Thursday, June 21, 2007

Change the Paradigm of Bias, Part 2

Published in the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, June 22, 2007

Our American government needs to adopt a truly balanced approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, balanced in the true sense of balancing the needs and merits of the parties involved rather than in the perverse sense "balance" is interpreted today, of trying to find a middle ground between outrageous Arab demands and generous Israeli concessions, and continually moving the fulcrum as the Arab demands get more outrageous and Israeli concessions increase.

A truly balanced American policy should be based on the realities created by sixty years of Arab war against Israel along the series of partitions which have put the vast majority of the Palestine Mandate under Arab rule, approximately 17 percent on the Israeli side of the Green Line, a good portion of the West Bank and Gaza effectively under Palestinian Arab governance, and a portion in dispute.

A true balance would recognize the prime importance of Jerusalem to the Jews far outweighs its importance to Muslims. It would recognize the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims is even outweighed by the importance of Hebron to Jews.

A true balance would not continue to virtually ignore the blatant refusal of the Palestinian Authority to abide by its commitment under both the Oslo Accords and the road map to stop resorting to terrorism and would certainly not simultaneously pressure Israel to strangle Jewish communities in the disputed territories.

A true balance would recognize the disputed territories as just that, disputed rather than Palestinian Arab.

A true balance needs to recognize the basic injustices caused by six decades of war against Israel cannot be undone and thus we need to strive to facilitate peace, the only means of minimizing piling future injustices on top of past ones. The culprit behind our unbalanced and counterproductive policy of pressuring Israel into concessions under any and all circumstances is the underlying but mistaken assumption the key to peace is getting Israel to make enough concessions. Israel unwittingly plays into this because the true debate in Israel isn't about the desirability of peace, but about the price Israel should be willing to pay and whether the Arabs could be induced to accept that price. Among Arabs, however, the argument remains over whether they can get more concessions by continued intransigence or by pretending to be interested in peace.

After six decades of war, six decades of Arab refusal to make peace regardless of Israeli concessions, we (America) should put forth our own vision of a future settlement based on the present day realities and reasonable accommodations made by both sides, not just Israel. Primarily this needs to reflect a pragmatic territorial division of the disputed territories.

A pragmatic division would be just that, allocating to the Palestinian Arabs the portions which they primarily populate incorporating into Israel the portions primarily populated by Israelis. It would not involve what has been falsely called a land swap. One can only swap land one owns and the Palestinian Arabs don't own and never have owned any part of the disputed territories. Giving the Palestinian Arabs portions of Israel in return for Israel keeping portions of the territory it has as much right to as the Arabs would reward intransigence and terror, setting another unhealthy precedent.

Our vision of a future settlement should recognize the primacy of Jerusalem to Israel, keeping it undivided as the capital of Israel while recognizing the importance of the Temple Mount to Muslims by giving them a special role in administering the mosques there. Similarly, Israel needs to maintain a special role in Hebron even if it ultimately comes under Arab sovereignty.

Our vision of a future settlement should recognize Jews must have no less right to live, and live safely, in the portions of the disputed territory given to the Arabs than Arabs have to live in Israel, with the same opportunity to choose to accept citizenship there as the Arabs living in Jerusalem have to accept Israeli citizenship.

Consider the following rhetorical questions:

What message does it send when, two years into a terrorist offensive launched by the Palestinian Authority after rejecting a peace proposal offering them approximately ninety-five percent of the disputed territories, including a portion of Israel's capital, the president of the United States reverses decades of American policy and announces support for the establishment of another Palestinian Arab state?

What message does it send when, in response to the Palestinian Arabs voting a terrorist entity into power, our Secretary of State ignores our government's stated policy and insists on the importance of giving the Palestinian Arabs a political horizon they have repeatedly rejected?

There is an obvious way to begin implementing a more balanced policy. We can begin by simply adhering to an American law already on the books with the expressed support of both major parties and every recent president prior to being elected, by finally acting in accordance with the provisions of The Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act of 1995 and ending the Orwellian situation in which there is one country in the world where we do not locate our embassy in its capital. After all, what message does it send when we give Arab terrorists veto power over the implementation of American legislation?

As a first step in creating a true peace process, our president should finally say, "This year in Jerusalem."

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