Recently, the Israeli government announced it would not accede to President Obama’s request to stop constructing settlements on the West Bank. This refusal indicates the new Israeli government will continue its obdurate intransigence which can only be explained by a rejection of justice and peace in favor of power and domination. No rational American Jew can sincerely believe that such a strategy will lead to the just claims of security for the Israeli people. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been driving politics in the area and throughout the world for several decades. We all know the complaints on both sides and each side has been right and wrong. The question we now face is whether a solution is conceivable. Without granting a free Palestinian state absent walls, settlements, Bantustan-like divisions of Palestinian lands both Israelis and Palestinians are doomed to carnage indefinitely. The remedies are obvious: (1) a unified Palestinian government renouncing violence against the Jewish state and its right to peaceful existence, and (2) Israel must sincerely commit itself to recognizing a unified Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza roughly in accord with the geographical limits of the 1967 war.
Other sources of conflict need to be resolved by the parties. But this post is directed to those American Jews who simply refuse to condemn the Israeli government’s intransigence even when they would do so in conflicts not involving Israel. Loyalty and dedication are virtues, but they become vices when they replace reason and commonsense. There is no way for this intractable conflict to be resolved without supporting the peace groups within Israel and only American Jews can strike a major blow in that direction. Consider how the Other Israel Newsletter of the struggle for Israeli-Palestinian Peace’s most recent issue states the current state of conflict:
“Unfortunately, right now what we’ve seen not just in Israel, but within the Palestinian territories, among the Arab states, world-wide, is a profound cynicism about the possibility of any progress whatsoever being made towards peace” said US President Obama when meeting King Abdullah of Jordan — the first Middle East leader to visit the White House under its new management. (Previous US Presidents had often granted this honour to the Prime Minister of Israel.)
If anyone could break through the stalemate, it should be Barack Hussein Obama — to arouse hope where there was despair, to set high goals and prove that “Yes, we can!” For a turn in US policy the Netanyahu-Lieberman crew in Israel may provide the right anvil. Still, it’s no mean task.
In the past nine years, “The Peace Process” — and also “Peace” itself — have become virtually dirty words. With the air of stating a self-evident fact, commentators nowadays habitually reiterate that “of course, peace with the Palestinians cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future.”
Israelis take for granted that their government had made “generous offers”, to which Palestinian “responded by suicide bombings and the lobbing of missiles.” As Palestinians see it, on the West Bank Israel never gave them more than a few miserable enclaves, soon engulfed and bloodily re-occupied — while direct Israeli rule in Gaza was merely replaced by a suffocating siege and murderous bombings.
The bottom line, as defined both by Israelis and by Palestinians, sounds remarkably similar: “We tried to make peace with them, but they don’t want it — they just want to kill us and take all the land.” The two sides differ only on who is “Us” and who are “Them.” All too often, this translates into a self-righteous ruthlessness and a total refusal to make any apology for killing and maiming — since “they” brought it upon themselves.
The dark forces on both sides have no intention of voluntarily working for a just and peaceful solution. The dark Israeli forces have no intention of voluntarily permitting an independent Palestinian state worth the name and the dark Palestinian forces will never on their own recognize the legitimacy of the existence of the nation of Israel. While resolution to this conflict cannot be militarily imposed on the parties only a courageous American President, perhaps one who would be willing to serve only one term, can impose the pressure necessary to bring the parties to their senses. And only the American Jewish community can provide such a president with sufficient support for doing so. The first step is for American Jews to insist that the settlements must stop and stop now.