Amos Oz: Israelis and Palestinians are wiser than their leaders

From a talk by the Israeli novelist and peace campaigner, at Joseph's Bookstore in north London

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At the very beginning of the current intifada, I predicted that both sides would eventually be forced to return bleeding to the negotiation table. I still think that. How soon, I cannot tell you because I am not a prophet - there is too much competition in the prophecy business in my part of the world. So I won't give you dates.

At the very beginning of the current intifada, I predicted that both sides would eventually be forced to return bleeding to the negotiation table. I still think that. How soon, I cannot tell you because I am not a prophet - there is too much competition in the prophecy business in my part of the world. So I won't give you dates.

But let me be a bearer of some good news - the two nations, the Israelis and the Palestinians, know now that at the end of the day the land will have to divided into two states. Even those on both sides who immensely dislike this solution know that it is impending and unavoidable.

That's a cognitive change; and I'm not talking about my feelings or my impressions. I am talking about consistent public opinion surveys, both in Palestine and in Israel, where the question is not "what is the ideal solution to the problem?", but "what do you predict is going to happen at the end of the day?" It's the first time in 100 years that the two respective nations are ahead of their leaders.

If I had to sum up this situation in a nutshell, I would say that the patients (and I mean both Israelis and Palestinians) are unhappily ready for their surgery - but their doctors are cowards. It's a terrible crisis of leadership on both sides. How nice it would be to see Sharon and Arafat walking hand in hand together into the setting sun, leaving room for a new generation of leaders on both sides. How soon? I don't know.

The writer's latest book is 'A Tale of Love and Darkness' (Chatto & Windus, £17.99)

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