A cab driver advises: "Lady, you take it from me: what we gotta do
is grab those Arabs, and get a big stick, and hit them over the
head but good - hit 'em and hit 'em until they quit hating
The sentence quoted here - only one of many of this ilk - is much
less amusing than it first sounds. You don't have to be a
psychologist to hear the despair behind it: they don't love us. We
want them to love us, we want them to see how nice we are - but
they refuse to cooperate. So they'll learn we won't stand for their
not loving us.
If only we were talking just about cab drivers. But in Israel,
whole groups get stuck on this point - groups of people who are
supposed to be more sophisticated than cabbies. Not long ago, an
Arab poet wrote a poem that, to say the least, did not express any
great love for Israel. He said what was in his heart: that he would
be very happy to see us get the hell out of here.
Some of us read it and didn't get excited; others responded with
anger - both completely legitimate.
Yet others, from what are called "leftist circles," ironically,
responded as if their whole world had caved in: How dare he - our
friend - not love us? Where does he get the gall not to see how
nice we are? If this is the case, then all is lost - woe to us
It seems that the right to hate - so well understood in these parts
- is a right not granted to Arabs. We may hate them. In
parliamentary elections we may grant legitimacy to individuals and
movements that talk of deporting the Arabs, if not worse; but they
may not hate us. Even if their houses and property are laid bare to
any who would break down their doors. Even if any sadist and sicko
can kick their shackled sons.
At a meeting of Jewish and Arab senior educators - one of those
meetings that are like a ray of hope just now - an Arab educator
proclaims his position openly. He says he is a citizen of the State
of Israel, recognizes all of its laws and statutes, both the
serious and the trifling, and is committed to upholding them to the
letter. He admits, however, in light of all that has been happening
lately (the word "light" is most ironic in this dark context), he
does not feel any great love for us.
Several Jewish educators jumped up out of their chairs: Is this
possible? Can this be? If so, there's nothing to talk about! This
meeting is a waste of time! All Arabs - men, women, and children -
must love us, and right away! If not, they are not our
And here I thought, ingenuously, that the commitment made in public
to uphold the laws of the state was the most important and
monumental thing we could have heard at that meeting, because it is
the greatest test of citizenship.
What is the difference between these two approaches?
The first approach, the one that demands love, that is so panicked
by any expression of anger or hatred, is native to a minority in a
Diaspora. An exiled minority's existence is entirely dependent on
the love, or absence of hatred, of the majority, particularly of
the ruling powers. If the majority loves you, you can live in
reasonable security. If they hate you, you're in a bad way: they
will harm you, physically and materially; you may even find
yourself threatened by pogroms. If you're lucky, you live among
"good gentiles," gentiles who love Jews and your existence is
secure. If you're not lucky and they hate you, there are edicts and
pogroms and holocaust situations.
That is the essence of the Diaspora.
Sovereign states are not all dependent on love or hate. These
concepts are simply not in their lexicon. Sovereign states sign
agreements in accordance with their best interests, and they uphold
these agreements; if they do not, a new military and political
situation is created. Accords and agreements have been and are
being signed between countries whose populations hate each other
fiercely. That is precisely what agreements are for: so that hatred
won't become war. Between two nations that love each other (and who
knows of many like that?), the signing of agreements and accords
carries little weight. Accords normalize relations - such is the
usual way of things -when there is conflict and when mutual
feelings are not particularly exalted. As a solution, an accord
does not deal with emotions at all. It determines the
existentialist situations: how both sides will live from now on;
according to what rules life, heretofore lawless and violent, will
Never has a nation been more hated than was Germany of the Second
World War - and justifiably so. Yet before long Germany became a
member of the European Economic Community; its sons now engage in
joint military exercises in various European frameworks with the
French and the Belgians.
These accords were not concluded out of love. We can probably say
they were concluded without love. They were concluded with
maturity: in order to determine safe zones and secure borders and a
way of life from now on. Today, war is inconceivable between
Germany and, say, France. After undergoing training exercises with
them, a young French soldier was asked by an interviewer how he
felt about German soldiers. His answer was, "I don't love them and
I don't hate them - but they sure are nicer than the guys in my
unit from Marseille."
There are no guarantees for love. There is no guarantor for
emotion. However, when dealing with accords and not emotions, we
may - perhaps must - ask what the guarantees are. Indeed many ask,
If we do come to any sort of agreement with the Arabs, how do we
know they'll be satisfied with what is determined by the signed
accord? How do we know they won't pull one over on us in stages,
like slicing a salami?
How, in fact, do we know?
Well, I don't know of any salami in possession of nuclear arms, not
to mention the best and strongest army in the entire region. We are
neither a minority, nor a salami, nor a potential victim of a
pogrom. Israel's real deterrent power is the best guarantee
possible. Even if they "want" to, they can't. Period.
Another important consideration is the record, the history of
whether accords between us and neighboring countries have been
kept. To this day, all of our neighbors have kept their agreements
with us, both written and oral. Egypt, chief among these sovereign
states, has kept the peace agreement in letter and spirit, even
when the pressure of other Arab countries caused it great damage
and financial loss, even when Israel, by invading Lebanon, turned
its back on the stated agreements: "No more war, no more
bloodshed." If Egypt had sought an excuse to break its agreement
with us, it had no better one than June 1982; Arab television
nightly showed our air force pummeling civilian neighborhoods in
Beirut in saturation bombings. Israel, not Egypt, is the one that
did not keep the agreement for even two months. But Egypt, with its
diplomatic maturity, with its serious "stateness," behaved as
expected of a respected partner, and kept the agreement. It kept
the agreement because the desirable policy for Egypt is indeed one
of "No more war." It is diverting the vast resources needed for
modern warfare to other constructive channels.
For years Syria has been careful - punctilious, even - in keeping
an informal agreement with us to prevent terrorists from crossing
its borders into Israel. For years, Jordan has been wary of the
same. That's why we can travel safely on the roads along Israel's
border with Jordan and Syria. Israel, not Syria, violated this
informal but most binding agreement when, under Ariel Sharon's
command and without government approval, the IDF provoked the
Syrians during the Lebanon war.
Even the Palestine Liberation Organization carefully kept the
Begin-Arafat agreement that was concluded through an intermediary
in 1981. For a whole year all was absolutely quiet on the Lebanese
front, until the government of Israel, latching on to a deed
perpetrated by Abu Nidal for the express purpose of breaking this
agreement, invaded Lebanon. Ambassador Shlomo Argov, the attack on
whom was the excuse for the invasion, made no secret of his
opinion: Israel should never have done it.
If we leave aside Israeli self-pity and examine the facts, we'll
see that it is Israel, not its neighbors that, to date, has broken
all of the agreements made through various intermediaries since the
Yom Kippur War in 1973; that it is the Arab states, not Israel,
that greatly need guarantees that Israel will keep its agreements.
Not out of love or hate, but for reasons of "stateness"; to abide
by matters that have been agreed upon. Perhaps the most tragic joke
of our generation is the saying "the Likud brought peace." It is
the Likud party that missed the opportunity for peace -
scandalously so. It was the Likud that thwarted this opportunity
with the wretched Lebanon war, with its unwillingness to uphold the
agreement, with its lust for annexation and its opposition to the
agreements made between Shimon Peres and King Hussein, known as
"the London Paper." As if someone had given birth to a beautiful
child, then denied it food until it nearly starved to death. All
that is left are photographs. Beautiful photographs, really; but
where is the baby?
The so-called Arab-Israeli conflict - that is, the problem of the
territories and their population - is one of the last remaining
conflicts, and one of the most superfluous. It can be resolved. Not
by love: by accord.
An accord means new borders. Anyone who declares he is not willing
to alter his borders through negotiation thereby declares he will
not be party to an accord. He will be party to the next war. Anyone
who wants to maintain the current situation, the so-called status
quo, lays the groundwork for the next war. In fact, the term
"status quo" is only part of the phrase "status quo ante bellum":
the situation as it was before the war. There are no static
situations in the world, least of all in the roiling Middle East.
Anyone who thinks it is possible to arrive at peace through
continued force - without accords, without rules, avoiding the
determination of new and secure borders - misleads people. Anyone
who thinks the policy of "nary an inch" will bring about an accord
is a deceiver. No one will talk to him seriously.
If Israel wants at long last to join the ranks of those making
accords around the world, it must begin to think like a mature
adult. It can afford to: it has more than enough defensive power
and all sorts of weapons not currently possessed by any of its
enemies. This is the ideal time for Israel to announce its
readiness for an accord that will alter its borders and liberate it
from the constant burden of one and a half million people - a great
deal of excess weight for Israel.
Love cannot be ensured. Maximal security can. No one can promise
that the day the accords are signed will be a wedding day.
Statesmen do not come out of love; they come because it is the
right thing to do. There will be no heartfelt embracing. There will
be excitement. There will be the sense that a historic act has
taken place. Not the Messianic Age. Just mothers who will get up in
the morning and know that their sons have a chance, a very good
chance, of leading their lives as they should be led in a sane
country - of not being killed. Little by little. No one will get
carried away with joy. This country, which has never known complete
peace, will not immediately sense it fully. The change will be so
great that it will be difficult to assimilate all at once.
And we'll walk down the street and see all this, and suddenly, out
of the blue, we'll sense that we are very happy indeed.
Extracted from an article that first appeared in Hebrew in 1988 in
Yediot Aharonot, and in English in The Vocabulary of Peace: Life,
Culture and Politics in the Middle East. Mercury House, San