Haaretz (Opinion)
May 19, 2011 - 12:00am

Look what a few hundred demonstrators can do in a day: 1948 is on the agenda. The breach of the fence in the Golan Heights was enough to breach a far older and more complex fence, bringing 1948 to center stage in the political discussion.

We're still screwing things up and babbling ourselves to death about 1967 - will or won't Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu utter the words "1967 borders," as if it makes a difference what he says. We're still babbling that the evil from the north, which may actually be good, is approaching, and the discussion has suddenly changed direction. Netanyahu, who is well aware of the situation, is playing dumb: He bears responsibility for the state of affairs, along with all his predecessors.

That's how it is when you drag things out, make a mockery of things and deceive, when you think that inactivity is the solution, when you keep putting off the decision to end the occupation. After 44 years of military rule whose end is not in sight, after a handful of Oslo crumbs that didn't improve the Palestinians' situation, peace plans that are collecting dust in the drawers and innumerable empty speeches, without undertaking a single courageous act except for the evacuation of the Gaza Strip, the genie is out of the bottle.

Anyone who didn't want 1967 is now getting 1947. Anyone who didn't want to evacuate the settlement of Ariel will now be forced to discuss Carmiel. Anyone who didn't want a historic compromise is now getting the 1948 portfolio on his doorstep. The right is rejoicing, it's not clear about what, the left has long been dead and the caravan is galloping forward, leaving Israel in a situation that is deteriorating by the day.

1948 received a donkey's burial in Israel; there has never been a genuine public discussion of it here, but its spirit never died for a moment in Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora. Its survivors, the refugees and their grandchildren carry its memory and their pain to this day, just as the Jews carry their own memories and pain. That should have been acknowledged long ago. In that sense we can actually appreciate the behavior of the demonstrators from Syria: They reminded Israelis of forgotten events.

We can arrest and interrogate him as much as we like, but the sight of the young Palestinian from Syria who came to Jaffa to visit his ancestral home was an extremely impressive sight in the history of the conflict. Maybe now we will begin to understand its roots and solutions. Maybe we will begin to understand that for the Palestinian people the 1967 borders are the mother of all compromises and concessions, a compromise that is far more painful for them than for us. Not only because it means giving up three quarters of their country, but mainly because it means giving up desires and yearnings.

For years many Palestinians and their leaders were ready for concessions. When they started to despair, after all those scandalous years of stagnation, their demand resurfaced in full force. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the greatest of the compromisers, would never have published his recent article in The New York Times, in which he discussed the Palestinian historical narrative, had we been implementing an agreement. Now the Americans know what happens when they do nothing. Now a hollow announcement by the Prime Minister's Office that Israel is committed to the two-state solution is no longer enough. In what way exactly is it "committed"? And what has it done to implement it? Only more and more settlements.

It's hard to exaggerate the importance of the change taking place before our astonished eyes, which were wide shut all those years. The territories are still far from being evacuated, the third intifada is apparently not yet about to begin, and Netanyahu is safely ensconced in his seat, playing for time with empty words and hollow formulas. But from now on every Israeli, including the prime minister, will be forced to understand that every solution must be attentive to the other side's desires.

The time has come to remove the abscess and air out the wound. We're not talking about an impossible turning back of the wheel of history, about the return of millions and the end of the State of Israel, as the right is trying to scare us into believing. We're talking about understanding the other side and granting some of its desires - accepting moral responsibility for 1948, a solution to the refugee problem, and of course, that very minimum, the 1967 borders. Anyone who still doesn't understand that is invited to waste more time and see how this benefits us and them.


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