What can an ordinary man do when he faces an enormous fire? He can try to flee
the flames, abandoning to their fate all those who either cannot run or have nowhere
to run to. He can stand around and moan. He can blame others. And he can also
fill the teaspoon he holds in his hand with water, over and over again, and splash
it on the blaze.
Every one of us has a teaspoon.
During these days, every man of peace must draw water at least enough
to fill the spoon he holds and pour it on the fire: make his voice heard,
object to war crimes by either side, help the victims of these war crimes; demonstrate,
persuade, write, debate, garner support for reasonable compromise, oppose the
continuation of the Israeli occupation and the Islamic/anti-Semitic campaign for
Israel's extermination. The spoon in the ordinary man's hand is truly very small,
and the fire large indeed but even so he must use it.
In Israel, and in Palestine as well, there must be a "teaspoon muster", joined
by every person willing to do his utmost to halt the wheels of the repression,
the killing, the retaliation, and the retaliation for retaliation.
On the Israeli side, it is best to talk not of "unilateral separation", but
specifically of an Israeli initiative to end the occupation, for the defense of
the state of Israel.
Today, the majority of the Israeli public can be mobilized to topple the settlers'
government and elect in its stead a coalition with realistic positions. All this
is to be based on a plan. If the Palestinian leadership agrees to this plan, all
the better; but this plan's great advantage is that it can be implemented even
if the Palestinian leadership remains neck-deep in belligerency, or prisoner in
the hands of the forces of jihad.
1. Israel will end the occupation of the Palestinian population, and will set
up a closed, fortified line in accordance with demographic reality a line
not the same as the Green Line, but adjacent to it that will include no
occupied Palestinian population. The permanent Israel-Palestine borders will be
determined through negotiation, with the Palestinian leadership proving, by its
deeds, that it has renounced the Islamic campaign to annihilate Israel.
2. Israel will agree to the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state
in the populated Palestinian areas, even if this state arises before a peace treaty
is signed between the sides. Militarily and morally, it will be easier for Israel
to face an enemy state than to continue fighting a cluster of armed gangs.
3. Israel will morally acknowledge that it played a role in bringing about
the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy. At the same time, it will demand of every decent
man that he acknowledge the role of the Arab countries and the Palestinians in
The calamity of the Palestinian refugees is one of the origins of the violence,
the hatred, and the terror. Israel must accept no solution that does not include
the human, economic, and political rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugees
not within Israel's borders, but in their homeland, Palestine through
international and Israeli participation in the task of rehabilitation.
4. A comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Arab war must be sought not only
between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, but also, and perhaps primarily,
between Israel and the Arab League (which perhaps has the power to restrain displays
of Palestinian extremism). The Saudi plan, some of whose elements were adopted
by the Arab League, can serve as a point of departure but definitely not
as the finish line for negotiations between Israel and the League on a
comprehensive solution to the Israel-Arab war.
5. A unilateral Israeli move to end the occupation, including the dismantling
of the vast majority of the settlements, would come about only if the burden of
minimizing the danger that Israeli society is being asked to face is shouldered
by those who demand that Israel carry out such a move in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian
The condition for ending the occupation will not be some paper signed by Yasser
Arafat, but a solid agreement concretely linking Israel with NATO and the European
Union, so as to deter the promoters of the Islamic holy war and to lay to rest
once and for all the dream of eliminating Israel and also to ensure that
the end of the occupation will not be a shot in the arm encouraging those who
are inflamed with warmongering Arab nationalism, and will not enable them to attack
Israel after it relinquishes its control over the Palestinians.
Around such a plan as this, it will be possible to consolidate a majority of
the public, a majority in the next elections, and perhaps even a majority in the
current Knesset a majority that consists of the left, the center and the
more pragmatic elements of the moderate right.
© Amos Oz 2002
The author's novel 'The Same Sea' has just been published in paperback by
Viking at £6.99