-39), drew up a plan for the partition of the Palestinian territory for the constitution of two states, one Jewish and the other Arab . The Arabs refused, while among the Jews the reactions varied, from total rejection to acceptance as the first step towards a Jewish state.
November 1947 – The United Nations Resolution 181
Peace was more at hand with the UN Resolution 181. The UN General Assembly voted by a majority for the partition of Palestine into two states, with Jerusalem under international administration. The resolution, which assigned 56% of the territory, including the Negev desert, to the future Jewish state, was accepted by the Jewish community and rejected by the Arab one. Alain Gresh observes that, on that occasion, “[…] the Arabs, convinced of the evidence of their good law, did not grasp either the complexity of the decision-making process of international institutions, or the weight of European and American public opinions. On those grounds, their defeat will therefore be total”3.
1948-50 – The Rhodes Peace Talks
After the birth of the State of Israel (14/5/1948), the Rhodes Peace Talks came to a halt on the question of Palestinian refugees and on the status of Jerusalem.
1967 – The Occupied Territories as a card for peace
In Israel, after the Six Day War, the Labor majority considered the conquered territories, barring minor border changes, as a card to be played to achieve peace with the Arab countries.
November 1977 – Sadat speech to the Knesset
The Egyptian Prime Minister Anwar al-Sadat delivered his historic speech to the Israeli parliament, offering peace with Egypt, but also asking for a state for the Palestinians. His speech, which moves the world, leads to the request of 348 officers of the Israeli army reserve to continue the path of peace. It also favors the birth of the Israeli peace movement Shalom Achshav (“Peace Now”).
September 1978 – Camp David Accords
At Camp David, negotiations took place between Sadat and Menachem Begin, under the aegis of the American president Jimmy Carter, which concluded with the agreement to establish a Palestinian “self-government authority” in the West Bank and Gaza. to speed up the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
November 1988 – The Palestinian National Council declaration
In Algiers, the Palestinian National Council, for the first time, pronounced itself against the use of terrorism against the territorial integrity of other states, thus meeting Western pressure.
September 1993 – The Oslo I Agreement
The Oslo I Agreement was signed in Washington (President Bill Clinton). The agreement provides for the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank and Gaza and the start of negotiations for the final status of Palestinian territories.
December 1998 – The PLO Basic Law amendment
The PLO amended its Fundamental Law, cancelling the part related to the destruction of the State of Israel.
July 2000 – Camp David Accords
At the Camp David summit (President George Bush), the Israelis (Labor government of Ehud Barak) offered 92% of the West Bank, the Palestinian capital near Jerusalem and the return of refugees, but only to the West Bank. Arafat refused.
May 2017 – Hamas’ declaration
Hamas declared its willingness, on a temporary basis, towards the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.
January 2019 – Trump’s peace plan
Donald Trump proposed his blatantly pro-Israeli peace plan. The plan was made official at the White House in the presence of Netanyahu and the ambassadors of Oman, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, and in the absence of Palestinian representatives. It provides the assignment of most of Jerusalem and the fertile Jordan Valley (30% of the West Bank) to Israel, while part of the West Bank and some areas of the Negev to the demilitarized Palestinian State. The plan, which avoids addressing the reality of Gaza, provides the acceptance of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It promises a large American economic investment, without specifying the recipients. The plan is rejected en bloc by the Palestinian Authority, who was never even consulted.
We have seen how, up until July 2000, most of the attempts to reach a reasonable peace agreement were rejected by the Palestinian side. Since then, in the face of some major Palestinian openings, Israel has barricaded itself behind a physical and political dividing wall of absolute unwillingness to any peaceful solution of the conflict.
Today peace appears more and more a chimera. A thread of hope is in the hands of the Israeli left-wing, which has been a minority for decades, of the press that refers to it (the daily Haaretz and few others), the network of progressive Jewish in Israel (Omdim Veyachad – “Standing Together”) and elsewhere (Meretz World Wide, JCall and others), and of the albeit timid international pressure.
Forgive me for another self-quote: “I believe that the ultimate goal of every living being, or at least of Homo sapiens, should be the limitation of the suffering that life abounds in. The rest, a pleasant gift. If man were truly intelligent, or rather, if his intelligence was in harmony with his deep psyche, he would scrupulously pursue this goal by organizing his coexistence around this goal. He would therefore avoid the greatest bearer of suffering which is war ”1.
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- Nathan Levi – La metamorfosi dei papaveri – Romanzo edito da Tresogni – 2021- Pag. 7-8
- Roy Cohen – In our teens, we dreamed of making peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Then my friend was shot. The Guardian, 13/1/2022.
- Alain Gresh – Palestina 1947: una spartizione mai nata – Rubbettino, 1990