I’ve been closely following the Middle East and Israel for many years, starting as a teenager (I’m 56 years old now!).
What strikes me is that, no matter how much things change, the underlying conflict remains the same.
Over many years, we’ve been treated to a variety of variations on a theme. “Israel is an aggressor”, “Israel is an occupier”, “Israel violates human rights”, etc. etc. ad nauseum.
While I have no doubt whatsoever that not all Israelis are angels, and that there are abuses by some, I have no less doubt that the vast majority are simply people who want peace with their neighbors, and also want security.
Many years ago, Golda Meir summed it all up nicely, saying “We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.” Golda Meir, to Anwar Saddat just before the peace talks.
Over time, we have heard various Arab leaders claim that “if only Israel would withdraw from fill in the blank there would be peace in the Middle East. We’ve seen world leaders, who should know better, claim that a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict would bring peace to the Middle East. We have seen Israel withdraw from Sinai, Gaza, Southern Lebanon, and turn over administrative control of most of the West Bank, but it did not bring peace. Instead, it brought more conflict, and stronger, more confident demands on the part of the Arabs.
The truth, as Benjamin Netanyahu told the US congress recently, is that unless Israel disappears, the Arab world (and Muslim world) will never accept it. They didn’t accept Israel in 1948, and they still don’t.
The crocodile tears shed throughout the Arab World for their “poor, Palestinian brethren” are just that – total falsehood. If they really cared, they would have helped them resettle in the various Arab countries around Israel, and in the West Bank.
In today’s world, Israel occupies the very unique position of becoming a pariah state for simply existing. For surviving. The NERVE of those Jews! Surviving? Thriving? In their ancient homeland? How DARE they?
The answers, thanks to people like President Obama, who set the potential for negotiations back 30 years or more with his misguided attack on Jewish building, are further away than ever.
Now, the Palestinians dictate the terms.
But wait. Didn’t Israel conquer the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 in a defensive war? What international law requires them to give it all back? And, to whom? To the previous occupiers? Which ones? The Jordanians (who also didn’t exist before the last century)? How about the British or the Turks? Maybe the Seljuks would like it back.
In the final analysis, it will all come down to a few, relatively simple choices.
Israel will need to either totally capitulate to the demands of the Arab world, which clearly the Europeans and Obama would have them do, giving up all Jewish settlements over the 1949 armistice lines and half of Jerusalem, leaving Israel with untenable and insecure borders, or, Israel will need to stand up and tell the world that they will not capitulate. They will keep densely populated Jewish areas, they will keep Jerusalem, keep the Golan, and any borders must allow for some measure of security.
I think that Netanyahu, in his speech (which many are touting as a disaster or the best thing since sliced bread) to congress, did a wonderful job laying out the position and needs of Israel. My own wish is that Israel will stand firm on most of those things, and essentially tell the Palestinians that they are welcome to a state, but since clearly, for all intents and purposes, the West Bank and Gaza are currently two completely separate entities, with widely diverging goals and governments, they must choose between the path of peace and the path of war.
Just as clearly, Hamas in Gaza is committed, just as are Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, to the path of war.
The PA/Fatah, in the West Bank, while still committed internally to conquering Israel, are a more likely partner for Israel, even though since they tell vastly different stories in English and Arabic, the likelihood of reaching an actual long term peace agreement is distant.
My feeling is that in the longer term, a new state of Palestine, even if declared and including both the West Bank and Gaza, will end up as two separate entities. A state of Palestine in the West Bank, and a state of Gaza.
Ideally, it would make sense for Egypt to absorb Gaza into Egypt, since they are very similar in culture, and now that the Muslim Brotherhood is rising in prominence in Egypt following the ouster of Mubarak, they are light years closer in ideology as well.
Bottom line, I believe that in September, the PA will declare a state on the 1949 armistice lines, and Israel will respond by annexing all (or most) of Jerusalem, all the major Jewish towns (settlements) along and near the “Green Line”, will draw a border they can live with, and will simply tell the PA “tough”.
At that point, Israel SHOULD withdraw from whatever settlements are beyond the new border, since it will be impossible to defend those settlements from the new, Judenrein (Apartheid) state of Palestine, and should tell the Palestinians to have a great life, but if even one rocket or mortar flies over the border, there will be massive retaliation.
And, the first time it happens, as it inevitably will, they should retaliate. Not wait years as was done with Gaza.