Gideon Levy
September 22, 2011 - 12:00am

Look at the Palestinians and look at us. Look at their leaders and recall ours. Not, of course, those we have today, but those we once had, the ones who established the state for us. The Palestinians are the new Jews and their leaders are amazingly similar to the former Zionist leaders.

Their David Ben-Gurion is no longer with them - Yasser Arafat died under mysterious circumstances - but look at Mahmoud Abbas: Isn't he Levi Eshkol? Saeb Erekat - isn't he Abba Eban? Salam Fayyad - isn't he Pinhas Sapir or Eliezer Kaplan? The same moderation, the same nondescript personality, the same pragmatism, the same political wisdom and even, to some degree, the same sense of humor. To take what is attainable, to give up the big dreams - in the partition plan as in the two-state solution.

Then it was the pragmatic Zionist leaders who conceded and compromised, now it is the pragmatic leaders of the Palestinian Authority. At the time they insisted on getting it all, now it's our turn. Both were ambushed by an internal opposition that was extremist, ultranationalist and uncompromising.

The Palestinian group that is now going to the United Nations should remind Israelis of the Zionist group that turned to the same organization 64 years earlier. Yes, there are differences. And yet the similarity is captivating: Now they are the weak versus the strong, David versus Goliath, their Qassam can't help but remind us of our Davidka.

They are now the ones whose cause is just in the eyes of the world. The same world that understood in November 1947 that the Jews (and the Palestinians ) deserve a state, understands in September 2011 that the Palestinians finally deserve a state. Then it was after the trauma of the Holocaust, now it is after the trauma of the occupation, without making comparisons.

In the coming days people will once against be glued to their radios counting votes: Russia - yes; the United States - no; Argentina - abstains. Doesn't it remind us of forgotten times? The United Nations has grown since then, but the proportion will be similar: an absolute majority in favor. The difference: The great powers supported partition at the time, the great power is now opposed to a state. But the moral validity remains the same, there is no longer anyone in the world who can seriously claim that they don't deserve what we deserved, without being a racist, a chauvinist or a cynical opportunist.

It is amazing how Israelis are unwilling to see the similarities, it is amazing how they are falling plundered and blind in the face of the brainwashing campaign and the scare tactics through which recognition of Palestinian rights is being presented as a threat and an existential danger, and nothing more.

Why is it that there aren't enough Israelis who see the opportunity and hope for Israel represented by this diplomatic step? Yes, for Israel too. And why is it that there aren't enough Israelis who properly see the clear fact that the heart of almost the entire world is with the Palestinians, and that it isn't ringing a belated and deafening wake-up call for them?

Israel at its birth was considered a model society, far more than Palestine at its birth. It bequeathed the world socialist and feminist values, the kibbutz and the moshav, absorption of immigrants and equality of women - a lighthouse of equality and social justice. The Palestinians are now in an inferior position: Their society is more corrupt and less egalitarian than ours, nor did they establish a state-in-the-making for themselves, with impressive institutions such as the ones we had.

But here the situation has become reversed beyond recognition. Israel of 2011 is no longer considered a model society in any area. With quite a number of corrupt Israeli politicians in prison or on the way there, with capitalism that is quite swinish and an occupation that is quite brutal, the story of the great national and social success of the 20th century is now considered a story of missed opportunity of the 21st century. The path to repairing this fateful missed opportunity must now be by way of a new partition plan.

The Palestinians bled for 63 years and paid the price for the fateful mistake of their leaders' opposition to the 1947 partition plan; the Israelis must not now have regrets for another 63 years and pay a high price for their stubborn and surprising opposition to the 2011 partition plan. Look at them and look at us. They are what we once were.


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