Peace is more than just a real estate deal

Avraham Burg (by David Shankbone)

I heard an interesting talk at the weekend by Avraham Burg, a former member of the Israeli parliament and a man on the fringes these days of Israeli politics. That makes him probably quite a good candidate for a place on this blog, which tends to be unapproving of most mainstream political leaders.

Avraham Burg was speaking about his book, “The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from its Ashes”, and his argument that Israel must cease seeing itself as a unique victim in world politics. The reaction to the Holocaust of never again must not mean never again for Jews, but never again for anyone, he says. An Israeli policy of building bigger walls and deeper bunkers represents the former reaction and not the latter.

He is critical of the Israeli left, too, which treats peace as though it were simply a real estate deal. What about justice? What about trust? These are components of peace, too, but the opportunities to achieve them have been missed.

For example, the Oslo agreement of 1994 was a moment at which there was a shared interest in a two state solution and the two sides could have started to follow the same policy, but since then they have diverged again. The continuing rhetoric of anti-semitism and violence, which became actual violence, on one side, and the continued expansion of settlements in the occupied territories on the other: these drove the two sides apart. So bringing them back together again will require more than just a deal over land.

Avraham Burg has high hopes that the European Union might play a role in assisting this process, as an example or an actor, or even as an attractive force. But Europe is struggling with its own problems at the moment and seems to be reluctant to take on new ones.

He is sometimes criticised as being naïve. But, he replies, is that a fair thing to say about someone who has managed a career of 25 years in Israeli politics?

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