Pnina Sharvit Baruch
Pnina Sharvit Baruch is a senior research fellow and the head of the program on law and national security at the Israel Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). She retired from the Israel Defense Forces in 2009 at the rank of Colonel after twenty years in the International Law Department, heading the Department from 2003.
In one of my earliest memories, the year is 1977, and we are gathered around the television screen at home, watching the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, descend the stairway of the airplane upon his arrival to Israel. I remember the the sense of a dream come true; the sudden realization of peace—a peace we constantly discussed, sang about and yearned for.
Ten years later the first Intifada broke out in the territories, and I joined the IDF as legal advisor. I offered legal advice regarding the appropriate security means to take in order to stop the violent uprising. Then came the nineties. With Oslo, I became involved in negotiations with the Palestinians, trying yet again to realize the dream of peace. For a while, we felt peace was just a short step away. But the new millennium began with a wave of terror, shattering the dream abruptly. At that point, I started providing legal advice regarding the legitimacy of certain targets and the means to attack them.
The major question we are dealing with today is whether peace is still attainable, or whether it has become, with time, a fantasy.
I am well acquainted with the complexity of the conflict and the depth of the rift between Israelis and Palestinians. I could easily elaborate on the reasons that make the conflict impossible to resolve. Unfortunately, throughout the years I came to realize that attaining a full and comprehensive peace agreement on a single occasion is an unrealistic aspiration. However, I have also understood that reality cannot be described in black and white. The alternative to a full peace accord does not have to be a state of endless friction and violence, or a constant undermining of the state's values.
The fates of Israelis and Palestinians are intertwined, yet each has a different vision regarding the implementation and realization of national identity. Those who believe these distinct aspirations are compatible with a one state solution – whether in the form of a harmonious state serving all its citizens as equal, or in the form of a Jewish state where Palestinians exist as part of an enclave with no civil rights – sentence us, as well as the Palestinians, to oblivion.
Therefore, separation – however difficult and painful — is vital. In saying this, I am by no means undermining our own historical, religious and emotional connection to the Land. However, continuing our full grip of the territories endangers the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Optimally, a separation should be reached through an agreement that includes mutual concessions and is acceptable to the world. The difficulty in such a plan of action, though, is that it turns us into hostages at the mercy of the Palestinians, who have previously put obstacles on the way to similar solutions. Israel must therefore define for itself the goal it wants to reach—and act accordingly.
This line of thought should entail immediate practical steps on the ground, that will enable separation and, when the time comes, the existence of two separate states. This can be achieved without any damage to Israel's security. In addition, we should avoid actions that will potentially be obstacles to the desired separation. It is not rational to invest our human and financial resources in isolated settlements, in the heart of a territory that will be impossible to hang onto in the reality of separation. For little gain, we spend there a great deal of money, channel our military resources to these areas—instead of preparing them for the wars we must fight—and create friction with the Palestinians, unnecessarily inflicting harm on them and causing ourselves damage in the international arena. All this, we do to enable a small ideological minority the realization of their dream. Yet, the dreams of this minority are at direct conflict with my own—and all those who wish to live in a Jewish, democratic and morally just country. No side has a monopoly on dreams. But for the sake of the future of our country, it is imperative that this vision prevail.
I was born on April 1967, which means I have no memories of the Six Day War—unless one counts the stories my mother recounted of kind people on the street, leading the new immigrant and her newborn baby to a bomb shelter, as the sirens went off.