Uri Avnery, the leading luminary of the radical Israeli peace group, Gush Shalom, shares his weekly column with a number of us by e-mail. I almost always find elements I agree with and others with which I disagree. The following quote that I challenged Avnery on, is from “The Book of Esterina,” his column of March 3.
From Ralph Seliger to Uri Avnery: What do you mean by referring to Yossi Beilin as follows: “Yossi Beilin, who had dreamed of the Foreign Office, a man of many political ideas (some good, some bad, some very bad)…”?
You consistently have this curious way of insulting or damning with faint praise the political movement (left Zionism) closest to you. I don’t recall if it was Freud or someone else who mentioned the “narcisim of small differences” — the tendency of different political groups that are relatively close to each other to attack each other with special relish.
Uri Avnery: Dear Ralph,
Well, for example the disastrous idea of “settlement blocs.”
The “settlement blocs” idea came from Yossi Alpher’s discovery in 1995 that something like 80% of settlers and settlements were very close to the Green Line. Alpher was the first to suggest that a trade of about 2-3% of West Bank territory between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (with a comparable area of Israel going to the Palestinians) would result in this approximately 80% of settlements remaining within Israel. This was a key component of the general framework that Beilin negotiated with Abu Mazen just a week or two before Rabin was murdered.
This was also a key component of the Geneva Initiative, which as you know is primarily Beilin’s baby. If both sides were to take this concept of settlement blocs seriously, it would facilitate a peace agreement, because it would make it much easier politically and physically for Israel to remove 20-25% of the settlers from the West Bank than 100%. If Rabin had lived, I believe that things would probably have gone that way.
Avnery: Hi Ralph,
It’s the “bloc” concept that’s wrong, to my mind. Whatever the motive, the result has been a huge enlargement of the settlements. It has given it encouragement and justification. That is the ONLY result.
RS: I understand. But expanding the blocs is neither advocated nor intended by Beilin and his Geneva khaverim and allies. It’s unfair to blame Beilin for what was a workable idea, if only the two sides would grasp it. It would be a little like blaming you for having fought for Israel in 1948 (because your victory resulted in suffering and injustice for Palestinians). The fact that a reasonable plan or a good cause were subverted doesn’t make them wrong.
Avnery: Dear Ralph,
I don’t quite agree. I think politicians must be held responsible for the [predictable] results of their actions and ideas. I would call these “bad ideas”. Same, the Camp David idea of sovereignty beneath the surface of the Haram al-Sharif (don’t know what exactly was B’s share in that), Ramon’s idea of the “security wall” and all the other inventions of “leftists” which served the Right and create havoc. I don’t shirk responsibility for my own actions at any stage.
All the best, Uri
RS: I don’t think Beilin had any role in Barak’s notion of sovereignty beneath the Haram, because Barak was freelancing his way through Camp David, basically neither taking advice nor consulting with anyone. The idea of a territorial swap that would include most of the blocs is still workable and offers hope. Yes, it’s being abused along E1, Ariel and elsewhere, but if Beilin were in power, he’d work for a better result. He’s not guilty of anything here and he doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with Ramon.
If we have to disagree on this, it won’t be the first time, but I appreciate your taking the trouble to respond.