Grossman, one of Israel's foremost writers and a figurehead for itsmain peace movement, Peace Now, personifies the caring, tortured faceof Zionism that so many of the country's apologists -- in Israel andabroad, trenchant and wavering alike -- desperately want to believesurvives, despite the evidence of the Qanas, Beit Hanouns and othermassacres committed by the Israeli army against Arab civilians.Grossman makes it possible to believe, for a moment, that the ArielSharons and Ehud Olmerts are not the real upholders of Zionism'slegacy, merely a temporary deviation from its true path.In reality, of course, Grossman draws from the same ideologicalwell-spring as Israel's founders and its greatest warriors. Heembodies the same anguished values of Labor Zionism that won Israelinternational legitimacy just as it was carrying out one of history'sgreat acts of ethnic cleansing: the expulsion of some 750,000Palestinians, or 80 per cent the native population, from the bordersof the newly established Jewish state.(Even critical historians usually gloss over the fact that thepercentage of the Palestinian population expelled by the Israeli armywas, in truth, far higher. Many Palestinians forced out during the1948 war ended up back inside Israel's borders either because underthe terms of the 1949 armistice with Jordan they were annexed toIsrael, along with a small but densely populated area of the West Bankknown as the Little Triangle, or because they managed to slip backacross the porous border with Lebanon and Syria in the monthsfollowing the war and hide inside the few Palestinian villages insideIsrael that had not been destroyed.)Remove the halo with which he has been crowned by the world's liberalmedia and Grossman is little different from Zionism's mostdistinguished statesmen, those who also ostentatiously displayed theirhand-wringing or peace credentials as, first, they dispossessed thePalestinian people of most of their homeland; then dispossessed themof the rest; then ensured the original act of ethnic cleansing wouldnot unravel; and today are working on the slow genocide of thePalestinians, through a combined strategy of their physicaldestruction and their dispersion as a people.David Ben Gurion, for example, masterminded the ethnic cleansing ofPalestine in 1948 before very publicly agonising over the occupationof the West Bank and Gaza -- even if only because of the demographicdamage that would be done to the Jewish state as a result.Golda Meir refused to recognise the existence of the Palestinianpeople as she launched the settlement enterprise in the occupiedterritories, but did recognise the anguish of Jewish soldiers forcedto "shoot and cry" to defend the settlements. Or as she put it: "Wecan forgive you [the Palestinians] for killing our sons. But we willnever forgive you for making us kill yours."Yitzhak Rabin, Grossman's most direct inspiration, may have initiateda "peace process" at Oslo (even if only the terminally optimistictoday believe that peace was really its goal), but as a soldier andpolitician he also personally oversaw the ethnic cleansing ofPalestinian cities like Lid in 1948; he ordered tanks into Arabvillages inside Israel during the Land Day protests of 1976, leadingto the deaths of half a dozen unarmed Palestinian citizens; and in1988 he ordered his army to crush the first intifada by "breaking thebones" of Palestinians, including women and children, who threw stonesat the occupying troops.Like them, Grossman conspires in these original war crimes byprefering to hold on to what Israel has, or even extend it further,rather than confront the genuinely painful truth of his responsibilityfor the fate of the Palestinians, including the hundreds of thousandsof refugees and the millions of their descendants.Every day that Grossman denies a Right of Return for the Palestinians,even as he supports a Law of Return for the Jews, he excuses andmaintains the act of ethnic cleansing that dispossessed thePalestinian refugees more than half a century ago.And every day that he sells a message of peace to Israelis who look tohim for moral guidance that fails to offer the Palestinians a justsolution -- and that takes instead as its moral yardstick the primacyof Israel's survival as a Jewish state -- then he perverts the meaningof peace.Another Israeli peace activist, Uri Avnery, diagnoses the problemposed by Grossman and his ilk with acute insight in a recent article.Although Grossman wants peace in the abstract, Avnery observes, heoffers no solutions as to how it might be secured in concrete termsand no clues about what sacrifices he or other Israelis will have tomake to achieve it. His "peace" is empty of content, a mere rhetoricaldevice.Rather than suggest what Israel should talk about to the Palestinians'elected leaders, Grossman argues that Israel should talk over theirheads to the "moderates", Palestinians with whom Israel's leaders cando business. The goal is to find Palestinians, any Palestinians, whowill agree to Israel's "peace". The Oslo process in new clothes.Grossman's speech looks like a gesture towards a solution only becauseIsrael's current leaders do not want to speak with anybody on thePalestinian side, whether "moderate" or "fanatic". The onlyinterlocutor is Washington, and a passive one at that.If Grossman's words are as as "hollow" as those of Ehud Olmert, Avneryoffers no clue as to reasons for the author's evasiveness. In truth,Grossman cannot deal in solutions because there is almost noconstituency in Israel for the kind of peace plan that might proveacceptable even to the Palestinian "moderates" Grossman so wants hisgovernment to talk to.Were Grossman to set out the terms of his vision of peace, it mightbecome clear to all that the problem is not Palestinian intransigence.Although surveys regularly show that a majority of Israelis support aPalestinian state, they are conducted by pollsters who never specifyto their sampling audience what might be entailed by the creation ofthe state posited in their question. Equally the pollsters do notrequire from their Israeli respondents any information about what kindof Palestinian state each envisages. This makes the nature of thePalestinian state being talked about by Israelis almost as empty ofcontent as the alluring word "peace".After all, according to most Israelis, Gazans are enjoying the fruitsof the end of Israel's occupation. And according to Olmert, hisproposed "convergence" -- a very limited withdrawal from the West Bank-- would have established the basis for a Palestinian state there too.When Israelis are asked about their view of more specific peace plans,their responses are overwhelmingly negative. In 2003, for example, 78per cent of Israeli Jews said they favoured a two-state solution, butwhen asked if they supported the Geneva Initiative -- which envisionsa very circumscribed Palestinian state on less than all of the WestBank and Gaza -- only a quarter did so. Barely more than half of thesupposedly leftwing voters of Labor backed the Geneva Initiative.This low level of support for a barely viable Palestinian statecontrasts with the consistently high levels of support among IsraeliJews for a concrete, but very different, solution to the conflict:"transfer", or ethnic cleansing. In opinion polls, 60 per cent ofIsraeli Jews regularly favour the emigration of Arab citizens from theas-yet-undetermined borders of the Jewish state.So when Grossman warns us that "a peace of no choice" is inevitableand that "the land will be divided, a Palestinian state will arise",we should not be lulled into false hopes. Grossman's state is almostcertainly as "hollow" as his audience's idea of peace.Grossman's refusal to confront the lack of sympathy among the Israelipublic for the Palestinians, or challenge it with solutions that willrequire of Israelis that they make real sacrifices for peace, deservesour condemnation. He and the other gurus of Israel's mainstream peacemovement, writers like Amos Oz and A B Yehoshua, have failed in theirduty to articulate to Israelis a vision of a fair future and a lastingpeace.So what is the way out of the impasse created by the beatification offigures like Grossman? What other routes are open to those of us whorefuse to believe that Grossman stands at the very precipice beforewhich any sane peace activist would tremble? Can we look to othermembers of the Israeli left for inspiration?Uri Avnery again steps forward. He claims that there are only twopeace camps in Israel: a Zionist one, based on a national consensusrooted in the Peace Now of David Grossman; and what he calls a"radical peace camp" led by … well, himself and his group of a fewthousand Israelis known as Gush Shalom.By this, one might be tempted to infer that Avnery styles his ownpeace bloc as non-Zionist or even anti-Zionist. Nothing could befurther from the truth, however. Avnery and most, though not all, ofhis supporters in Israel are staunchly in the Zionist camp.The bottom line in any peace for Avnery is the continued existence andsuccess of Israel as a Jewish state. That rigidly limits his ideasabout what sort of peace a "radical" Israeli peace activist ought tobe pursuing.Like Grossman, Avnery supports a two-state solution because, in boththeir views, the future of the Jewish state cannot be guaranteedwithout a Palestinian state alongside it. This is why Avnery findshimself agreeing with 90 per cent of Grossman's speech. If the Jewsare to prosper as a demographic (and democratic) majority in theirstate, then the non-Jews must have a state too, one in which they canexercise their own, separate sovereign rights and, consequently,abandon any claims on the Jewish state.However, unlike Grossman, Avnery not only supports a Palestinian statein the abstract but a "just" Palestinian state in the concrete,meaning for him the evacuation of all the settlers and a fullwithdrawal by the Israeli army to the 1967 lines. Avnery's peace planwould give back east Jerusalem and the whole of the West Bank and Gazato the Palestinians.The difference between Grossman and Avnery on this point can beexplained by their different understanding of what is needed to ensurethe Jewish state's survival. Avnery believes that a lasting peace willhold only if the Palestinian state meets the minimal aspirations ofthe Palestinian people. In his view, the Palestinians can be persuadedunder the right leadership to settle for 22 per cent of their historichomeland -- and in that way the Jewish state will be saved.Of itself, there is nothing wrong with Avnery's position. It hasencouraged him to take a leading and impressive role in the Israelipeace movement for many decades. Bravely he has crossed over nationalconfrontation lines to visit the besieged Palestinian leadership whenother Israelis have shied away. He has taken a courageous standagainst the separation wall, facing down Israeli soldiers alongsidePalestinian, Israeli and foreign peace activists. And through hisjournalism he has highlighted the Palestinian cause and educatedIsraelis, Palestinians and outside observers about the conflict. Forall these reasons, Avnery should be praised as a genuine peacemaker.But there is a serious danger that, because Palestinian solidaritymovements have misunderstood Avnery's motives, they may continue to beguided by him beyond the point where he is contributing to a peacefulsolution or a just future for the Palestinians. In fact, that momentmay be upon us.During the Oslo years, Avnery was desperate to see Israel complete itssupposed peace agreement with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Ashe often argued, he believed that Arafat alone could unify thePalestinians and persuade them to settle for the only two-statesolution on the table: a big Israel, alongside a small Palestine.In truth, Avnery's position was no so far from that of the distinctlyunradical Oslo crowd of Rabin, Peres and Yossi Beilin. All four ofthem regarded Arafat as the Palestinian strongman who could secureIsrael's future: Rabin hoped Arafat would police the Palestinians onIsrael's behalf in their ghettoes; while Avnery hoped Arafat wouldforge a nation, democratic or otherwise, that would contain thePalestinians' ambitions for territory and a just solution to therefugee problem.Now with Arafat gone, Avnery and Gush Shalom have lost theirready-made solution to the conflict. Today, they still back two statesand support engagement with Hamas. They have also not deviated fromtheir long-standing positions on the main issues -- Jerusalem,borders, settlements and refugees -- even if they no longer have theglue, Arafat, that was supposed to make it all stick together.But without Arafat as their strongman, Gush Shalom have no idea abouthow to address the impending issues of factionalism and potentialcivil war that Israel's meddling in the Palestinian political processare unleashing.They will also have no response if the tide on the Palestinian streetturns against the two-state mirage offered by Oslo. If Palestinianslook for other ways out of the current impasse, as they are startingto do, Avnery will quickly become an obstacle to peace rather than itsgreat defender.In fact, such a development is all but certain. Few knowledgeableobservers of the conflict believe the two-state solution based on the1967 lines is feasible any longer, given Israel's entrenchment of itssettlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank, now numbering nearly half amillion. Even the Americans have publicly admitted that most of thesettlements cannot be undone. It is only a matter of time beforePalestinians make the same calculation.What will Avnery, and the die-hards of Gush Shalom, do in this event?How will they respond if Palestinians start to clamour for a singlestate embracing both Israelis and Palestinians, for example?The answer is that the "radical" peaceniks will quickly need to findanother solution to protect their Jewish state. There are not too manyavailable:* There is the "Carry on with the occupation regardless" of BinyaminNetanyahu and Likud;* There is the "Seal the Palestinians into ghettoes and hopeeventually they will leave of their own accord", in its Kadima (hard)and Labor (soft) incarnations;* And there is the "Expel them all" of Avigdor Lieberman, Olmert's newMinister of Strategic Threats.Paradoxically, a variation on the last option may be the mostappealing to the disillusioned peaceniks of Gush Shalom. Lieberman hashis own fanatical and moderate positions, depending on his audienceand the current realities. To some he says he wants all Palestiniansexpelled from Greater Israel so that it is available only for Jews.But to others, particularly in the diplomatic arena, he suggests aformula of territorial and population swaps between Israel and thePalestinians that would create a "Separation of Nations". Israel wouldget the settlements back in return for handing over some small areasof Israel, like the Little Triangle, densely populated with Palestinians.A generous version of such an exchange -- though a violation ofinternational law -- would achieve a similar outcome to Gush Shalom'sattempts to create a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. Evenif Avnery is unlikely to be lured down this path himself, there is areal danger that others in the "radical" peace camp will prefer thiskind of solution over sacrificing their commitment at any price to theJewish state.But fortunately, whatever Avnery claims, his peace camp is not theonly alternative to the sham agonising of Peace Now. Avnery is no morestanding at the very edge of the abyss than Grossman. The only abyssAvnery is looking into is the demise of his Jewish state.Other Zionist Jews, in Israel and abroad, have been grappling with thesame kinds of issues as Avnery but begun to move in a differentdirection, away from the doomed two-state solution towards abinational state. A few prominent intellectuals like Tony Judt, MeronBenvenisti and Jeff Halper have publicly begun to question theircommitment to Zionism and consider whether it is not part of theproblem rather than the solution.They are not doing this alone. Small groups of Israelis, smaller thanGush Shalom, are abandoning Zionism and coalescing around new ideasabout how Israeli Jews and Palestinians might live peacefullytogether, including inside a single state. They include Taayush,Anarchists Against the Wall, Zochrot and elements within the IsraeliCommittee against House Demolitions and Gush Shalom itself.Avnery hopes that his peace camp may be the small wheel that can pushthe larger wheel of organisations like Peace Now in a new directionand thereby shift Israeli opinion towards a real two-state solution.Given the realities on the ground, that seems highly unlikely. But oneday, wheels currently smaller than Gush Shalom may begin to pushIsrael in the direction needed for peace.