And then, in the morning after Algiers, there came the coup de grace from Peres' Foreign Ministry. "Once again," a spokesman said reflectively, "the organization that claims to represent the Palestinian people proves unable or unwilling to recognize reality." The Israelis, for years the absolute masters of Palestinian reality and fate, can afford playing with words and blaming yet another one of their failures on the Palestinians. While the leadership of the Labor Party is blindly engaged in sniffing around for positions of power in Shamir's government, bringing the country back to the deadly Square One that preceded the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the same leadership is accusing the PLO of being unable or unwilling to recognize reality.
Two months ago Peres was asked by a young Israeli writer in the newspaper Haaretz: Do you dream of political subjects? "No," Peres answered, "I have very few dreams. I sleep little but deep." Two weeks ago Dahn Ben-Amots, a famous journalist in Israel, a writer and civil-rights activist whose mentor as a young emigrant from Poland was Peres himself, told the weekly Koteret Rasheet: "I'm afraid the Zionist experiment is striding self-assuredly toward catastrophe . . . It was nice, but soon it will be over." Leaving Israel has become a possibility for him.
Rumor has it that Mahmoud Darwish, the leading Palestinian poet, was the one who wrote the declaration (or its first draft at least, in Arabic), while consulting the one written 40 years ago by Ben-Gurion. Whoever the author was, he should have relied more on the Ben-Gurion text; some of its genuine, lean grandeur might have come through his version; and some of its concinnity, its concise linguistic approach, might have shortened his version by a (redundant) third, or 500 words. Too little butter spread on too large a pita.
Stylistic reservations aside, Palestinians should rejoice with what they have: Now their right to dream is legitimate. And that is exactly what vexes the Jewish Israelis, who are running out of dreams and visions. They would read the opening of the Palestinian declaration: "Palestine, the land of the three monotheistic faiths, is where the Palestinian Arab people was born, on which it grew, developed and excelled," and they would immediately recognize the origin in Ben-Gurion's text: "Eretz Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped." And later the sentence, "Now by virtue of natural, historical and legal rights . . . ," would echo the Israeli origin: "By virtue of our natural and historic right. . . . " This might also explain, to a great extent, why Israel is so ruthlessly thumbing down the \o7 intifada\f7 ; the frustrated, disappointed ex-dreamers cannot bear to see their dreams from 1948 being vigorously plagiarized, so to speak, by young Palestinians across the Green Line.
One of the most captivating phrases in the American Declaration of Independence is "the pursuit of happiness" being an "unalienable right." I looked for this word in both the Palestinian declaration and in the Israeli one. Happiness is not mentioned in either. People in the Middle East would settle for a plot of land; happiness for them remains a yet another distant dream.