Reprinted from Gush Shalom
I LIKE the President of the State of Israel, Reuven ("Rubi") Rivlin. I like him very much.
This may seem a bit strange, since he is a man of the Right. He is a member of the Likud party. He believes in what is called in Hebrew "the whole of the Land of Israel."
However, he is a very humane person. He is kind and unassuming, His family has been rooted in Palestine for many generations. He sees himself as the president of all Israelis, including the Arab citizens.
I believe that he harbors a secret contempt for Binyamin Netanyahu and the likes of him. So how was he elected president? The President of Israel is chosen in a secret ballot of the Knesset. I strongly suspect that he did not get all the votes of the Likud, but was elected by the votes of the Left.
THIS WEEK, President Rivlin published a peace plan. That is not a usual act by a president, whose office is mainly ceremonial.
His plan is based on a federation of two "entities" -- a Zionist-Jewish entity and an Arab-Palestinian one.
He did not go into detail. He obviously believes that at this stage it is better to float a general idea and get the people used to it. This may well be wise.
However, it also makes it difficult to judge the plan seriously. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. It can be a very good plan or a very bad plan. Depends. Depends on the details.
Yet the very fact that Rivlin published this idea is positive. In present-day Israel, ideas are frozen. This helps to entrench an atmosphere of resignation, indifference, even despair. "There is no solution" is a very general attitude, fostered by Netanyahu, who drew the convenient (for him) conclusion: "We shall forever live by the sword."
THE IDEA of a federation is not new. I myself have thought about it many times. (I must therefore ask for forgiveness if I repeat things I have mentioned before.)
Before the 1948 war, some of us believed that the Hebrews and the Arabs in this country could fuse into a new, joint nation. The war relieved me of this notion. From what I witnessed, I drew the conclusion that we have in this country two distinct nations, and that any realistic solution must be based on this fact.
Immediately after that war, in early 1949, a small group met to find a solution. The group included a Muslim and a Druze. It created what is now called the Two-state Solution in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, and perhaps beyond. Today this is an overwhelming world consensus.
It was clear to us that two states in a small country like ours cannot exist side by side without very close cooperation between them. We considered whether to call this a federation, but decided not to do so, fearing that this would frighten both sides.
Immediately after the 1956 war (in this country, we are always "immediately after the war") we formed a much larger group which called itself "Semitic Action." It included Nathan Yellin-Mor, the former commander of the underground (or terrorist) Lehi, known to the British as the "Stern Gang," the writers Boaz Evron and Amos Kenan, and others.
We devoted a whole year to producing a document, which, I believe, remains unparalleled to this day. In it we drew up a blueprint for the complete restructuring of the State of Israel, in all spheres of life. We called it the "Hebrew Manifesto."