Thursday, August 03, 2006

posted by Ofer

The Third Compromise

On May 26, 1967, tensions between Israel and the Arab world were at their peak. Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt, announced that "If Israel embarks on an aggression against Syria or Egypt, the battle will be a general one... and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel." Four days later he proclaimed: "The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel ... , while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world." Nasser and other Arab leaders truly believed they could eliminate Israel. A week later, the 1967 "Six Day War" began.

The First Compromise

The 1967 war was an utter and total military victory for Israel. The 1973 "Yom Kippur War" was a much less spectacular victory, but a victory nevertheless. The Arab nations began to realize that Israel could not be eliminated with military force. 4 years later, Egyptian president Sadat recognized the state of Israel by speaking in front of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. The next year, a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed. In 1994, Jordan reaffirmed this realization by signing its own peace treaty with Israel. Since 1967, Israel has been recognized, in one way or another, by many Arab leaders.

Recognition of Israel was the first compromise made by the Arabs towards a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Second Compromise

The military victory in 1967 put Israel in a state of Euphoria. Israel felt it was invincible. The 1973 war, the Lebanon War in 1982, the painful occupation of South Lebanon, and the Palestinian Intifada in 1987 all contributed to an Israeli change-of-heart. Israel realized that its military superiority was not enough to sustain quiet in the region, and that a significant compromise must be made on its part. Israeli moderates began to support a return to pre-1967 boarders, division of Jerusalem, and a recognition in a Palestinian state. The Madrid conference in 1991 and the Oslo conference in 1993 marked the beginning of a new era of compromise in Israel.

The second compromise is the Israeli compromise: the realization that the Palestinian problem will not go away by itself simply because we are stronger, and the willingness to pay a price for peace.

The Third Compromise

There is no third compromise yet, and I think its the Arabs' turn again. A significant change must occur in Arab public-opinion if there is to be permanent peace in the region.

First, the Arabs must unequivocally denounce terror as a means of achieving their goals. As long as busses keep exploding in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, and as long as the masses in Gaza keep cheering-on these explosions, we will never have peace. The bland and familiar "I condemn every form of violence", which we hear today from Arab leaders, is not enough.

Second, the Palestinians must revisit their naive and romantic perception of the so-called "Right of Return". Palestinian refugees who carry keys to their pre-1948 houses in their pockets need to wake up and face reality. The keyholes that used to fit these keys are long gone. All but a handful of Palestinian refugees must accept the reality that their "right of return" to homes inside Israel can never be granted. The demographic effects such a return would have on my country would endanger its very existence, and we will never agree to that. The refugees will be compensated with dignity and with respect, either with alternative homes in the West Bank and Gaza, or with cash. Lebanon, and other Arab countries who currently house Palestinian refugees, also need a reality check. 400,000 Palestinians currently living in Lebanon will not magically disappear one day. Many of those who were born in Lebanon and who have made a life for themselves in Lebanon will likely stay in Lebanon. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are currently denied any chance of naturalization. I'm not saying that Lebanon should accept half a million foreigners, but it should certainly adopt a naturalization policy more like those of other modern countries, such as France or Germany.

Beyond this, I have only questions:

Will the third compromise ever come ? Will it be enough or is a forth step necessary ? What can Israel do to encourage the Arabs to adopt these key points ? More specifically, is Israel's current aggression postponing this progress, or is it speeding things up ? What does the future have in store for the Middle East ?


Blogger Maddy said...


when you write posts like this one you help to educate those who come to your site. I have never taken any notice of what is happening in the middle east, it's a long way from my home, so what does it matter to me?

Now that I have children I see the world is much smaller, and what happens to you effects me and my family.

Thanks again.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You write it yourself. It's Israeli MODERATES who have made a compromise.
But official Israel has not necessarily made the necessary compromise. Where is the Israeli Prime Minister who will give up the Golan for peace?
We know now of the cold feet Ehud Barak got. Peres? Sharon? Netanyahu? Olmert? were they willing to give up occupied land ?
And what about the Palestinian issue? is Olmert willing to give up Ariel, Ofra, Kiryat Arba and our Kahanist enclave in Hebron? He explicitly states the opposite.

So let us please distinguish between the consistent Israeli peace sector, which is a minority, and the people who really make the decisions in Israel.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops, forgot to mention my name in the previous post.:
Ofer N

And one relevant addition regarding both the 1967 war and the ongoing Golan issue. Here's an excerpt from Moshe Dayan's famous embargoed interview, which contradcits at least part of the myth many Israelis have built around the 1967 war:

Israel and Syria: Correcting the Record
By Stephen S. Rosenfeld
Washington Post
Friday, December 24, 1999; Page A15
> >
> > The Syrian foreign minister came off as the skunk at the picnic for
> > the reopening of talks with Israel to speak harshly of his would-be
> > partner. But at least some of what he said--calling Israel's fabled Gen.
> > Moshe Dayan as a witness in Syria's favor, for instance--was fair and to
> > point and needs to be absorbed on all sides to help propel the
> > forward.
> >
> > Minister Farouk Charaa addressed a core cause of more than 1,000 armed
> > clashes between Israel and Syria in 1948-67: the Israeli contention that
> > Syrians, sitting on the Golan Heights, repeatedly shelled Israel's farms
> > settlements below in the Galilee and its water projects in the Huleh
> > This shelling--in the common Israeli and American view--is what gave
> > its rationale for capturing the Golan Heights in the 1967 war. The
> > disposition of this land is what the current peace talks are about.
> >
> > Except, to cite Moshe Dayan, it didn't happen just that way. In 1976
> > gave an extraordinary interview to Israeli journalist Rami Tal but
> > it. He died in 1981. Only on April 27, 1997, did his daughter Yael, a
> > parliamentarian, release it. It was not new news in Israel, but it made
> > stir. It made practically no stir in this country; I missed it at the
> >
> > Said Dayan: "I made a mistake in allowing the [Israeli] conquest of the
> > Golan Heights. As defense minister I should have stopped it because the
> > Syrians were not threatening us at the time." The attack proceeded, he
> > on, not because Israel was threatened but because of pressure from
> > land-hungry farmers and army commanders in northern Israel. "Of course
> > with Syria] was not necessary. You can say the Syrians are bastards and
> > attack when you want. But this is not policy. You don't open aggression
> > against an enemy because he's a bastard but because he's a threat."
> >
> > About those shellings: Syria shelled and otherwise emanated cold
> > But, Dayan told his interviewer, "at least 80 percent" of two decades of
> > border clashes were initiated by Israel. "We would send a tractor to
> > some [disputed] area . . . and we knew in advance that the Syrians would
> > start to shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to
> > further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And
> > we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that's how it
> >
> > So, on the authority of what you could call an impeccable Israeli
> > the situation is very different from what is commonly portrayed.

4:05 PM  
Blogger howie said...


I agree with a key point..."it is the Arab's turn". I hope it can start with Lebanon and would take enormous courage and even humility to talk to us rationally.

The Palestinians, unfortunately, are not close to being ready...too many still have some wild fantasy of Israel surrendering or something. Essentially...that is what they have been waiting for. Too much focus of the romantism of revenge, war, martyrdom, religion etc.

It will come down to hard negotiation and it has to start with a cessation of terror. Continued terror is a option there and it makes most of us want to dig in even more stubbornly.

I have found myself... a leftist not long ago, now donating money to Gush Etzion. I would have voted for Sharon and I used to hate him. But two Intifadas and all those threats and acts of terror...well..let them do something positive.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Ofer said...

To Ofer N.

The "consistent Israeli peace sector", as you call them, are in fact a minority in Israel. But when I say "moderates", I include also those who consider themselves in the middle of the political map. These moderates are an overwhelming majority in Israel. Do you remember how many Israelis supported Barak's proposal to Arafat, which included the return to 67 boarders (almost), the division of Jerusalem, etc. My point is that the moderates will sway to the left if lead by a charismatic leader.

Who is the Israeli leader who is capable of returning occupied land ? It could have been Sharon, it may even be Olmert. The driving force behind a peace process does not necessarily have to be Israel. When Sadat came to Israel, he was calling the shots. He made the initiative. Prime Minister Begin was only following Sadat's lead. Olmert too may be capable of following the lead of a brave Arab leader. But for this to happen, the two obstacles I mentioned must be lifted: stopping terror and watering down the right-of-return demand.

12:04 AM  
Blogger ran said...

For me the thinking (not sure there was a lot of 'thinking', so lets say the 'logical reason') behind the unilaterlal withdrawals (done in Gaza and planned in the west bank) is not to wait for the palestinian compromises. How do you think this will affect the future of the conflict ? How will this affect the chances of the palestinians to make the 3rd compromise ? Remember that in Gaza it seems to have created a negative effect (rise of hamas, shelling of kasams). The same thing goes for the withdrawal from lebanon 2000.

5:34 AM  
Blogger howie said...

I just had an insight I had to share. I am certain some folks here will be calling me names...but I hope they will think about my words first.

I have a close friend who is from Darfur. He stayed at my house for a week and spoke around the area. One of the questions I asked him was "why don't American blacks get excited about all these black people being slaughter in Darfur". I told him if it were whites doing it, blacks here would raise hell. He could not give me answer. I asked a S. African black guy the same question, no answer. Then it suddenly hit me and I think I have heard another guy say this, "it is because blacks hate whites FAR more than they care for their fellow blacks." Then the insight.

I lived in Israel in the 1980's when Papa Assad pounded Hama to the tune of, I think, 20,000, mostly innocent civilians. I don't recall any cry from the Arab world about their brothers and there have been some similar situations as you know. terms of Israel's racism or hatred towards Arabs...if ANY nation, black, yellow, white or tan, did to Israel what some and I emphasize SOME Arabs have done, they would get the same treatment. If Mexico, or Tahiti or Ghana or Sweden started blowing up in pizza palors and shooting rockets at us...we would react very strongly...however...and many will probably disagree, if it were say...Eygptians roughing up the Palestinians (as they have been doing HORRIBLY to Darfur refugees)...ain't nobody going to squeak much.

OK...start cussing me out guys.

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Bystander said...

I realize this is only remotely pertinent to your post... in terms of compromise, negotiating peace... that sort of thing. But here is a quote from an article I just read about a recently proposed UN resolution,

"We (will) abide by it on condition that no Israeli soldier remains inside Lebanese land. If they stay, we will not abide by it," said Mohammed Fneish, one of two Hezbollah members of the government.

If Hezbollah doesn't want Israeli soldiers inside Lebanese land they shouldn't go out of their way to abduct them.

7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


As you mention Germany, let me correct your perception of Germany having a modern naturalization policy. Not quite so. The possibility to become German even for second generation de facto immigrants is recent (and still hampered by the one-passport only policy), and your chances of being perceived as one of them by your fellow-citizens if you are dark skinned are pretty much lower than, for example, in France or the US. So maybe Germany is not an ideal example for the point you wanted to make here.

I noted your statement that there should be compensation. The collective compensation offers made by Israel have been rejected by Palestinian leadership. If case-by-case individual compensation would seem to you a worthwhile alternative (are they actually, or are “dignity and respect”, as you put it, a chip in a deal?), there will be technical issues that have to be addressed, such as proof of proerty, as many of those driven out have no property proof except maybe the keys you mention. There are precedents for compensation, like the endlessly slow attempts made in and by Germany to recognize and compensate loss of Jewish property. Since the Claims Conference was extremely disputed in Israel, there should be no surprise that the PA was not fond of the idea – however, some of their people may see fit to use it. Another example is what followed the fall of communism among Germans (where return of property was given preference over compensation, and some think it was indeed not a very good idea). I’m not drawing parallels here on the backgrounds, which are obviously incomparable, but the experiences made with technical aspects of individual compensation there may serve to some extent (in either way, as ways of compensation, or as ways of how better not to handle things).

One remark on the demographic argument: Although I do pretty much conceive that return of Palestinians to Israel will not be accepted by Israel, the argument in itself makes me uneasy with regard to the Israeli Arabs. What if the so-called demographic problem came from them (it doesn’t, does it?)? Since they have citizen status, a non-ethnic citizenship concept seems already to be guiding much of the practical organization of Israel, fortunately, but I feel a friction with the demographic argument, if one thinks it further. Please correct me if I made a mistake here.


7:19 AM  
Blogger Ofer said...

Thanks for your very insightful comment.

I agree that individual compensation will be difficult to implement. But its not really about the money, its more about the dignity and respect that this action conveys. More than anything, these refugees feel insulted. In the Middle East, pride is a big thing. Israel must create the dynamic where Palestinian refugees feel that they have their pride back. The money and the technical problems of distributing it are important, but secondary. The important thing is to allow the refugees to stand tall once again.

The demographic issue in Israel is very very complex. The Jewish people realized long ago that they need a Jewish state. There is antisemitism in every single country in the world except for Israel. Even our best friend the USA has a massive antisemitic following. Who is to say what will happen if an antisemitic American President is elected. Israel must be a safe haven for the Jews, and therefore must maintain a strong Jewish majority. For instance, this means that every Jew should get automatic citizenship (what kind of safe haven would it be otherwise).

On the other hand, we are a liberal democracy, and according to democratic western thinking, the very basis of our country is racist. The Israeli Arabs pay taxes, they live here, and I think that they are entitled to every right that I am entitled to. This contradiction is very diffcult to accept. I think of the two arguments individually and I am convinced by both. Nevertheless, the two points-of-view remain incompatible. The problem is worsened by the fact that the growth-rate of the Arab population in Israel exceeds that of the Jewish population.

I agree that Zionism is a racist concept, but it is not racist in the usual hostile "ethnic cleansing" sense. It is racist in the "I only ask to live in a place where noone hates me for being Jewish" sense. It is also an ideology which is a product of necessity, and not of hatred or prejudice. I think that this makes it a more legitimate form of racism, but others will disagree.

Finding the balance between our ethnic definition and true open democracy remains an unanswered problem for us.

10:36 AM  
Blogger ran said...

I don't like talking about demography in israel (it has a racist tune), but the arabs constitute about 20% of the israeli population inside the green line. There is no immediate 'threat' demographically for the near future, although the 'fertility rates' of arabs in Israel are greater than those of jews (there are israeli sectors, like the ultra orthodox, who have superior fertility rates). So as long as Israel is in the direction of giving up the occupied lands, the conflict between democracy and zionism is not that terrible.

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


There is a Palestinian Anwar Saddat. His name is Abu Mazen (in fact there are plenty of other Saddats there). Official Israel has done almost everything it can to weaken and marginalize him. Most of that dormant Israeli centre was quite comfy with Sharon, Olmert, and Peres doing that. Abu Mazen supports the Geneva accords. When a demo was held on the same day in both Jerusalem and Ramallah (24/9/05 I believe) there were more people in Ramallah than in Jerusalem.

Ofer N

1:19 PM  
Blogger Ofer said...

Abu Mazen has not made the required compromise: to truely denounce terror and to make the right-of-return demand more realistic.

The bar has gone up - recognizing Israel was revolutionary in the 60's but today it is mundane. In 2006 an Arab leader is measured by a higher standard. Abu Mazen is far from begin Sadat.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Yonatan said...


It seems from your analysis that the answer is clear. As you say, it took utter defeat in '67, to make Egypt accept the need to make peace with Israel, and the terrible price of the '73 war for Israel to agree to give up Sinai for this.

You could add to this the withdrawl from Lebanon, and arguably also from Gaza, which became popular within Israel only after the blood-price for holding on to them became apparent.

By the same token, I doubt Palestinians or Hizbolla militans will accept the need for a compromise until it is crystal clear that the alternative is not viable.

And as to Ofer N writing that Abu Mazen is the Palestinian Saadat - this is very far from the truth. Saadat had absolute power in Egypt, and could not only enforce the peace agreement, but also shape public opinion to accept it. Abu Mazen, on the other hand, is considered an american agent by many Palestinians. His ability to influence public opinion is very limited, and only to a small part because of Israeli action.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Ofer said...

The streets of Palestinian cities across Gaza and the West Bank are currently filled with cheerful celebration. Store owners are passing out sweets to the passers-by. They are celebrating the deaths of 10 Israeli citizens today. Not one Israeli cheered after Qana. Some where appologetic, some where indifferent, but noone cheered. This is the difference between Israel and it neighbors.

And to Yonatan: I saw a cartoon the other day of an Israeli soldier in a tank on the outskirts of a Lebanese town saying "... so the plan is to terrorize them into not being terrorists". This was clearly written as a critisizm, but the unavoidable truth is that the use of military force does have a place on the road to peace.

3:10 PM  

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