Einat Wilf, Telling Our Story: Recent Essays on Zionism, the Middle East, and the Path to Peace (self-published, 2018)
Einat Wilf is a former Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset for Independence and Labor Parties. She served as a foreign policy advisor to Shimon Peres and has written frequently for “left-wing” media include Haaretz, but her essays have also appeared in “right-wing” media such as The Tower Magazine.
Most of the essays in Telling Our Story appeared in 2016 and 2017. One observation reading these essays three and four years after they appeared in print is how much has changed . . . and how little has changed.
The big change since these essays has been the impact of the presidency of Donald Trump on Israeli politics. By moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, by recognizing the Golan Heights as a legitimate part of Israel, and by submitting a peace proposal early in 2020, Trump has re-defined some of the issues Wilf discusses. Additional factors Wilf could not have foreseen were the three inconclusive elections held in 2019 and 2020 and the impact of the corona virus pandemic.
Yet there is been almost no movement on underlying problems that have prevented a peace agreement from being forged between the leaders of the organizations that claim to represent the Palestinian people and the Jewish state of Israel. The primary issues where little or no movement has occurred are setting permanent boundaries between the two sides and the “right of return” issue.
On the question of boundaries, Trump’s peace proposal calls for inclusion within the boundaries of Israel virtually all of the West Bank settlement communities. Wilf on the other hand only proposed 75% of the population should be included.
On the ‘right of return’ issue, Trump and Wilf both recognize the Arabs’ demand for a ‘right of return’ for any and all Arabs who claim ancestry in land now occupied by Israel is incompatible with a two-state solution.
Wilf’s essays were directed mainly at the Israeli Left, believing the Left’s positions on the Palestinian question were a roadblock to a solution. Whether she still holds that position today is an open question. However, it is clear the Left no longer holds a strong enough political position in Israel to have much of an influence on the outcome of negotiations. A large majority of the Jewish Israeli public side with Likud on the topic. Even a majority of supporters of the centrist Blue and White Party that entered into a coalition government with Likud in the spring of 2020 hold strong defense-first views on the issues.
Wilf is probably the hundred and first person to try to define in writing the details of a territorial-specific peace agreement. None though written in good faith, seeking to be fair to the Palestinians, have yielded the desired results. Such is the problem when one side wants peace and the other side wants all or nothing.
The Trump proposal struck a new direction in permitting Israel to take steps to apply sovereignty to specific communities that would be part of Israel under any agreement on the theory that this would pressure the Palestinian’s leaders to get off their behinds and agree to negotiate.
I have little hope that this tactic will succeed. The reason? Any Palestinian official who accepts the premise has just consigned himself and his entire family to the nearest cemetery. That is why the majority of Israelis have reached the only rational point of view. They favor those policies that maintain maximum security and reject any that jeopardize security. Who can blame them?