Speaker: Sari Nusseibeh, President, Al-Quds University; former PLO Commissioner for Jerusalem Affairs
Speaker: Ami Ayalon, former Chief of Navy and Director, Shin Bet, Israel
Moderator: Henry Siegman, Director, U.S./Middle East Project, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: General Brent Scowcroft, President, Forum for International Policy
September 15, 2003
COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
Brent Scowcroft [BS]: Good morning. Welcome to this early- morning meeting. I'm Brent Scowcroft. I'm the Chairman of the International Board of the Middle East Project here at the Council. This is the occasion of the annual meeting of the Board, which is sitting at these two tables. Distinguished representatives from the Middle East, Europe and the United States, and they provide serious guidance and help to the Middle East Project. This morning, we have, I think you will find, a fascinating discussion on the peace process. To my right is Dr. Sari Nusseibeh. He is a Professor of Philosophy and President of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. He was educated at Oxford and Harvard, and returned after that to Jerusalem to take up teaching at Bir Zeit University. He became a political leader during the 1987 Intifada, and was the architect of the strategy of Civil Resistance against the Occupation. He then returned following the Oslo Accords to academic life, and concentrated most of his efforts on institution-building.
In the center is Ami Ayalon. He's the Chairman of Netafim, one of Israel's leading Agro-technology firms. He is the retired Commander in Chief of the Israeli Navy, and a former head of Israeli Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Services. Mr. Ayalon holds an M.A. in Public Administration from Harvard University and studied at the Naval War College. Now, what is most fascinating is that these two have joined together to form something called "The People's Voice", a new Israeli-Palestinian initiative, that aims to advance the peace process based on the 'Two States for Two Peoples' formula.
Moderating the discussion this morning is our own Henry Siegman, Senior Fellow at the Council and Director of the Council's U.S./Middle East Project since 1994, the beginning of the Project. As you all know, he's the author of hundreds of articles, op-eds, and so on. Before joining the Council in 1993, Mr. Siegman was Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress for sixteen years. This meeting will be on the record, and I'll now turn it over to the moderator, Henry Siegman.
Henry Siegman [HS]: Thank you Brent. Without any further introductions, I will begin our conversation with you, Sari, and I thought I'd better begin with you, because one of the members of Israel's Cabinet, and an important Likud member, Uzi Landau, was upset at a Cabinet meeting when somebody said something nice about you, (Laughter), and he criticized them and he said that this is a dangerous man, and the man said that he is a manert(?) - exactly! That's what makes him a dangerous man. So, I don't want to ... (Laughter) ... I don't want to trifle with dangerous people, and I begin with you.
Sari Nusseibeh [SN]: You should ask me, I should know - you know, religion is my ...
HS: One of many problems in the current situation, and it has been a problem for awhile, Sari, of course, is that most Israelis, and many people in this country as well, are actively convinced that Yasir Arafat is responsible for the violence and terror that has marked the Intifada and earlier eruptions. Even more serious is the conviction, a very wide-held belief, that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, the people around him, their real goal is really not just a state in the West Bank and Gaza, but the destruction of Israel - that's the ultimate goal. And that's the kind of article of faith that's pretty widely shared in Israel. You know Yasir Arafat, you've been in the Palestinian Authority, would you address that Israeli perfection?
SN: Thank you. I believe personally that Mr. Arafat is committed to peace, and that the people around him are also committed to peace. I think the problem is, though, that there is no common agreement or definition of what peace is, and the kind of peace that he's committed to is definitely not the kind of peace that, for instance, the present government of Israel is committed to, and the fact that he did not accept what was offered in Camp David earlier, in my opinion, does not change from my view that he is still committed to peace. I think that, although what was offered at Camp David, in fact, in many ways constituted a step forward, a leap in many ways from the Israeli perspective. Nonetheless, from the Palestinian perspective, I think what was needed was to settle a few more problems, and they could have been settled, and I think if they were to be settled, I think Mr. Arafat not only would accept a peace process or peace agreement, but that he in fact is the only leader, or Palestinian leader, that can bring about such an agreement. By the way, just let me say very quickly that I've developed this understanding or conviction concerning Arafat in this role from a long time ago, and let me just if I may, say in the 80s, there was an attempt at one point, when the Labor Government was in power, to establish some contacts with the Likud Party. This was the first time that the Likud Party was interested in negotiating or talking or opening channels with the PLO, when they were still in Tunis, and I, and a friend of mine who passed away, Mr. Faisal Husseini, were involved in these talks on the Palestinian side, and while we were talking, my friend, my colleague, Faisal Husseini, was arrested, although the plan was to hold a meeting in Geneva at the time, and this was before that time, (Laughter), and so he was arrested at the Eleventh Hour, and I was a bit shaken by this, and I called up and asked if Mr. Arafat felt that this meeting should go on, and he insisted. To me, he said "Never mind what people in the Israel Government do. This is a road, or a path, that we have started - we must continue." And he insisted that I go out in fact to Geneva anyway to try and attend this meeting, and in the final hours, the people from the Likud who wanted to attend the meeting withdrew. But from that moment on, I acquired the sense that actually he is committed to peace, and he has in fact been supportive of, for instance, my own efforts in general, not in the positive sense, perhaps, but in the protective sense, especially in the last year.
HS: Let me pursue this point with you, Ami, if I may. Part of this Israeli perception, or an element in that perception, is first that Barak offered the Palestinians and Yasir Arafat everything they had asked for, and he turned them down; he said "No." But even worse, and I think this is what really, ultimately destroyed the whole Peace Camp in Israel, is that while these talks were going on, the perception, or the belief is, that Arafat planned the violent outbreaks that occurred after the breakdown of the process, and he is personally responsible for that. Now it's very rare that one gets to talk to the head of Israel's top intelligence agency, the man responsible for knowing what Palestinians are doing, what they're planning, particularly in the area of terror, you were head of Shin Bet at the time, what can you tell us about that?
Ami Ayalon [AA]: Well, first of all, I was the head of the Shin Bet until May, 2000, so not during the summer. I left before Camp David, but I think it was clear then that if the status quo will prevail, if we are not going to find any new way within the political or the peace process, we shall have a major wave of violence. The way I understand the Intifada, it was not planned by anybody. The energy was there, the frustration of the Palestinian Street, after years of expectations from the peace process, was there, and what was needed in order to ignite it was that Sharon visit on the mountain. We have to understand that the way I understand the Israeli and Palestinian Street, if I can call the people, we had expectations: on the Palestinian side, they expected a better life, less checkpoints, less humiliation, less settlements, and many of them expected a better administration. What they saw was not what they expected. They saw people that came from abroad, they saw corruption within the Palestinian Administration, they saw people who are, you know, the term, VIP's, so they don't have to stop at checkpoints, and they saw more settlements, more occupation, more checkpoints, and more humiliation. So, it was a popular violence that was not planned by anybody, the way I see it, and only after one, two, three weeks, it was adopted by the Palestinian Authority, and ... You know, we had a meeting in Harvard. We met with Faisal Husseini, and a few Israelis, a few Palestinians - it was two months after the Intifada started, and I think it was Hellstachi who said that Arafat will have to adopt this violence, and will have to lead it. Otherwise he will lose his position as the leader of the Palestinian people, and this is the way I understand what happened.
HS: Let me ask both of you one more question before we get to the project that you are now leading, and the question applies, I think, with equal force to both the current Israel Government and the current Palestinian Authority. By any measure that one applies to the situation, Israel's position today seems to be infinitely worse with respect to every aspect of Israel life, whether it is violence, whether it is security, whether it is the economy, whether it's personal safety, even honesty in government…the Prime Minister is now alleged to have taken part in some illegal activity. So, the situation has visibly worsened in those three years. And yet, one does not see any kind of diminution of support, a lessening of support, popular support, for Sharon personally, or a popular movement to change his policies. There's absolutely no opposition in Israel. How do you explain that phenomenon on the Israel side, and how do you explain it as well on the Palestinian side, because the case has to be made with equal force that this Palestinian leadership has done great damage, has missed many opportunities, is corrupt, etc., and yet, the Palestinian Street rallies around this leadership and supports it, and has done very little, even in times when things were not as critical as they are today, has done very little to try to replace that leadership. Explain to us this absence of popular reaction to what is happening on the ground.
AA: You know, they way I understand ourselves, it is existential for us. I think that most Israelis will feel that we have no other option. This explains everything. We feel exactly as you described it earlier that in a way we tried everything, we gave everything, and we are cheated. They reacted, or responded, with violence. So, Israelis really feel that this is existential, that they want to throw us into the sea, and that we have no other option. That's it.
SN: I think the same. I mean, I think the conflict, the confrontation between the two sides makes both sides prioritize their attitudes in a different way than they would in a normal context, or normal situation. On the Israel side, for example, you were saying there is the sense of danger, and because there's a sense of danger, everybody rallies around, or behind, the person that symbolizes power to protect them from this danger. And similarly, on the Palestinian side, I think there is also the sense of danger from a different perspective, in a different way. And in such a context, again, everybody rallies around or behind the person that seems to protect the existential project from the Palestinian point of view, mainly, the project of independence and freedom, which they might not have done in a normal situation. And as you just termed earlier, I think before the recent outbreak of violence, which is called Intifada, happened, there are many reasons to make you think that in fact, if there were to be an outbreak of anything, it would be an outbreak of opposition to the then-existing establishment or government that the Palestinians had, precisely because of the problems the Palestinian people felt towards that government, the cases of corruption or inefficiency or whatever. However, the war, the state of confrontation, makes people change their priorities, but beneath, or underneath this attitude, on both, I think, the Israeli side and the Palestinian side, if you scratch people any deeper, you will find that the real commitment of the people is not that symbol of opposition and war and confrontation, but indeed to be for peace, and to having a normal life.
HS: Well, given this rather depressing situation that Ami and you have described, and in the aftermath of what seems to be the failure of the latest peace initiative, following the failure of a number of earlier peace initiatives, tell us why you believe the campaign that you have now undertaken holds a promise that the earlier initiatives did not. One, what do you see the outcome as, but perhaps you should also tell us something about the content of this initiative, and what you think it might produce? Ami, do you want to ...
AA: Yes. First of all, the initiative itself ... I think you got some papers that describe it. What we are saying that ... in a way, during the last ten years, we did not touch the real issues. We tried to create confidence, trust between the two societies by a kind of interim process, stage by stage, and what collapsed was the process itself, or the way of thinking that we can create a different present by trying to meet and discuss the present. We did not touch the future. We said, "The future is too sensitive. Let's create trust between the two sides, and then to discuss the future." Both sides did not believe, did not really believe, that it is possible, on one hand, and by the fact that it was a kind of constructive ambiguity, both sides started to believe that there is a kind of conspiracy. We really believe that finally they are not going to give up their Return of Palestinians into Israel. And they, as I understand, what they saw was more and more settlements. So, finally when it collapsed in the summer of 2000, we found ourselves dealing with a very strange present without really touching the future. What we are trying to do now is to put a clear picture of the future and to start from the future and to go backwards. In a way, it is the opposite process to what we did during the last ten years, and in a way, what we are saying is that if the Roadmap does have any chance, it should adopt one page that describes how the future will look like. When I was in the Navy, we used to say that if there is a captain who does not know where he wants to sail, no wind will bring him there. In a way, this is what we are doing. During the last ten years, we are sailing without knowing exactly where we want to arrive, and I think that during the last three years, as Sari mentioned before, we lost confidence, we believed the Palestinians understand only violence. If I understand the Palestinians, they feel that same about Israelis. But, both sides became much more pragmatic when we deal with the future. So, I think that today, most Israelis and most Palestinians can accept something very close: Two-State solution, more or less 1967 borders, and we understand when it will come to settlements, we Israelis will have to make very painful concessions, and when it will kind to The Right of Return, the Palestinians will have to make very painful concessions. So, we are closer in our way of describing the future than with our capability to agree on the present, and the future became the condition to our capability to move forward in the present or in the Roadmap. What I'm saying is that no Palestinian leader, again, no Palestinian leader will fight the infrastructure of Hamas, unless within the context of a final agreement between us when he knows exactly what he will get, and what I'm saying is the same for us: no Israeli leader will bring settlers home unless within the context that we know exactly where it will bring us. It is too painful in order to pay it without knowing exactly what will happen later. So, the papers that we are putting on the table is one page, but it is very clear when it comes to borders, to Jerusalem, to The Right of Return, and to security. We see that without tackling these four issues, we shall not be able to go forward.
HS: Well, this idea has a certain focus on the future, and not on the present, and then work your way back has a certain aesthetic attractive, if you will, but, and I'd ask this question to you, Sari, but in real life, as we look at what is happening on the ground, isn't the focus on the present, despite a general agreement about what the future needs to look like on both sides, isn't the present driving the parties further and further apart, and making the future more distant?
SN: I think that's well put. I think that what's happening in the present is that the possibilities are diminishing of ever, in fact, reaching the kind of future that we describe. The realities on the ground are slowly, incrementally, and possibly now have also almost definitely come to the point where it will no longer be possible to speak about two states for two people, but where it will be imposed upon us, both peoples, to find some way of existing in the context of one state. It will involve us in a lot of fighting. We will enter into another era of struggle. It will maybe take 30, 40, 50 years, and nobody knows where all that will lead. So, actually, it's very crucial for us to focus on the future that Ami was talking about, the potential, or possible future, because that is a future that can still be brought about, but it is, or can be, only brought about by exerted efforts, by intensive efforts on the parts of leaders, whether intellectual or political or public leaders, and certainly, it can be helped to be brought about by the international community. The point to remember is that in my view, a majority of people on both sides are rational, and that this reason that exists from both sides, normal reasons, in fact makes most people on both sides wish to come out with a two-state solution, with a decent solution for the two sides. But people are living on both sides, not in the grip of reason, but in the grip of fear, of insecurity, of distrust, distrust of each other, and the agreements they therefore make between them are based on this distrust, but the agreements cannot in fact do away with this distrust. The only way of doing away with distrust is to get the two sides to in fact commit themselves on, not just the general picture of what's going to happen in the end, but commit themselves to a clear end game: Where are we going, where will this Roadmap take us, exactly? Two states? Yes, but where? Acceptable solution? Yes, but what? Refugees, justice? Yes, but in what way? Settlements? Which settlements are we talking about? The 17 or 18 of the outposts within area D, or are we talking about settlements in general? These are matters that need to be brought out. They need to be agreed upon in advance, so that anything that happens, including the building of a wall, can become the result of an agreement or an understanding, not a sign of a unilateral step of aggression of further expansion.
Let me just say one more thing, that while this is clear, what I've just said - I think it's clear - the problem is: How can you get the two sides to in fact commit themselves to a paper like the one we've just signed? The leaders aren't going to do it. So, what we are trying to do is to get around the leaders, and get around the leadership ...
HS: Get ... ?
SN: Get around the ...
SN: ... bypass the fact that the leaders will not do it. By in fact going down to the, what we assume to be, a rational majority. A rational majority is a majority which assumes that they wish to have a rational future on the basis that the other side also, or on the condition that the other side also shares that vision. And we are hoping that by creating this popular support, a critical mass of popular support, of Israelis and Palestinians, for such a vision, that this will in itself, somehow or another, force itself on the political agenda, or the formal decision-makers, which is, by the way, unprecedented. In all our life, in the history of the Israel- Palestinian conflict, beginning with the U.N. Partition plan, going through 242, going through the Oslo process, the Roadmap, all of it, the people have never been asked their view in advance about what they wished to have as an outcome. This is something that actually puts the people where they should belong, in the place of deciding whether this is something that they want or not, and actually empowering them to make it happen, if they so wish, if they want to make it happen. I'll stop here maybe - maybe you have some questions.
AA: Yes, okay. What paralyzed both sides is that fact that we do not see each other. I think that most Israelis became very pragmatic, but they do not believe that there are Palestinians that will be as pragmatic as they are, and it is the same for the Palestinians. But if Israelis will see thousands of Palestinians signing, this ... I mean, there will be no discussion whether here is something to talk with or something to talk about, I mean, they will see that Palestinians will sign, and it is the same for the Palestinians.
HS: I think that's about as hopeful a note as we can squeeze out of the discussion at this point, and a good point, therefore, to turn to you for comments. I'm going to be a bit biased, and give preference to members of the Board, whose meeting ... this is an enlarged meeting of our own Board ... but let me first turn to Brent for his comments on what we've heard to far.
BS: I think this is a fascinating discussion, and I think that our two speakers have something here. The problem I see is twofold. The first: in neither the Israel system or the Palestinian system is there an effective opposition. The people's voice is ordinary expressed through political leadership, through dialogue. It's hard for me to see how you can attract ... the Israel people are a section of it, the Palestinian people - without a political process by which their voice will have some content, that's the chief problem I see there. The other side is, you have to involve the political leadership. I thought that the Roadmap was an ingenious start, because for the first time, the Roadmap tells the two parties they have to move in parallel, not sequential, that the Israelis have one, two, three things they need to do. Period. The Palestinians have one, two, three things they need to do, without looking across the table and saying, "Well, I'm not going to do it because he didn't do this." Now, that takes some enforcement, because if there is no enforcement, then the first time you have a terrorist act or a settlement problem, and so on, it breaks down, and so far, there has been no enforcement. The quartet, as near as I can see, is totally silent in the face of this. Now, the quartet probably can't move without the United States, but I see that part of the process which has to go forward at the time that your own project is trying to get some traction, is broken.
AA: Just for the first remark, first of all, I accept that there was no opposition in Israel to our military actions in Lebanon. The opposition was created in the Street, and it became political only after the people in the Street demanded it. So, this is a process that I see where the opposition will be created from the Street, and will be adopted by the political system. Soon after the holidays, we're going to present this initiative on the Israel side to all the parties. We have an invitation. There is a vacuum within our political system, and this is exactly ... I mean, we have an invitation from the Likud, from the Labor, from Shin…from all the parties, to hear, because, the way I understand our political community, they expect from the Street, from us, to tell them, where do we want to go from now.
BS: Okay, that's encouraging.
HS: All right. We will now go to you for comments and questions. We ask you to identify yourselves and to be brief, with the emphasis on the "brief," and as I said, I will first turn to some members of our Board. Yes.
FM: Fouad Makhzoumi - I come from Lebanon. The basic questions, I think…one of the discussions that we were mentioning yesterday is that we believe genuinely that the cause of all problems in the Middle East, fundamentalism, 9/11, is the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis. The Roadmap and all the discussion you two gentlemen have been discussing, we all know that there are still other countries that are still at war with this, technically, you know, the state of war, which is, in particular, Lebanon and Syria. I have not seen, neither in the Roadmap nor in your discussion, at what point will these players be brought in to really achieve a comprehensive peace based on the...basis of Madrid when we went there in 1991. Thank you.
AA: We do not touch other issues. We deal, the way I see it, only with the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. This is not the only conflict, but if you will ask me, these are the major and most urgent. I think that we shall have to later, not we, but Israelis and Palestinians will have later to see what will happen with Syria, Lebanon, but in my case, I don't think that we Israelis can digest everything in the same time.
SN: Well, I believe like we've always said in the past, that the route cause of most of the problems, and as Mr. Makhzoumi just mentioned, 9/11, extremism, Islamacism, Fundamentalism, the breakdown of a system of rational guidance in Arab political thought in general, over the past 30, 40 years, the occupation of Arab lands, the wars, I think all of it is routed in this so far unresolved conflict between the Arabs, represented in this case by the Palestinian in the forefront, and the Jew, represented by Israel, in the forefront in this conflict. And I personally believe that the way in order therefore to solve the entire mountain of problems, and by the way, I'm extremely optimistic in saying, when I talk about problems, not just problems of occupation, for instance Syria, problem with Lebanon, but also political problems in the Arab world, political systems, freedoms, democracy, all of it, I think will be resolved, step by step, once we in fact chance the paradigm of the relationship between Arab and Jew or Palestinian and Israel, that now pervades, historically and geographically in the Middle East. We have to change this paradigm by making, in my opinion, Arab and Jew, or Palestinian and Israel, somehow put their hands together on the basis of seeing that the interest is a common one, and that this is their future, and that they can work together in order to make that future come about. In my opinion, once we change the basic paradigm, this basic problem, I have high hopes for addressing Fundamentalism, Islamacism, the absence of democracy, corruption, you name it. But we have to begin - even the relationship with the West - we have to begin by somehow solving this very tiny problem in this very tiny geographic location.
MM: Good morning. My name is Munib Masri. I live in Palestine. I'm a Palestinian. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be here today with such a crowd. I would like to commend both Sari and Mr. Ayalon for their courage to present such a thing. I believe in it, provided what Mr. Masumi was saying, that the Roadmap is comprehensive for a comprehensive and peaceful settlement in the whole area. I'm very much agreeing with General Scowcroft that the Roadmap, I believe, is the only thing which can work now, because it deals with the aspirations of both parties, and it has the milestones for both parties or both countries to really abide with, but we need to enforce it, and we really need it to be imposed on both parties, and what Sari and Mr. Ayalon are saying, I think it could be the referendum that goes with the Roadmap, at the end of the thing that I think they could go parallel, that the Roadmap is implemented, and the referendum that you need to ask the people that's what they want to do. But I very much think that the Roadmap, we still should support the Roadmap to be implemented. Thank you very much.
HS: Yes, sir.
MD: Mark Danner of The New Yorker and The New York Review. Thank you, first of all, for a very provocative presentation. I wonder if you could say a word about the mechanics of this. What exactly are you planning to do, how you're going to get ... is this a signature drive you're talking about. Are you going to go on television, the Internet? Is this a populist effort, are you trying to get the adherence of political parties, of labor organizations? What will stop the political leadership itself from essentially agreeing to this early on, and then in some way undercutting the populist nature of it? And a follow-up question for General Scowcroft. You mentioned that the quartet has been silent and cannot really move without the United States giving some impulsion to it on the Roadmap, and I'd be grateful if you would comment on why you think that might be so?
HS: Which one of you ...
SN: Well, let me just say with regard to the Roadmap. Nobody believes that the Roadmap should be dropped. I believe that the Roadmap, having been worked on so hard, has to work and has to succeed. I would add that one condition for its success is to actually connect the Roadmap in the minds of people to a destination, to a definition of the end game, in order to make…one additional condition for making the Roadmap succeed is to define a destination and to bring in the people in formulating that destination and agreeing to it, and therefore, acting as support for the leaders who want to get there. Now quickly, as to the mechanics, I'm not sure if people realize, but on the Israeli side, already through the mechanics that Mr. Ayalon will probably explain if he wishes at some point, there are more than 50,000 signatures to this on the Israeli side. On the Palestinian side, there are well over 30,000 signatures already on this. Now, this is unprecedented that you have as many already as all these people with signatures actually on a statement defining an actual peace between the two sides. We only started two months ago, and it is only within the space of these two months that we have been able to gather this amount of support. We have been working separately. We have been using different methods. We have been facing different kinds of problems and obstacles, and on the Palestinian side, I can go into this later, if you wish, we certainly have come up ... I've come up with a lot of opposition in different areas and quarters. It's not been a free-running, easy…go. These are matters which actually are extremely provocative, and you have to confront the people with them. But I have actually gone and confronted people with them in face-to-face meetings, in town hall meetings in villages, and so on. I've created a lot of storm, a lot of opposition, but side by side with this, also, I've been able to collect so far these 30,000 signatures. I think within the next few months, it will be possible to collect on the Palestinian side ... the target I set for myself on the Palestinian side was 100,000 by the end of the year, and I think we can do it easily. But it needs a lot of work at the grass roots level, and once we have those signatures, I mean, just imagine that we get hold of, let us say, half a million people, signing, with their names signed on an agreement like this, Israeli and Palestinian. We have half a million people. That's a major force nobody can ignore - not Mr. Arafat, not Mr. Sharon, and certainly not the international leadership. Who has half a million people already signed, telling the leaders, "Go ahead. This is our future. This is an agreement that we will support you with."
JB: Joseph Bartlett, of Fish and Richardson. I was President of the Council a few years ago when Chairman Arafat spoke here, and took away an impression. I wonder if you ... talking about an end game ... why are you not talking about pledges of resources, actual money behind this. Why wouldn't it be infinitely cheaper, if we're spending $100 billion in Iraq, to collect pledges for some extraordinary amount of money to rebuild the areas that have been ravaged by this continual conflict, and trustee it somewhere and start putting some ... "we'll do this, we'll do that, we'll do something else," ... why not get into something that's tangible and real behind your effort?
AA: I don't think that we shall be able to create a new future without dealing with economics. But the way we see it, it is part of the implementation, and it should be done by the administration. We are dealing with the price that both of us ... we shall have to pay in order to get to this point. I think that it is possible mainly because people understood that we shall have to make this price, and in a way, we do not want, at least in my case, what happened on the Israeli side was that all the taboos were broken in the summer of 2000. Peres lost the elections in 1996 because the people who ran against him said "Perez will divide Jerusalem." Today, most Israelis understand that Jerusalem is divided, and in order to get peace, Palestine shall be the sovereign in at least the Arab neighborhoods. It is an acceptable solution by most Israelis. But the way I understand the Palestinian society, the taboo of The Right of Return was not broken. If I have something which, against the Palestinian leadership, was that they did not want to raise, or to discuss this issue, and until it will be broken, until Palestinians will understand that unless they give us this part of the agreement, that Palestinians will not return into the State of Israel, there will be no agreement between us. So, part of what we are doing is to open this discussion. We do not want to bypass it. To bypass it means that the Conspiracy Theory will remain. So, we want to see Palestinians debating, arguing, signing, as much as they should see Israelis debating about the settlements, settlers, Jerusalem, etc. So, in a way, people told us, and you're right, you know, that you describe ... the paper is a very pragmatic paper. There is no beauty in it, there is no new Middle East, you know. We had enough new Middle East during the last ten years (Laugher). Now it is a time to deal with the price that we shall have. All that we want is that Israel will be a democracy and a safe home for the Jewish people. This is what we want. We shall create in Israel a great country, if we shall get these conditions. And if I understand the Palestinians, all that they want is a free state, with no occupation, that only they will decide who will be elected or what kind of an administration they will elect. So this is what we are trying to do here. We are not trying to create something that…will bypass in the way of the problem.
HS: I remind you again, because we are going to adjourn just a little before half past, to please make your comments very brief.
Audience: Yeah, when Arafat turned down Barak at Camp David, he turned down two things. The first he turned down was the proposal as the final deal, and the second deal he turned down was the proposal as the basis for further negotiations. Barak has made that exceptionally clear. After Oslo, the disaster, after the Roadmap, the problem. Most peace processors are saying "We've got to get down to truth-telling." I don't understand how it's possible to consider Arafat a man of peace, not because he accepted Camp David ... or didn't accept Camp David, but because he wouldn't even accept it as a basis for further negotiations, not to mention all of the other problems with that view. So, if we can't get that right, how are we supposed to go forward?
SN: Well, you know, I said in the beginning what I believe Arafat stands for. Now, I also know what other people believe that Arafat stands for. And I cannot bring the two together. I have to make up my own mind on the basis of my own experience. And I think, as far as I'm concerned, this is a test. What we are doing is a test, because the day will come when I will go to Mr. Arafat - maybe Mr. Ayalon will come with me - and we'll tell him, "Look Mr. Arafat, you know, there are only ... "
Audience: ... only if he will sign.
SN: What? Only if he will sign. (Laughter). So I'll go before, so, we will go ... I will go to our leader, and I'll tell him, "Look, there are so many people behind this, which I know is an agreement, that's factual. And then, this will be a test, for me, at least, to determine whether in fact the things that I think about him are true, or the things that you think about him are true, and we will come out with an answer. I hope it will come out with a positive answer, because I still hold that the person who can in fact make this come about is Arafat.
HS: No, we have one more. Rita?
RH: Rita Hauser. Ami and Sari, everybody in the room applauds your efforts. There's no question about that. What is missing to me this morning is a sense of urgency. You talk as if you have plenty of time. I sense a very impending moment of some real tribulation. If Hamas carries out what it has threatened to do and they live up to their threats, and Sharon lives up to his counter-threats, which he has done in the past, and continues to build a wall as he's going, doing, there won't be any opportunity for your initiative. So, speak to me before we close about urgency.
HS: Ami, begin.
AA: I feel a sense of urgency, but again, I do not represent anyone but myself. I think that without the support of many Israelis and many Palestinians, we can do nothing. So, what we are doing is, at least in my case, to try to describe a future, not because the present is not urgent, because I think that the present does not permit us to go forward. The fact that we are trying to create, or to deal with the future does not mean that we do not think that this is urgent, or that the window of opportunity is closing. It is closing. The window of opportunity for a Two-State Solution is closing. For me, it is existential, because if there is no Two-State Solution, Israel will not be a safe home for the Jewish people, and a Democracy. But I think that the only way to deal with the present, to go forward, to make the first step, is to describe the future. So, by doing it, it doesn't mean that I do not feel that this is urgent. This is the only way that I think is possible, and one last remark. I think that the process will be very pragmatic if Israelis and Palestinians, in big numbers, will sign, and if - and this is a second condition - if the international community will adopt it. We need the assistance of the international community. Personally, I don't think, and I don't want, the international community to impose a solution. I don't want the international community to save us from ourselves. It is for us to say, loud and clear, where we want to go, but we need the adoption of this view by the international community.
HS: Sari, you want to add a 10-second ...
SN: Well, only because of the urgency and dangers that are in the present do I think we have to give everything in our power to make this kind of effort succeed in order to save ourselves from what's happening. The urgency actually makes it necessarily to go ahead with this. And may I say, there are two forces at play in the shaping of the present and of the future, and one force is going in the direction of disaster, and we have to create another force in order to prevent that from happening.
HS: Well, may the Force be with you, (Laughter), and I know I speak for everyone here in thanking you for the initiative that you are both cooperating on, and for coming here just for this morning's session from across the ocean. Thank you so much.