Awaiting change in the neighborhood

Saturday February 2, 2013

Mr. Quart’s Jan. 25 op-ed complaints about Israel’s Palestinian policy are typical for American Jews who publicly distance themselves from their seemingly unenlightened brethren back east, and is similar to the school of denial that enabled German Jews to stand still for their killers.

It’s an unpleasant fact that the Palestinians have wanted to eliminate Israel since 1948. Therein lies a problem for which Israel’s calculated endurance is the ultimate morality and for which Palestinian suffering is a predictable and self-inflicted consequence. Managing the occupation, not ending it, is what’s on Israel’s menu until the neighborhood changes.

Critics rarely refer to the whole picture. From 1947 to 1967 Israel had no presence on the West Bank, and the Palestinians never advocated for an independent state absent Israel’s destruction. In later years a refurbished PLO emerged reflecting an attitude of compromise and co-existence that few could resist. The resulting Oslo Treaty was inspiring and genuinely plausible, but Arafat and his clique lacked the will and power to implement it. The ruthless suicide bombings and civilian missile strikes that continue to this day have comatized and discredited the formerly vibrant Israeli peace movement. It’s possible that a majority of Palestinians are willing to coexist, but they aren’t in control. Ironically, the occupation protects the moderate remnants from extinction. Waiting for another day isn’t only in Israel’s best interests.

Though the West Bank is ancient Israel’s heartland, today’s Israelis have never been enthusiastic about resettling it because too many Palestinians live there; it’s not a Jew-friendly place. The tiny fraction of Israelis who have moved there have done so mostly for economic, not religious, reasons, and are clustered in and around Jerusalem. Many Israeli governments since 1967 have unsuccessfully tendered reasonable ways to adjust the West Bank’s arbitrary pre-1967 Green Line to reflect current demographics as part of a deal, which would have included ending the occupation and cutting-off radical settlements. To say that Israel can do even more for peace shows a dangerous lack of respect for what the Palestinian’s have never been able to do -- coexist.

But there are reasons for optimism. For instance, 1.5 million Palestinians live unmolested as free Israeli citizens, and they just won 10 seats in the Knesset, 8 percent of the total). Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where Arabs can safely protest against their government. One day the West Bank and Gaza will be a happily independent democratic state at peace with its neighbors, which is exactly what Israel wants.




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