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A just solution is a price worth paying for peace: interview with Israeli Knesset member Dov Khenin
Part one of the interview can be read here.
21st Century Socialism: The Israeli government position, which has also had support from the United States, is that because of the divisions among the Palestinians, and Hamas being in government in Gaza, that effectively they have nobody to negotiate with. What is your view on this?
Khenin: I think this is very far from reality. The Palestinian sections all agreed to give Abu Mazen a mandate to conduct negotiations with Israel. This was also part of the prisoners' document, initiated by all the leaders of the Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including the leaders who belong to Hamas. So there is a real possibility to have a political dialogue with the Palestinian leadership. The thing is, that the Israeli establishment is not willing to pay the price for a peace settlement in the Middle East. That is, withdrawing from the Palestinian territories, establishing a Palestinian state, with Eastern Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and Western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
21st Century Socialism: In terms of achieving a two state solution, one of the stumbling blocks is the removal of the Israeli settlements, which would involve a large population transfer of Jewish settlers from the West Bank into Israel. Then there is the issue of Jerusalem, and also the right of return of the Palestinian refugees who are currently scattered across the Arab world.
Khenin: Speaking about the settlements, we support the dismantlement of the settlements. This is realistic. You know, we had settlements in Gaza, and we had settlements in Sinai. Then Israel abolished the settlements that existed there. Speaking about Jerusalem, the situation there is very complicated. There should be put in place some arrangement that would leave Israeli neighbourhoods under Israeli control, and all Palestinian neighbourhoods under Palestinian control. As a a matter of fact, we understand that there is a willingness among the Palestinian leaders to have a practical solution to the concrete line of the border in Jerusalem.
Speaking about the refugee issue, we believe that Israel should recognise the rights of the refugees, and that the issue of a practical solution should be part of the negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians. There is a basic recognition of rights on the one hand, and there is a practical political solution based on agreement between the political leaderships of the two peoples on the other hand.
21st Century Socialism: What is Hadash's attitude to the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel, and in particular to the firing of rockets into Israel? Does Hadash see a difference between the rocket attacks and other forms of armed struggle such as attacks on the Israeli military?
Khenin: Our position is against any kind of attacks on civilians. We see attacking the civilian population as as a war crime and we resolutely condemn it. Generally speaking, the Palestinians have the right to oppose the occupation, but the the thing that should have a lot of weight here is the practical result of every form of opposition to occupation. There are some forms of opposition to occupation which may only strengthen the occupation; and therefore they are not helpful, they do not lead the freedom struggle into any kind of achievement.
21st Century Socialism: How can international supporters of the Palestinians best express their solidarity?
Khenin: Well, there are a lot of way to express solidarity nowadays: you know, demonstrations, public pressure on governments; because the Israeli establishment relies very heavily on the total support it gets from both the American administration and from European governments. So it is very important for people in Europe and in the United States to put pressure on their own government to support different policies, which will really help an Israeli and Palestinian just peace here in the Middle East.
21st Century Socialism: Hadash, which significantly increased its vote among both Arab and Jewish communities in the recent Israeli general election, has a social programme, which includes for instance the rights of women and sexual minorities. Was that an important element in the election campaign of Hadash?
Khenin: All the issues of a socal nature- you mention women, sexual minorities and so on, were a part of our programme. Some people could argue that we should stress them more broadly in our campaign, but they were a part of our programme, and a part of the issues that we dealt with in our campaign.
21st Century Socialism: Dov, a final question. You are also a member of the leadership of the Israeli Communist Party which is the main component of Hadash. We are in the 21st Century, eighteen years after the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union. Does the Communist Party of Israel have a future, and what do you see as its ideological and philosphical message?
Khenin: Well, for me communism is the idea that we live in a very very unjust world and that we should very radically change it. Of course, there was a very big attempt to change the world in the 20th Century, an attempt that really failed very miserably. And a lot of people learned from this failure that changing the world is not possible. I do not agree with that idea. I do believe that changing the world is very needed, today no less than yesterday, even more than yesterday. We live in a world with a very big crisis- social, economic and environmental. And therefore this world needs very radical, revolutionary change.
However, we should learn from the history of the 20th Century; we should not repeat the mistakes, both the political mistakes and the theoretical mistakes of 20th Century socialism. We should realise that socialism is not possible without democracy. Democracy is part and parcel of what is socialism about. Actually, socialism is about more democracy- it is about more democracy in economy and social issues, and also it is about more democracy in politics, with the aim of taking politics from the hold of big capital.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the failure of 20th Century socialism, but the lesson is not that change is impossible.