Amos Oz is Israel’s leading novelist, a founder and the best-known voice of Peace Now. He is a bellwether for Israeli doves, for opponents of the occupation who favor Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and a negotiated two-state solution. In a recent conversation, he assessed the political and diplomatic implications of the Hamas electoral victory.
A week after your book How to Cure a Fanatic was published, Hamas won a historic victory in elections for the Palestinian parliament. Do you regard Hamas as an organization of fanatics?
Fanatics are those people of any faith, color, persuasion or political belief who maintain that the end, whatever end, justifies all the means, including the bloody means. By this criterion I am afraid Hamas is a fanatic organization par excellence.
Did Palestinians vote for Hamas because they are fanatics?
Not necessarily. As I read the situation, and as I hear from my Palestinian friends and colleagues, the prime reason for the Hamas victory is the alleged corruption of the Palestinian Authority and its leading movement, Fatah.
In your book you argue that fanaticism is not necessarily a permanent condition. You say that as a child you were “a brainwashed little fanatic all the way.” What made you a young fanatic, and what made you change?
I grew up in a militant atmosphere in a painfully divided Jerusalem, in times of bitter conflict and rivalry. I grew up as a very enthusiastic one-sided Zionist. Over the course of the years, and through some personal experiences, I have discovered that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, like many other conflicts, has two sides, two perspectives, perhaps two logics. The moment you discover this kind of moral and political relativity, you are no longer a fanatic.
Over the past decade, part of the Palestinian movement moved away from what you call fanaticism toward what you call pragmatism.
Not only part of the Palestinian movement–I believe the majority of the Palestinian people now have a pragmatic approach and a realistic attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A majority of the Palestinians–and a majority of the Israelis–know now that, at the end of the day, there is going to be a compromise, a sharing, a two-state solution. Are they happy about it? No. Will there be dancing in the streets once this solution is implemented? Certainly not. Do they regard it as just, or secure, or safe? Probably not. But they accept this as the only possible solution, as the bottom line. This is true of the Israeli Jews, and this is true of the Palestinian Arabs.
Is there evidence since the election of Hamas that a majority of Palestinians still favor a two-state solution?
Public opinion surveys in Palestine week after week after week, for over three years now, including during the worst days of the violent intifada–those surveys show that a majority of Palestinians are prepared to live, unhappily, with a two-state solution. They don’t trust the Israelis, but they will accept it. By the same token, like a mirror image, the majority of Israelis will accept this solution, but don’t trust the Palestinians to accept and respect it.