“I believe in the person,” said the Arab MK to me. “Not in land.”
I took a sip of my coffee and answered.
“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. “From the Euphrates to the Nile,” I said and waited.
The MK seemed lost in thought and then surprised me: “You are right. 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, 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, with others I agree less. But why do you call me a liar?”
“You are not a Zionist,” the Arab MK insisted. “I saw you saying 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 can 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. Binyamin 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.