Op-Ed: The Will to Wait
Douglas Altabef, Dir. Israel Independence FundThe writer is a member of the Board of Directors of Im Tirzu and the Israel...
The on-going dispute with the Palestinians, and by extension, the larger Arab world, has taken on the aspect of a runaway train that cannot be stopped, but maybe can be diverted onto one track or another. We are either being told that the time is running out for Israel to fashion a peace deal with the Palestinians, or we must now absorb the entirety of Judea and Samaria to prevent the nightmare of a misconceived settlement to the problem.
The overwhelming sense is that we are letting time dictate a solution rather than allowing for a solution that organically arises from the conditions that apply. This is distressingly ironic because as Jews we have written the book on not letting time dictate destiny.
I believe it is incumbent on us to tap into our own wisdom and inner strength and take a lesson from the greatest exercise in national patience and time management in the history of mankind: our own patient waiting for Moshiach.
Though he has tarried, we continue to wait for him. We read tea leaves, look for signs, test the wind for his coming, but mostly we wait. We know that even though we might, by our actions, influence the timing, the decision is not ours to make. It will be made in due course.
Even more, we have learned the hard way that when we have deceived ourselves to think that the decision was ours to make, the results were catastrophic. From Bar Kochba to Shabbtai Tzvi, Jewish history is littered with the disastrous consequences of our seeking to bring about our redemption by our own volition.
I suggest that this is exactly what we confront with the issue of the Palestinians: an issue that will not lend itself to being solved by our own devices. We must disabuse ourselves of the conceit that the solution is ours alone to make: either to ram a square peg into a round hole and pronounce peace, or to take on the burden of total control of an irremediably hostile population not all that much smaller than our own.
I suggest that there is an affirmative third option, one that is not a default option ,but instead a willful, deliberate strategic choice. It is called the Will to Wait.
It is the will to wait for the Palestinians to become willing participants in a dialogue that will end up with actual peace. It is the courage to wait for the arrival of a Palestinian Mandela who is uninterested in usurping, destroying or supplanting Israel, but rather is only interested in building a Palestinian society that can grow, prosper, thrive and live at peace with its neighbor and itself.
Though he may tarry, I believe we have no choice but to wait for this figure.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conditions for a two state solution are something of a road map to a desirable outcome, if he is steadfast in maintaining the conditions that he has set forth. But even these conditions are missing the key ingredient of desire on the part of the Palestinians to be parties to peace. Netanyahu has outlined the desired resulting situation, but understandably he cannot ordain the mindset among our adversaries that will bring about that outcome.
There is a deep strain that runs through the Jewish mindset, perhaps the Jewish DNA itself, that says ultimately everything is about our relationship with God. That it’s all about what we do or do not do, and the other players in history are passive conduits of God’s Will and His reaction to our own actions.
Such a point of view (which is by no means the sole conviction of religious Jews) accords very little independence and integrity of thought and action to our adversaries. It is up to us to make something happen, and when we have done so, others will fall into line and follow suit.
This mindset has been a formula for disaster in our dealings with the Palestinians. Let us give them their due. Let us accord them the respect of their own decisions, attitudes and worldview. If all of the self-generated Palestinian input says no, no and for sure, no, then so be it.
The arguments for forcing the issue are specious. There is no demographic Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. This is hysteria, pure and simple. Our society is flourishing and by the way so is Palestinian society, by the standards of the Arab world.
We do ourselves a terrible disservice to think that we need to come up with a solution in the here and now. The only thing we will beget is a worse situation than what we are living with now.
We cannot nor surely should we want to shake our own hand, to fashion our own unilateral solution. We should simply (though it is not simple at all) have the courage and the will to wait for a more propitious time when a true peace might be possible.
Douglas Altabef resides in Rosh Pina and is a Director of the Israel Independence Fund.