Shlomo Avineri is an expert on Marx and Engels. He was a fervent advocate of negotiating with the PLO and ended up heading Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Israeli conservatives were not at all happy with that.
When the Rabin government appointed Avineri to the post of Director-General of the Foreign Ministry in 1975, this was harshly criticized by the Likud opposition because of Avineri’s support for negotiations with the PLO (a Likud MK even compared him to “Lord Haw-Haw”, the British traitor who had broadcast from Berlin during World War II and was later executed).
Avineri’s awakening process was really slow. But now approaching 80, he’s sort of figure a few things out. Like that negotiating with the PLO was never going to work.
“We were incredibly stupid…. We thought they wanted a state, and a two-state solution, but it turns out that they want to destroy Israel, because they cannot/will not accept any form of Jewish national self-determination.”
The initiators of Oslo and the process’ supporters saw the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a conflict between two national movements, and believed – as I believed – that in direct negotiations between Israel and the PLO, a solution could be found to the territorial and strategic issues that are the source of the dispute between the two movements. It was not simple to persuade Israelis – and even the Labor party – that there was a national movement on the other side, and that although it had terrorist aspects, at heart it is entitled to fulfill its independent national self-definition, just like Zionism. The viewpoints of Golda Meir on the subject (“there is no Palestinian nation”) have not been forgotten, and the fact that the initiators of Oslo managed to overcome this tradition of denial, to which even the Labor party was a partner, was an accomplishment.
But the basis of this concept had a mistake. All of those who supported the Oslo process believed that we were talking about a dispute between two national movements, and that the other side felt the same way.
We were mistaken.
The Palestinian side does not believe that we are talking about a dispute between two national movements: It believes that we are talking about a dispute between one national movement – the Palestinian – and a colonial imperialistic entity that will eventually die off. Therefore, the parallel that appears in the Palestinian textbooks is Algeria. It isn’t the Israeli presence on the West Bank that is Algeria, but rather the entire Israel is Algeria, and the Israelis will disappear one way or the other, just like the French settlers were expelled from Algeria.
This is the reason why the Palestinian title for the two-state solution is different than the Israeli version. The Israeli stance talks about “two states for two peoples” but in the Palestinian version the phrase “for two peoples” does not appear. It only talks about “two states.” If someone thinks that this is just poor phrasing, he should ask his Palestinian counterpart to express an opinion about the “two states for two peoples” version and he will sooner or later get the answer that there is no Jewish people. This is also the reason why the Palestinians refused the version suggested by [John] Kerry “an agreement between two nation states.”
The truth is – and every Oslo supporter must recognize it – that in the Palestinian narrative, the Jews are not a people or a nation, but only a religious group, and therefore they are not entitled to a state. This is also the reason for the across-the-board and uncompromising opposition of the Palestinian side to recognizing the State of Israel as the State of the Jewish People. Even those who believe that Benjamin Netanyahu raised the topic only to complicate the negotiations, must contend with the fact that the Palestinian refusal to contend with the topic derives from the simple reason that the Palestinians believe that there is no Jewish people.
The source of the dispute is not borders, settlements or even Jerusalem. And of course, this is connected to the Palestinian refusal to waive the principle of the right of return. There are good reasons to criticize the Netanyahu government’s behavior during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to revive the negotiations, but to ignore these deep-seeded views constitutes a lack of intellectual honesty.
This is what I’ve been writing for a bit. So have most sensible conservatives. The trouble is that he’s done his damage already. It’s nice that some of his generation of leftists have woken up, but the damage is being done by a whole new generation that absorbed and acted on their ideas.