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Israel Revisited

(By Lefteris Pitarakis -- Associated Press)

The second Palestinian uprising broke out a year after that book's publication in 1999.

"It sent people politically, like a centrifuge, spinning in all directions," Morris says. "It polarized the Israeli left, driving those inclined to the far left farther that way and those of us in the Zionist left in the other direction."

In Morris's view, shared by many Israelis, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was responsible for the collapse of U.S.-brokered peace talks at the time and the violence that followed.

Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat most of the West Bank, Gaza and parts of East Jerusalem. But that left unresolved the demand of refugees to return to their homes, a problem that is "the most unsolvable because it is wrapped up in identity," Morris believes.

"My feeling during the first intifada was that they wanted us off their backs," he says of the Palestinians. "My sense of the second intifada was that they both wanted us off their backs and they wanted to destroy us. Something had changed within the Palestinians."

Morris's research had long suggested to him that the Arabs would never accept a Jewish state in Palestine. The second uprising, spearheaded by the radical Islamic movement Hamas, confirmed his view that "Arab rejectionism has always been very deep and very religious."

He began speaking out in interviews. Among his more surprising contentions was that Ben-Gurion should have expelled more Palestinians during the 1948 war to leave a stronger Jewish majority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

"If the man was already driving out people, maybe he should have gone the whole hog," Morris says now. "Perhaps in the end population exchanges and transfers, although they may have caused great suffering at the time, may in the long run have been better for everyone concerned."

Pappe, a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa, shared countless lecture hall stages with Morris after their first books appeared, and the men became friends. Now they no longer speak, their relationship poisoned by a series of angry public exchanges rooted in their vastly different interpretations of Israel's history.

"Morris bothers me for what he represents, not as a person," Pappe says during a visit to his cluttered university office. "The extremes he is willing to go to justify Zionism and the prejudice he shows against the Palestinians is shared by so many Jews."

Trying to Find Justice

In worn khakis and a flannel shirt, Benny Morris walks the forest path each day with his two frisky dogs, Luca and Kawa, and tends to a yard of lemon and mango trees.

His general history of 1948 will be published later this year. His previous book was a revised version of his first, titled "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited." Drawing on declassified military archives and the minutes of cabinet meetings, it is nearly twice the length of the original. It gives "a much better picture of what happened, although the conclusions are remarkably similar," Morris says.

He soon will begin an examination of whether the Mideast conflict should be resolved by forging a single nation of Arabs and Jews or two states for two peoples.

"Two states is the only solution with an element of justice," Morris says. "But there are two other realistic solutions -- one is that the Jews will kick out all the Arabs across the river, and the other is that the Arabs will throw the Jews into the sea. I'm not sure one of them won't happen."

The book, he says, will be his last on the Middle East.

"The problem that existed here in 1947 remains today -- the Arabs don't accept Israel's presence," Morris says. "A major switch in mind-set must occur for peace to come. That is the sine qua non of any peace agreement. All the rest -- the road map, the peace process -- is just footwork."

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