Sunday, August 23, 2009

Begin Compromise Recalled

Professor Shlomo Avineri wrote:

Prof. Shimon Shamir is right ("Ask Mustafa Khalil," August 17) in stating that, "It is not our concern if Egypt defines itself as Islamic, Arab, African or pharaonic. We recognize Egypt as a political entity..." Based on this premise, Shamir makes the case that we are not to demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Yet the analogy is not valid for a number of reasons.

First, Israel has never called into question the existence of the Egyptian political entity. On the other hand, the Palestinians, through their rejection of the UN Partition Plan, refused to recognize the Jewish state and embarked on a war to destroy it. This is, after all, the root of the conflict. Indeed, the Palestinian narrative is based on the rejection of the existence of a Jewish nation state in any part of the territory they call Palestine.

If you declared war against the Jewish state, does not the signing of a peace treaty with that state obligate you to accept it? This does not mean the Palestinians are asked to accept the Zionist narrative, but it is incumbent upon them to alter their narrative, which rules out the existence of a Jewish state.

This is exactly what Israel did at Camp David and Oslo. Under the terms of binding international agreements, Israel has committed itself to recognizing "the legitimate rights of the Palestinian Arab nation." Menachem Begin was the first to do this. For many Zionists, and not just those who were schooled in the ideological camp of Herut, this was difficult. In contrast to what is thought in extreme rightist circles, this is not tantamount to relinquishing the Zionist narrative, it is a willingness to accept the legitimacy of a competing narrative and to seek a compromise.

We only ask of the Palestinians that which we ourselves have done in the past.
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