Why can't Margaret Atwood shut up???
Here she goes again - this time with her solution to the Middle East...
But there’s another future: the seventh future. In this future there are two states, “Israel” and “Palestine.” Both are flourishing, and both are members of a regional council that deals with matters affecting the whole area. Trade flows harmoniously between the two viable states, joint development enterprises have been established, know-how is being shared, and, as in Northern Ireland, peace is paying dividends.Where to start? Her scenario puts all the blame on Israel...and then talks of a friendly Syria; peace between Fatah and Hamas; and of, by the way, Hamas comes to the bargaining table with Israel (with no precondition that Israel exist), and then just signs a peace deal with Israel.
That, surely, is a desirable outcome, thinks the stargazer; but how was it achieved? Since he has the gift of virtual time travel, he leaps into the seventh future and looks back at the steps taken to get there.
The impetus came from within Israel. The Israeli leaders saw that the wind had shifted: it was now blowing against the earlier policy of crushing force and the appropriation of occupied lands. What had caused this change? Was it the international reaction to the destructive Cast Lead invasion of Gaza? The misjudged killing of flotilla activists? The gathering boycott activities in the United States and Europe? The lobbying of organizations such as J-Street? The 2010 World Zionist Congress vote to support a settlement freeze and endorse a two-state solution?
For whatever reasons, Israel had lost control of its own story. It was no longer Jack confronting a big bad Giant: the narrative of the small country struggling bravely against overwhelming odds had moved over to the Palestinians. The mantra, “Plant a tree in Israel,” was no longer respectable, as it evoked images of bulldozers knocking down Palestinian olive groves. Israel could not continue along its current path without altering its own self-image beyond recognition. The leadership read the signs correctly and decided to act before a peaceful resolution slipped forever beyond reach. Leaders are supposed to guide their people towards a better and more secure future, they thought: not over the edge of a cliff.
First, the Golan Heights was returned to Syria under a pact that created a demilitarized zone with international supervision. The few Israeli inhabitants were allowed to remain if they wished, though they then paid taxes to Syria.
Then, with the help of a now-friendly Syria, Hamas was invited to the peace negotiations. The enlightened leaders – with an eye to Northern Ireland -- realized that they couldn’t set as a precondition something that remained to be negotiated, so they didn’t demand the pre-recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Hamas, to the surprise of many, accepted the invitation, as it had nothing to lose by doing so. Peace was made between Fatah and Hamas, and Palestine was thus able to present a single negotiating team.
The negotiations were complex, but people worked hard not to lose their tempers. Several North American First Nations negotiators were invited as coaches, as they had much long-term experience and patience, and –remembering South Africa – they knew that yelling and denouncing would not accomplish anything. As soon as they stepped off the plane, they smudged with sage to cleanse the region of its buildup of fear, anger, and hatred, and despair, and with sweetgrass to attract positive emotions.
The agreement took less time than expected, as happens when people are serious. Then the Occupation – disastrous for those in both countries, both physically and morally -- was over, and Palestinian independence was declared. A mutual defense pact was signed, along with a trade and development pact. As Israel had realized that it could not rest its foundation on international law while also violating that law, the borders reverted to those of 1967, with a few land swaps along the edges. Jerusalem was declared an international city, with both an Israeli parliament building and a Palestinian one, and access to the various holy sites for believers.