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The Turkey Under the Table

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The story about the Indyk is well known to anyone versed in Jewish folklore. It was told by a very influential Jewish rabbi, Nachman of Braslaw (1772-1811), who has many followers even today in Israel.

Once upon a time there was this prince who suffered under the delusion that he was an Indyk (turkey in Yiddish -- from the Hebrew for Indian hen. He was sitting naked under a table and eating only crumbs thrown to him.

After all the doctors failed to cure him, a wise rabbi undertook the task. He stripped off his clothes, sat naked under the table and started acting like an Indyk too. Step by step he convinced the prince that an Indyk may wear clothes, eat regular food and, in the end, sit at the table instead of under it. That way the prince was cured.

Some might say that this story has a direct bearing on his future job, if he is indeed chosen. Two naked Indyks are now under the table, and his job will be to get them to sit at the table and talk seriously about peace.

True, the Palestinians are used to having crumbs thrown to them, but they may now demand some real food.

THE CHANCES for any peace negotiations may be assessed by the atmosphere prevailing on both sides, the terminology they use and the internal discussions they conduct.

These are not very inspiring.

In Israel almost nobody uses the word "peace." Even Tzipi Livni, who will be in charge of the negotiations on our side, talks only about a "final-status agreement" that would "put an end to the conflict," not put an end to the occupation".

Most Israelis ignore the event altogether, believing that Netanyahu's and Mahmoud Abbas' sole aim is to abort the negotiations in such a way as to put the onus on the other side. Most Palestinians believe the same. Peace is definitely not in the air.

However, a poll conducted this week showed that a large majority of Israelis -- 55 to 25 (or, to percentualize it, 69 to 31) -- would vote in a referendum for a peace agreement achieved by the Prime Minister. I have never had any doubt about this.

The idea of holding a referendum about a peace agreement is now being advocated by the Right and resisted by the Left. I am in favor. Without a solid majority, it would in any case be almost impossible for any government to remove settlements. And I believe that any concrete agreement accepted by a credible Palestinian leadership and recommended by the US will receive a resounding "Yes" in a referendum.

MOST OF the experts say that Israel should not strive for an endgame agreement, but for a more modest "interim" agreement. They cite the old Jewish adage: "He who wants to catch too much catches nothing."

I beg to disagree...

First, there is the saying that you cannot cross an abyss in two jumps. No stopping in the middle. We quoted this saying to Yitzhak Rabin after Oslo.

The fatal flaw of the Oslo agreement was that it was all interim. The final aim was not stated. For the Palestinians it was clear that the aim was the setting up of the State of Palestine in all the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. For the Israeli side, this was not clear at all. Absent an agreement on that, every interim step became a point of contention. If you want to go by train from Paris to Berlin, the intermediate stations are different from the ones on the way to Madrid.

Oslo gave up its poor soul somewhere along the way with the endless wrangling about the "safe passage" between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the "third withdrawal" and such.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)
 

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