J. Zel Lurie, the retired founding editor of Hadassah Magazine, concludes the following column, prepared on Nov. 29 (the 60th anniversary of the UN General Assembly vote for two states in Palestine) for publication in the Jewish Journal of South Florida, December 4, by noting, “Meanwhile I became 94 today, December 4. Will I see peace in my lifetime?”
My reply: Despite all the obstacles and all our doubts, may it be so! Happy Birthday, Zel.
On November 27, 2007 at Annapolis. a few moments after the President of the Palestine National Authority and the Prime Minister of Israel had promised, to begin vigorous, serious and continuous negotiations to arrive at a peace pact within 13 months, a CNN reporter commented: ‘This is the beginning of the beginning.”
I would have called it the end of the beginning. The beginning actually occurred 60 years ago less two days, on November 29, 1947, when in a converted factory in Lake Success, the United Nations General Assembly voted by a two-thirds majority to create two states in Palestine, a Jewish state and an Arab state.
I was there. I watched the furious Arab delegates, led by Azzam Pasha, the Egyptian head of the Arab League, and Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia, stalk out of the room. I followed them to the press section where Azzam Pasha declared war. He said “any partition line drawn in Palestine will be a line of fire and blood.”
The Jews were ecstatic. A state at last. In the lobby outside they were dancing. In the delegates lounge they had surrounded Abba Hillel Silver, head of the Jewish Agency, to drink a lechayim. The Israeli delegation had left for the ailing Chaim Weizmann’s hotel room to give him the good news.
At Annapolis, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, who is Prince Faisal’s son or grandson, led the Arab League delegation into the hall and not out of it. [Although he could not quite bring himself to shaking an Israeli’s hand – ed.]
November 29, 1947 was the real beginning but there were several other ends of the beginnings over the years, There was Anwar Sadat’s startling visit to Israel in 1977 and his declaration “No more war.” Israel and Egypt had fought four wars since 1948.
This was the beginning of negotiating an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. It took over a year for President Jimmy Carter, devoting his time and energy with constant visits to Cairo and Jerusalem to hammer out a peace treaty that has held up for the last thirty years.
President Bush has made it clear that he will not mediate. … He will not make bridging proposals as did President Carter, with the invaluable help of Moshe Dayan; they were successful 30 years ago. …
Reaching an agreement with the Palestinians will be much harder, as President Clinton discovered. The core issues dividing them – Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, water, security from suicide bombers – are much broader, deeper and more ingrained than the Sinai. …
The Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993 on the White House lawn with President Clinton’s arms around Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, exactly the same posture as the Annapolis photo of Bush embracing Olmert and Abbas.
The Oslo Accords might be called another end of the beginning. They were followed by several implementation meetings, in Cairo, Paris, Wye River and Sharm al Sheikh. They covered economic relations and the gradual transfer of territory to the Palestine Authority. All of these agreements, none of which dealt with the core issues, were abrogated on the outbreak of Arab violence and suicide bombers in 2000, following Ariel Sharon’s provocative march onto the Temple Mount.
The Army took over completely. Over 500 checkpoints confined the Palestinians. Jewish settlements in the West Bank almost doubled. Expensive roads, forbidden to the Palestinians, were constructed. A separation barrier was built on Palestinian land destroying tens of thousands of olive trees and separating Arab farmers from their fields. Hamas terrorists took over Gaza.
Now Olmert and Abu Mazen (a.k.a. Mohammed Abbas) have promised to try to solve all these issues and many more in 13 months. I wish them well.
Annapolis was essentially a show place but I don’t wish to denigrate its achievements. … Olmert has appointed high level committees to deal with the core issues. The United States will mentor the negotiations. President Bush has appointed General James Jones, the retired commander of NATO forces to oversee the security problems. Tony Blair will convene a donors conference to provide funds for Palestinian Prime Minister Saalam Fayed. …