Monday, February 14, 2011

Stern Stuff

Sol Stern is an old friend. It was Sol who introduced me to Arthur Koestler's Promise and Fulfillment in the early 1970s, and then to Hillel Kook, from whom I learned the phrase "Hebrew Republic." I have spent many warm hours with him and Ruthie and I treasure them.

Sol, alas, is offended by my article in the New York Times Magazine: not original, he says, and not even true. My argument boils down to blaming Israel.

I find Sol's attack saddening, for all the obvious reasons. I never claimed that my piece in the Times was the first to reveal major components of Olmert's offer; I blogged about the things Olmert had informally revealed to various reporters (myself included) long before this new piece. It was precisely because I had heard much about the deal from him on in our casual meetings that I suggested we eventually do a definitive interview, which this was (in conjunction with Olmert's publisher, Yediot Aharonot), and then get Abbas's response.

Anyway, it is the package that seemed to me worth doing: juxtaposing the retrospecitve responses of both leaders, today, and exploring whether the gaps between them suggest a bridgeable deal America could yet propose, irrespective of who did what to whom, when. It is doubly sad to think that Sol, standing in for tens of thousands of American Jewish reflexes, is so anxious that Israel's 40+ year occupation will not be seen empathetically that he refuses to judge the fairness of the deal itself; that he rushes to the conclusion that Palestinians will never accept anything less than Israel's destruction; that, therefore, any talk of a deal in which Israel relents on settlements can only come from people seeking to show Israel in a bad light.

We need to get past these reflexes. And just for the record, Abbas was never given a map, though he never had any trouble reproducing it. All of this is trivial stuff.