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Israel/Palestinian conflict needs a ‘Nelson Mandela,’ says author

January 8th, 2014
11:19 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Any “real peace” between Israeli and Palestinians will remain out of reach until both sides truly acknowledge each other’s tragedy, Israeli columnist and author Ari Shavit told CNN’s Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, on Wednesday.

“The heart of this conflict is really mutual blindness.”

The Israelis are blind to the fact that there are a Palestinian people, he said, and the Palestinians blind to the Israelis, and their right to a Jewish state “in the ancient homeland of the Jews.”

That despite, he said, the “amazing” work U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has done trying to bring reconciliation.

Shavit has just written a new book, “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has launched the largest American effort in years to bring peace to the region, having just wrapped up his 10th visit in pursuit of that goal.

“One has to recognize the fact that Secretary Kerry with unique ingenuity and pressure and commitment has surprised us all,” Shavit said.

The Secretary’s goal, Shavit surmised, is not a final peace agreement, but rather a framework for future negotiations.

He is trying, he said, to build “a kind of triangle,” in which the Israelis accept the 1967 borders, the Palestinians accept the existence of a Jewish state, and Jerusalem is shared in some way.

“No sides will totally accept the formula. But if they do not reject it totally, then he will have some sort of achievement.”

But the “ultimate emotional breakthrough,” he said, will not come until the Israeli prime minster goes to Ramallah, and the Palestinian leader goes to the Knesset, to acknowledge each other’s tragedy and pain.

“This I'm afraid we will not see, because both leaders are not built – we do not have a Nelson Mandela right now; we don't have an Anwar Sadat.”

That is not to say that it is as asymmetric a conflict as it is often portrayed, he posited.

“Contrary to the common belief, I believe the Palestinians have enormous power: The Palestinians have the key to Israel's legitimacy in the region and in the international community.”

“One of the reasons that Prime Minister Netanyahu is deep in this process is that Israelis are afraid to lose their legitimacy, both regionally and worldwide.”

Shavit is not afraid to defend Israeli’s existence to the end; he calls the country a “manmade miracle” that was “created against all odds.”

And while he opposes “occupation” and “settlements,” he says “the conflict is not only about the occupation and settlements.”

“I ask my Palestinian counterpart to see that while I acknowledge their tragedy – the fact that they went through terrible pain and many of them lost their homes and experienced a terrible tragedy – I say to them, I ask them, in a sense, to move on.”

“A tragedy is there; but we do not have to accept it and become slaves to it.”

Filed under:  Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. jogee

    One state based on human rights and not religion,one man one vote,majority rule.You do not need a Mandela what you need is the world to say enough is enough.

    January 8, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Consider it done. This state is called Israel... Israel is ONE (NOT two, three or more) state, ruled by a SECULAR government democratically elected by ALL Israeli citizens in accordance to SECULAR laws issued by a SECULAR Parliament. Can you say to the Palestinians "enough is enough" and it's time to stop violence, recognize Israel and NEGOTIATE a peace agreement?

      January 9, 2014 at 11:36 am | Reply
    • Marcel

      " One state based on ... "

      Does this mean a 1 (multi-national) state solution ?

      January 17, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  2. CommonSensed

    South Africa had nothing to do with religion. You're dealing with religion in the Middle East. And since you are not dealing on a logical, and, instead, emotional, level no one will succeed in bringing peace to that region.

    January 8, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  3. KEVIN

    These Israeli peace talks are a joke. They don't want peace. They love conflict with Everyone. It is the culture. The religious ideology. It will never change and nobody can make sombody do something that they don't want and can't do.

    January 8, 2014 at 5:52 pm | Reply
    • MistaB

      Please explain how you come to the conclusion that Israeli's "Love" conflict. Tell me how specifically it is that you determine it to be a defining part of the "culture" (beyond that it is a cold, hard fact of life for them).

      I should preface this next little bit by saying that I am proudly American, but if there is a culture that loves conflict, you need to look no further than your own front yard. America has a history that has been built on, and continues to be driven by, conflict.

      The war on terror as an example is a war that could be fought strictly defensively. That's not how it is being handled though is it? Nope! Gotta "Take the fight to the enemy, don't wait for them to come to you."

      The war in Vietnam...was that US business?

      Taking on Iraq when they invaded Kuwait...US business?

      I can go on about wars and other conflicts that the US has/had no business being involved in. So who has the culture of conflict? The US war machine is one of the largest and most profitable on the face of the Earth, while Israel stands surrounded by enemies that have verbalized and materialized their desire to destroy them every single day since the birth of the country. You may perceive it as a culture of conflict, but the fact is that this is a country that has been in survival mode since literally the day after it was established.

      Get your facts straight.

      January 9, 2014 at 10:49 am | Reply
  4. Jason

    No Mandela...but they do have the Antichrist pulling the strings. The million dollar question, is who is this man???
    We're not going to see the confirming of the "peace treaty", until after the Psalm 83 and 1 Thessalonians 5:3 fulfilled anyway, but that can happen almost anytime.

    Daniel 9:27 "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."

    January 8, 2014 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  5. alonso

    who cares no mandela kill them all israeli but i tell you what they believe you"ll see when you die

    January 8, 2014 at 8:40 pm | Reply
  6. jaysonrex

    The insinuated "comparison" is frankly embarrassing. The Arabs, nick Palestinians, are not interested in peace and never were. This if the inconvenient truth that everybody is trying hard to cover up. From the first day Israel has been created, according to the United Nation decision, the Arabs tried to destroy the Jewish state. They failed five times in a row but this does not seem to have deterred the Palestinians (under Hamas and Fatah, both declared terrorist organizations by the U.S government) that still dream of destroying Israel and kill its people.

    Mandela must turn in his grave when compared to, say, Yasser Arafat or any of the "leaders" of the Palestinians that claim, once again, to be ready and willing to make peace with Israel.

    Finally, Ari Shavit is trying hard to promote himself and nothing else. He knows that his 'ideas' have no traction among those concerned with the safety and future of Israel but he accepts that in exchange for additional exposure in the media. So be it.

    January 9, 2014 at 3:10 am | Reply
  7. BRL

    Thank you Jaysonrex! i couldnt have said it better. As a South African who lived through the apartheid, i cannot stand having Israel or the entire situation between the Palestinians and Israeli's compared to SA. In fact, the blacks in south africa should be insulted to have what the palestinians are doing to themselves compared to the horrors they went through. You cant compare two entirely different situations!

    January 9, 2014 at 3:25 am | Reply
  8. Benjamin Faith

    Somewhere in his loving scriptures, The Creator of Heaven and Earth clearly tells us that He regards us all as his Children whether Jew or Gentile or...etc. Those who have seen the light that is love and wisdom can never fight and kill each other for stuff that those who haven't regularly do. So far in my life i have been blessed to interact with People of different races and cultures and travelling overseas. There are People who accept and enjoy me as an African and there are those who are rabid and very dangerous in their discrimination. I have been left wondering at times! I for one enjoy difference in Folks and cultures. Israeli and Palestinians who have seen the eternal light that is LOVE and blessed joy of the Creator of Jews, Philistines/Palestine, Gentiles, Arabs, Africans, Chinese, Europeans and everyone are surprised by the ongoing conflict and hope to be given a chance to show everyone that they can live perfectly peacefully with each other and probably celebrate an Abrahamic holiday togeather as scientific/genetic tests have shown the same genetic markers in both Arabs and Jews. That they are descendants of Abraham.

    January 9, 2014 at 3:32 am | Reply
  9. Benjamin Faith

    One of my favourite scriptures that always gives me hope and strength is the one that promises that the loving, peace-loving shall mould military hardware into plough shares and shall never ever learn the art of war again after inheriting the World.

    January 9, 2014 at 3:42 am | Reply
  10. Ahmed M Ibrahim

    Problems in South Africa were equally complex and potentially more dangerous, yet a solution was found with the magnanimity displayed by Mr.Mandela. Israel has Mr.Shimon Peres while Palestinians have a person like Mr.Salam Fayyad, but unfortunately the latter has been ignored in favour of other radical voices Mr.Netanyahu himself is a very pragmatic leader and the negotiations are conducted by Ms.Livni who is supposed to be a moderate.. Consequently a solution is not far away since both Israel and Palestine are bound to gain from a settlement. Nonetheless it appears it is a last chance for Palestinians while Israel has to bear the brunt of continued conflict in the absence of a permanent settlement.

    January 9, 2014 at 9:05 am | Reply
  11. ashok

    Nelson Mandela would have been great but Secretary Kerry, with the weight of the US behind him, ought to be good enough.

    January 9, 2014 at 9:25 am | Reply
  12. hdq

    “The heart of this conflict is really mutual blindness.”
    The "blindness" comes from politics, which is based on manipulation of "blindness".
    But, the solution to the Middle East Conflict does not need a Mandella.
    Becuase this is not a "political" conflict about "power", but a series of vioaltions of private and international law, which politicians do not want to recognise and which they repalce woith political damagogy.
    The issue is simple:
    1. Jews (and their US and Europen supporters) want to have a Jewsih State in Palestine.
    2. Palestine has substantial non-Jewish (Arab population), which is an obstacle to such Jewish State, but they are lawful inhabitans of the land.
    3. The only honest, lawful way to solve this problem is for all those who want to have such state is to buy all that land from its non_Jewish inhabitants.
    4. Taking land by force or deception is a crimial act under the modern private and international law.
    Everything else, including any references to ancient history or religion, are nthing else than dishonest political demagogy, because, ancient history or religion does not give anubody rights to violate lawful rights of others.

    Recognition of these simple facts would have made it possible to resolve the conflict for the benefit of all the parties concerned. The Jews would have their Jewish State, and the Paelstinian Arabs would have been compensated for all the injustices and losses inflicted upon them.

    This is what is done every time, whenever anybody wants to build a shopping mall on a land where sone people happen top live – the land is bought and the mall is build, and there is no conflict.
    But, unlike honest property developers, politicians are blinded by their political demagogy, and this is why the conflict continues.

    January 10, 2014 at 5:57 am | Reply
    • Marcel

      " The only honest, lawful way to solve this problem is for all those who want to have such state is to buy all that land from its non-Jewish inhabitants. "

      IMO, by saying this, you advocate the idea that this (small piece of) land is much more Arab than anything else, that it belongs and belonged to the Arabs even before 1948, and, consequently, Jews are occupiers. Am I correct ?

      January 17, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  13. Marcel

    I wonder: what compromised should both sides make to enable a peace deal ?

    Also, I am convince that, for a deal to be viable, to last, the 5 members of the UN Security Council, maybe even the Arab League should co-sign and guarantee the agreement.
    Last but not least: Palestinians should acknowledge the obvious: Israel is a (the) Jewish state, meaning the country where Jews (either as a nation, ethnicity, people or/and as a religion – Judaism, which is an ethno-religion) are the majority. The same way as Palestine shall be the country where Palestinian Arabs (Muslim and Christians) are the majority, or ... Nigeria is the country where Nigerians are the majority, or Finland is the country where Finish are the majority.

    January 17, 2014 at 10:41 am | Reply
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