It’s not that Israelis were against Egyptians feeling freedom. It’s that Israelis did not themselves want to feel panic.Not just fear. A certain specifically sabra-grade panic, a black dread, too broad to ignore, but too deep and too tangled to read, especially for people who have learned, across four decades of occupation, to deaden anxiety into denial.
What was most shocking, and therefore the hardest to fathom, was that many of the same people on the Israeli and world Jewish right who for 30 years had derided, dismissed, and did their best to deny the peace with Egypt, suddenly voiced fears that this same peace was in danger, that it might be lost in the course of the Tahrir revolution.Abruptly, and as a direct result of revolution in Egypt, Land for Peace has returned. Some of the very rightists who for years have pointed to hasty, unilateral Israeli withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza as proof that no withdrawal can ever work, that pullouts lead only to war, have changed their tune overnight.
The desperate search for new reasons to say no, has brought us the ludicrous demand that Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, in order to talk to us. Of course, no such demand was made of Egypt in 1978, nor of Jordan in 1994, or of the Palestinians the year before. As if self-determination has suddenly become a function of other people deciding for us, who we are. Back to the ghetto.
This, right now, this Egypt, is the acid test of the peace with Israel, and thus, the ultimate test of land-for-peace. If it holds, we will know that it is not only possible, but necessary. And if it doesn’t, we’ll all have to reboot our thinking.
If this peace holds, and this revolution as well, the arguments for Israel’s holding on to the occupation will all weaken. Except, of course, “God told me to,” and “I want my settlements.”
For the present, at least, land for peace is looking more and more realistic.