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Israel-Palestine from Both Sides of the Mirror

Written by Moran Azoulay By Roger Cohen The New York Times, June 16, 2017 This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Israeli victory in the 1967 war and of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. The jubilation of military victory, quicker and more comprehensive than seemed possible, has long since subsided into a grinding status quo: the oppression of 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, the confrontation with 1.8 million in encircled Hamas-run Gaza and the corrosion of Israeli democracy that accompanies this extended exercise in dominion. Often called unsustainable, the occupation has proved altogether sustainable . Jews need no instruction in the agony of exile. Yet their modern statehood, achieved after the millennia of diaspora existence and persecution, has come to involve the statelessness of another people. I asked four friends — two Israelis and two Palestinians — to write briefly of their feelings on this anniversary. I will write of my own in a subsequent column. ITAMAR RABINOVICH, Yitzhak Rabin’s ambassador to Washington and author of a biography of him: “The Cursed Blessing” was the perceptive title that the Israeli historian Shabtai Teveth gave to his book about the impact of the Six-Day War on Israel. A blessing it was; it released Israel from a dangerous crisis, consolidated its standing vis-à-vis the Arab world, turned it into a regional power and transformed its relationship with the United States. Most important, it provided Israel with the bargaining chips for peacemaking with its Arab enemies. Another decade was needed to convert the abstract principle of “territories for peace” into peace with Egypt and another 15 years for the peace process to be renewed and to produce peace with Jordan and the Oslo compromise with Palestinian nationalism. But the Oslo process, an attempt to resolve peacefully two peoples’ claim to the same land, was only implemented in part and suspended. An Israeli zealot assassinated Yitzhak Rabin. Fifty years after June 1967, Israel is still encumbered with the occupation of the West Bank and with the perception of lingering control of Gaza. Both Israelis and Palestinians pay dearly for the impasse. Keeping the settlement project in the West Bank saps Israel’s resources, compromises its international legitimacy and injects negative norms into Israel proper. It is time to seek a final status agreement that will separate the two peoples or at least stop the current drift into one-statehood. We all know what the shape of a final status agreement should and would look like. Realistically we may not be able to achieve it now. The state of Israeli and Palestinian politics, the upheaval in the region and the question marks regarding the Trump administration could prove insurmountable. But there is a way to stop the gradual sliding into the abyss through an interim agreement that would give Palestinians a provisional state in a large part of the West Bank territory. This is anathema to both the Israeli right and the Palestinian leadership, but is the only realistic option today for those who seek to salvage a two-state solution.

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