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Amos Oz Calls Israeli-Palestinian Issue One Between "Right and Right"

American Council For Judaism
Special Interest Report
January-February 1998

The Israeli-Palestinian issue "is not black and white," but "a clash between right and right, between two powerful convincing claims," said Amos Oz, Israel’s best known author, in a talk to the Washington Hebrew Congregation (Washington Jewish Week, Oct. 30, 1997).  

He continued: "Don’t tell the Palestinians who they are and are not; they regard themselves as a nation whether we like it or not. It’s not about who started the conflict; it’s about how to stop killing, dying and start living. We need to divide the house into two family units with a good fence between them. If you ask 9 million Jews and Arabs, my guess is 80 percent would favor a partition, though all would add that this would be a catastrophe."  

Oz described ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel as "a powerful, lasting episode" in Jewish history, but nevertheless an "episode" that, he implied, will eventually pass. The day there is a bipartisan resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, he said, the ultra-Orthodox leverage will be reduced.  

There is a tendency to treat conflicts as misunderstandings, Oz declared, requiring a kind of "group therapy or marriage counseling." But after 100 years of pain and anger, "we don’t need a honeymoon; we need a fair and painful divorce."  

He would go to the Palestinians and say: "We can’t give you everything you want, but in the end of the day, you will have everything we have — depending on your conduct and your honest dealings with us."  

He urged Israel’s leaders to venture into the Palestinian camps, attempting an emotional breakthrough like Egyptian President Sadat’s trip to Israel. "We should not apologize for Zionist rights, but for inflicting pain and suffering on them in the camps where they are rotting," he said.  

The flaw of the leadership on both sides, Oz argued, is the failure to imagine the other. While "the Perez-Rabin administration had a vision, this government stops things from happening." And he gives "not much more credit to the Palestinian leadership."  

Oz opts for "a peace made between enemies with clenched teeth — each party scheming about the day of revenge. We will wait forever if we expect a change of mind and heart. The best we can hope for is the syndrome of fatigue — for conflicts to die down out of exhaustion."  

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