The other day — flotilla and all — I was thinking about Shimon Peres. The old Israeli political warrior was in Davos, talking to a few of us. This was in 2005. I looked up my journal scribbles on this conversation. Peres was saying that Gaza should one day be ripe for tourism: It has “43 kilometers of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean.” He speculated that the Jewish settlements could be converted to resorts.
Ha-ha. That all assumes that the Palestinians — certainly Palestinian leaders — want a decent life. Want life itself. The Israelis withdrew from Gaza, just as the world wanted them to. They withdrew unilaterally — most of the world wanted that, too. They left the Palestinians infrastructure: gifts. And did the Palestinians get on with the business of life? How’s tourism going, on those beautiful Mediterranean beaches?
Again, ha-ha. The Palestinians, some of them, smashed the infrastructure: Better rubble than greenhouses from Jews. And then, Palestinians made war against Israel, launching rockets at civilians: housewives as they hung out their wash, children going to school, blah, blah, blah — same old stuff. These Palestinians thus proved that their problem was never with “settlers” but with Israel itself — the very existence of that state.
Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere can have a perfectly normal — even a lovely — life, just the second they want it. But they have to want it. And they have to coexist with Israel. People say constantly, “The Arab-Israeli conflict is complicated, very complicated.” You will get approving looks whenever and wherever you say that. But you will not necessarily be correct.
(By the way, that Peres conversation is pretty interesting. Some of my fellow conservatives write him off as a ridiculous, naive dove. In truth, he is more complicated — to coin a word — than that.)