“I believe in the person,” the Arab MK said to me. “Not in land.”
I took a sip of coffee and said, “I believe in the connection between the person and the land.”
“And this land that you are talking about – where exactly is it?” asked the MK.
I decided to take a minimalistic approach. I replied, “From the Euphrates to the Nile.” I waited.
The MK seemed lost in thought. He then surprised me. “You are right,” he said. “That’s what it says in our Koran, that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews.”
“But you are a liar,” the Arab MK continued, again surprising me.
“Until now, we have been having a respectable conversation,” I retorted. “Why insult me?”
“Because you are not a Zionist!”
“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked. “I agree with some parts of Zionism, agreeing less with other parts. But why do you call me a liar?”
“You are not a Zionist,” the Arab MK insisted. “I saw you say your prayers before you drank your coffee. You are not a Zionist. I can get along with you – but with the Zionists, I can’t.”
Our conversation had taken a very unexpected turn, and I wanted to be sure that I understood him correctly.
“Perhaps you are confused and think that I am ultra-Orthodox,” I answered. “Listen to me closely. I am all for the Israeli flag, two stripes and the Star of David from the Nile to the Euphrates – and you tell me that you can get along with me? But with the Zionists, who are constantly offering you more and more pieces of their land – with them, you never get along. If Ben-Gurion had declared the state within the borders of the Histadrut building – a place that no Arab foot had ever stepped – you would also have attacked there and slaughtered everyone.”
“True,” answered the MK without hesitation. “It is not a question of territory at all. It is a question of substance. For an Arab, the word ‘Zionism’ is the most foul of words. The Zionists are colonialists, heretics, white men who came from Europe and forced themselves upon us. You are something different. We can get along with you.”
I believe the prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu is not Ariel Sharon. He has been honest. He has spoken about the two-state solution at the most respectable venues in Israel and overseas, and has remained firm in his stand. But even if he retreats to the Histadrut building, he will not have peace.
This column was translated from the Hebrew version, which appeared in Makor Rishon.