A Historian's View From West Bank

Berzeit University Professor Speaks

60 Minutes II Corespondent Bob Simon interviews Musa Budeiry, a Palestinian historian who teaches international politics at Berzeit University in the West Bank 26 kilometers north of Jerusalem.

Bob Simon: As an historian, where do you look to see similar conflicts?

Musa Budeiry: Every conflict is somehow different....I would sort of probably look to a place like Rhodesia or South Africa....Eventually after a long and bloody battle,...those people remained and managed to form, to force some kind of compromise with the indigenous inhabitants which allowed the development of some kind of multinational society.

Simon: Did you believe during these last seven years that there was a real peace process going on?

Budeiry: I don't think there was a peace process....I don't think that really they meant by peace process what people maybe abroad thought as peace process - in that there was a final resolution of outstanding issues, that there was some sort of historic compromise.

Simon: Do you think that (the) seven-year process, whatever you call it, has now come to an end?

Budeiry: Some people think that really this is just a hiccup, this is a little sort of ditch,...that eventually this detour will be found. Because there is no other game in town so to speak.

And there are people here who think that perhaps this current uprising...will drive home to Israelis that they need to think afresh what kind of final solution they're prepared to live with.

Simon: The Israelis hold all the cards; that's one of the most common clichés. Do you think that we've gotten to the point now where the Israelis are cursed with holding all the cards, that they can only lose whereas the Palestinians have nothing to lose?

Budeiry: No, I wouldn't say the Palestinians have nothing to lose. I'm sure the Palestinians have something to lose, 'cause afterall there is what I would called a lunatic fringe within Israeli society which does have scenarios, does have (a) solution vis a vis the Palestinians.

There are still people who say let's empty villages, let's deport people, let's...impose apartheid.

Simon: Do you believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved?

Budeiry: I don't think there are conflicts which cannot be resolved.

The last seven years have shown that both sides want resolution of the conflict, except that both sides still do not understand each other's positions and what they mean by resolution of the conflict.

What the Israelis have arrived at is an inability or the refusing to want to go on, in a sense, living with the acceptance of being occupiers.

Simon: Evacuation from the settlements, evacuation from East Jerusalem, some acknowledgement of the right of return of the refugees from '48 and '67. You think the Israelis are anywhere close to that?

Budeir: I think they're close to settlements, and they're close to finding a resolution to...Jerusalem.

As far as the refugees are concerned,...it's like a moral kind of admission. I think the Israelis are a long way from, from that one.

Since Oslo what we've been talking about when we say the Palestinians...are the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Somehow the Palestinians have, have sort of been defined, redefined as the inhabitants of the area occupied by Israel, and as far as the Israelis are concerned, this is the issue that needs resolution.

Simon: You spoke about the Israelis really wanting to be living not in the Middle East but (in a) Mediterranean country which is European. Is this sustainable?

Budeiry: I've always said it to Israelis actually, that they don't like the neighborhood....They are here, as they see it as a right; they want to be here. But they want to be in a different neighborhood.

So what they can do is to insulate themselves from the neighborhood. And I think in many ways their attempts to arrive at a peaceful settlement is...part of this attempt to separate themselves.

They, they don't want to...be Leventine. They don't want to be part of...this hodgepodge of...Iraqis and Syrians and Egyptians and Lebanese.

Simon: But can it succeed in the long run?

Budeiry: To succeed in the long run, it has to transform itself....Israel has to integrate in the region. Integrate does not mean just peace agreements. The Israelis have to see themselves as part of the Middle East, of Asia not as an outpost of Europe.

Simon: So the new Israeli, the transformed Israel will be a Middle Eastern state, which will bear no resemblance to the Zionist vision. But as a Middle Eastern state perhaps it will be more capable of making peace with other Middle Eastern states including the Palestinians?

Budeiry: I think this area has always been a mixed...The Israelis have a lot to contribute to this part of the world and to the region....This might be pure fantasy.... I'(d) like to think that what you will see eventually here is one state for two peoples.

I'm always amazed how much coexistence there was before '48 despite the realization on both sides that here is a potential enemy.

Simon: Two state solution - it's been...(an) accepted solution now for...many years.

Budeiry: I don't think it's working. I think the attempts to...implement it have led us to where we are now.

Simon: What you're talking about is the ultimate solution, being a one state solution, which is really a way of saying the dissolution of the state of Israel?

Budeiry: Well I think this is the most moderate solution actually. This is a solution which would allow Israel and Palestinians to live in peace together.