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Uri Savir

Book Review

This book is an excellent companion to "The Arab Center" by Marwan Muasher. Each is a voice of moderation, and each shows the power of the center when it organizes itself around a just cause.

Uri Savir, Israel's Chief Negotiator in the Oslo Process, recalls in his 1998 book The Process:

    "Over the years Israelis had cultivated a self-serving myth that ours was an 'enlightened occupation.' I knew this was a contradiction of terms, but I did not know and I think few other Israelis did how thoroughly we have invaded the lives of our Palestinian neighbors.

    "We repressed this knowledge as we may have been the first conquerors in history who felt themselves conquered. Our self-image as a humane society and history's eternal victim blinded us to what was going on in the territories.

    "What I discovered [in the negotiations] was that a West Bank Palestinian could not build, work, study, purchase land, grow produce, start a business, take a walk at night, enter Israel, go abroad, or visit his family in Gaza or Jordan without a permit from us. During the 28 years of occupation, about a third of the Palestinian population had been detained or imprisoned by Israel and the whole population had been grossly humiliated by us.

    "Some of these restrictions stemmed from legitimate security concerns. But many others were the products of inertia in a burgeoning bureaucratic monster with a bottomless budget to feed on.

    "We had been engaged in dehumanization so long that we really thought ourselves 'more equal' and at the same time the threatened side therefore justifiably hesitant. The group negotiating the transfer of civil powers did not rebel against their mandate, but whenever we offered a concession or a compromise, our people tended to begin by saying: 'We have decided to allow you'."

The Oslo Peace Accords came into being with high hopes on both sides. Seemingly, moderates on each side, combining their talents and good will, had won the day. It was not to be. Fate intervened when a Jewish assassin killed one of his own, Yitzhak Rabin, then prime minister of Israel. The new government began backing away from and eventually killed the accords. This is a stark reminder that terror can arise from any quarter. The emotional balance between peace and violence can be egg-shell thin. It has always been so.

Uri Savir is now Director General, The Peres Center for Peace.


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