Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Part of a family of militant right-wing Zionists who emigrated to Jerusalem from Russia and Poland, Amas Oz rebelled against his parents and joined Kibbutz Hulda at age 15. There he obtained his secondary education and, after completing his military service, returned to the kibbutz. His first stories were published in the leading literary quarterly Keshet when he was in his early twenties before the kibbutz assembly sent him to Jerusalem to study philosophy and literature at the Hebrew University. Oz fought on the Sinai front during the 1967 Six Day War. Since then he has actively campaigned for peace both in politics and literature; now Oz is perhaps Israel's foremost writer and has been a leading figure in the Israeli peace movement since 1967.

The New York Times published his editorial today called "The Two Cowards." He calls both Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas cowards because they are afraid to face fanatic Arabs (terror groups) and extremist Jews (settlers) who he calls enemies of peace. Read it yourself.

In the Middle East, it is no longer a war between Israel and Palestine. Since the cease-fire began more than seven weeks ago, public opinion surveys both in Israel and Palestine consistently show that a clear majority on both sides endorses the cease-fire, supports the road map to peace and favors the idea of a two-state solution, Israel next to Palestine.

Yes, everybody is unhappy about those solutions, everybody is full of suspicions and mistrust, everybody who says "yes" says so with clenched teeth. Nevertheless, some 70 percent of the people on both sides are ready for peace.

The enemies of peace are the fanatics on both sides: those who reject any compromise, those who claim that the other side has the right only to die or to disappear. How can it be that these fanatic Arabs and extremist Jews manage to block the road for peace and to push us all again and again into the infernal cycle of violence and vengeance?

The answer is simple: the leaders on both sides are cowards. Both Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, realize that there can be no progress before the extremists are contained and overruled. Yet each of these leaders wants the other to launch an internal civil war while he just sits and watches. Each of these leaders wants the internal battle to take place inside the other's family.

This is not going to work. If the Israelis and Palestinians have to negotiate under fire, let them do so -- but it will have to be under fire from both sides. If we have to break the back of the enemies of peace, it will have to be done simultaneously on both sides.

Simultaneity is the key word. Palestine has to disarm the rejectionists' terror organizations at the same time Israel removes -- by force if necessary -- all the unauthorized settlements. Everybody knows it, but where is the courage of the leaders?
UPDATE: Strangly--or not--the Guardian publishes the same editorial, except for the second to last sentence. Also, this one is called "Two Dr Jekylls, two Mr Hydes" referring to the second to last sentece.


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