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An enlightened occupation


My concept of a Palestinian state has its proponents
Uri Avnery Social activist
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Well, it was clear that he didn't accept that [idea]. And then also I suggested... I went back to my old proposal to establish a Ministry for Affairs of Peace. I suggested it to him again. He told me, 'There is a Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is responsible for that'. It ended in nothing. Good spirit, but nothing concrete yet I have these three things on record: the article in Daf, the article in HaOlam HaZeh and this conversation with Levi Eshkol. There were probably other people who thought about it but never publicised it. Arik Sharon claimed years later in a conversation with me that he himself had been inclined towards the same thing. The idea was: we needed to return to the previous situation. No one had dreamed that Israel could hold onto the territories, it had never entered our mind, it was a ridiculous idea. We had just a few years ago gone through the Sinai Campaign. President Eisenhower and President Bulganin had forced us to draw back to the last grain of sand in Sinai, so to think now suddenly that they would leave this to us? The question was not whether to return it, the question was to whom it should be returned? And the general consensus was, 'What do you mean? To Jordan!' Once again the idea was that if perhaps we return it all to Jordan, maybe it would be possible to 'steal' East Jerusalem, to keep East Jerusalem, or to return it to the Palestinian people, this is what we demanded. And as strange as it seems, this idea of returning it to the Palestinian people was very popular among the top brass of the IDF, the IDF leadership most of whom were rather logical people compared with politicians. And the IDF did a simple calculation that I also expressed: return it to Jordan, which means more time – one country from Tulkarm to the outskirts of Baghdad, a large Arab country that can easily bring all the Arab armies from around: Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In contrast the Palestinian state would inevitably be a small country, it would be possible to conquer it in a day or two, that would always be easy and it was therefore attractive. I know that Talik, who was a very important man in the IDF, an important general, and all sorts of other generals quietly championed this idea.

טוב, היה ברור שהוא לא מקבל את זה. ואז גם הצעתי לו, חזרתי על ההצעה הישנה שלי להקים מיניסטריון לענייני השלום. הצעתי לו את זה עוד הפעם. הוא אמר לי: "יש משרד החוץ, הוא אחראי לזה”. זה נגמר בלא כלום. רוח טובה, אבל לא כלום, אבל יש לי on the record שלושה הדברים האלה: המאמר ב"דף", המאמר ב"העולם הזה" והשיחה הזאתי עם לוי אשכול. היו כנראה עוד אנשים שחשבו על זה אבל לא פרסמו. אריק שרון טען כעבור שנים, בשיחה אתי, טען שהוא בעצמו נטה לאותו דבר. הרעיון היה: צריכים לחזור לסיטואציה. אף אחד לא חלם שישראל תוכל להחזיק בשטחים, זה בכלל לא עלה על הדעת, זה היה רעיון מגוחך. אנחנו בדיוק עברנו לפני כמה שנים את מלחמת סיני, שהנשיא אייזנהאוור והנשיא בולגנין הכריחו אותנו לחזור עד הגרגיר האחרון של סיני, אז יעלה על הדעת שעכשיו פתאום ישאירו לנו את הזה? השאלה לא הייתה אם להחזיר, השאלה למי להחזיר? והרעיון הכללי היה: "מה זאת אומרת? לירדן!" ושוב פעם, הרעיון שאולי אם מחזירים את הכל לירדן אולי אפשר "לגנוב" את מזרח ירושלים, לשמור על מזרח ירושלים, או להחזיר לעם הפלסטיני, זה מה שאנחנו דרשנו. וכמה שזה מוזר, הרעיון הזה להחזיר את זה לעם הפלסטיני היה מאוד פופולארי בצמרת צה"ל. צמרת צה"ל בסך הכל זה אנשים די הגיוניים בהשוואה לפוליטיקאים וכל האנשים האלה. וצה"ל עשה חשבון פשוט שגם אני אמרתי: מחזירים את זה לירדן, כלומר עוד פעם – מדינה אחת מטול כרם עד בואך בגדאד – מדינה ערבית גדולה שיכולה בקלות לכנס את כל צבאות הערבים שמסביב: סוריה, עיראק וסעודיה. לעומת זאת מדינה פלסטינית תהיה בהכרח מדינה קטנה, אפשר לכבוש אותה תוך יום-יומיים תמיד בקלות ולכן היה לזה כוח משיכה. אני יודע שטליק, שהיה איש מאוד חשוב בצה"ל, אלוף חשוב, ועוד כל מיני אלופים בשקט דגלו ברעיון הזה.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Israel, Sinai, Jordan, East Jerusalem, Levi Eschkol

Duration: 3 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017