Issue Date: June 16, 2006
With no peace partner, Israel must assure security
By GARY ROSENBLATT
Israels decisions to build a security barrier between itself and the Palestinians and to disengage from large areas of land conquered in the Six Day War of 1967 against the Arabs are part of a new and sobering recognition that since the two peoples cannot live together, they are both better off living separately.
Studying the Mideast conflict and the long history of attempted peace negotiations, one must conclude that the only thing Israelis can do to truly satisfy their Palestinian neighbors is give up their Jewish state and commit a form of national suicide. That they are not prepared to do.
Consider: For decades, the Palestinians have insisted that Israel remove itself from land it occupied as a result of the 1967 war, though it was a war of survival prompted by Egyptian President Gamal Adbel Nassers pledge to drive the Israelis into the sea.
But when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, reversing his long-held views, decided to get out of Gaza last year, the Palestinians protested, maintaining that such a unilateral move is not consistent with a negotiated settlement between the two parties.
And now that his successor, Ehud Olmert, has announced that he intends to remove tens of thousands of Jews from communities they established on the West Bank, the Palestinians are still upset, insisting that they will be left with cantons rather than a contiguous state of their own.
But while the Palestinians raise complaints about each Israeli effort to end the hostilities, they have yet to put forward a serious plan of their own.
Israeli governments have recognized the principle of a two-state solution, and the fact that two peoples with claim to the same small piece of land should negotiate a series of compromises to live, if not in harmony, then at least without warfare. Israel has shown, time and again, a willingness to give up part of its dream in order to make a Palestinian state a reality.
But the response from PLO leader Yasser Arafat, despite his pledges of peace in 1993, was a strategy of terror as a political as well as military weapon. Finally, his commitment to jihad (holy war), his wide-scale corruption (with his people the victims), and his refusal to compromise (at Camp David in 2000) prompted Washington to acknowledge that he was no partner for peace.
His successor, Abu Mazen, is viewed as more moderate, but he has been either unable or unwilling to disarm and eliminate the terror groups among the Palestinians -- the first step of the so-called Road Map for peace, as established by the Quartet (the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia).
Until the suicide bombings and other attacks against Israeli civilians stop, there can be no hope of serious negotiations toward peace.
The clear winner of the Palestinian elections in January was Hamas, a group founded on and committed to the principle of destroying the Jewish state as anathema to Islam. Read the chilling Hamas charter, with its claims that the Jews are responsible for virtually every war ever fought, and try to convince yourself that its members are not anti-Semites who believe all Jews are the enemy, the children of Satan.
Despite that reality, Prime Minister Olmert intends to meet with President Abu Mazen and try to move forward on peace talks before carrying out his plan for realignment in the West Bank, which would remove an Israeli civilian presence from much of the land.
What, in return, do the Palestinians offer besides vague pledges of halting terror attacks for a limited time? (And the track record of Palestinian leaders on such pledges is zero credibility.)
The reluctant conclusion arrived at by Prime Ministers Sharon and Olmert is that Israel has no real peace partner at this time, and that Israel will do what it must to maintain security for its people, noting that the security barrier need not be permanent. There is no Israeli talk of annexation. When the Palestinians are prepared to discuss a future that allows for a Jewish state in the Mideast, all borders will be up for negotiation. Until then, Israelis will go on trying to live their lives without fear of being blown up in their schools and shopping malls while Palestinians consider the price of waging nonstop warfare: the deaths of their young martyrs, increasing poverty and isolation, and political decisions that have made statehood more distant.
Israel remains prepared to make real sacrifices, to cede land it gained in defensive wars against an enemy committed to its destruction. It did so with Egypt and with Jordan, and it is prepared to do so with the Palestinians. As Prime Minister Olmert told Congress during his recent U.S. visit, We have to relinquish part of our dream to leave room for the dreams of others, so that all of us can enjoy a better future.
When the Palestinians stop claiming victimhood long enough to make one concrete move toward reality and their own future, perhaps there will be a chance for peace.
Israel has extended the olive branch. Lets hope the response is not another round of senseless bloodshed.
Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of The Jewish Week of New York (www.thejewishweek.com).
National Catholic Reporter, June 16, 2006
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