I am in Tel Aviv breaking bread with noted Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman. His Spanish is as good as his Hebrew, and he has regularly interviewed Israeli prime ministers for decades—including Yitzhak Rabin less than 24 hours before he was assassinated.
But it’s his latest interview that intrigues me the most.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has just told Cymerman on Israeli TV that the Arab world erred in rejecting the United Nations’ 1947 plan to partition Palestine into two states, one for the Jews and another for the Palestinians.
“It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole,” President Abbas told Channel 2 TV.
Abbas’ acceptance of responsibility for the predicament in which both sides find themselves is remarkable, if for no other reason than because no other Palestinian leader has ever acknowledged it as a mistake.
In the six decades that have followed, neither side has been blameless. But it’s the Palestinians who have argued for a reversal of history. By admitting that Arabs should have accepted the UN partition, isn’t Abbas finally accepting that history?
It may not be a game changer—I’m learning that, here in the Middle East, hardly anything ever is— but it could be a start.
But there’s more. After a second helping of duck, salmon and extremely sugary persimmons, Cymerman tells me he was most excited about something else that Abbas said.
He said he was really taken aback by President Abbas’ offer to end all historic claims against Israel once they establish a Palestinian state in the lands occupied by Israel in the 1967 War.
That too is a first, and I know it’s important because of the look in Cymerman’s eyes. This veteran journalist, considered among Israel’s best, seems giddy by the new revelation he shares.
Now if only Hamas or those bearing the brunt of their Qassam rockets could be as excited. More on that in my next post, as I take a helicopter ride to the Gaza border with Gaza, where every 24 hours you can see the rocket’s red glare.