Israel will reap what it sows
September 5, 2011
Aryeh Green’s recent guest opinion (“Israel and the Mideast – complex reality simplified,” Aug. 18, 2011, The Aspen Times) sheds more heat than light on the issue. West Bank Palestinians have a desire for personal freedom, and Israel has a desire to incorporate the biblical provinces of Judea and Samaria into Eretz Israel. Bluster and intemperate language will not affect this one way or another.
The success of the 1967 war expanded the 1948 borders by absorbing Golan heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and the Sinai as well as Gaza from Egypt. Not a bad seven days of work. Since then, Egyptian territory was returned through a peace treaty, the Golan heights apparently finessed by locals (other than Druses) voluntarily or involuntarily vacating the premises, and Jordan working it out by surrendering control of the West bank.
Sharon withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005. The West Bank continued to be unilaterally administered until Oslo in 2002. President Clinton helped negotiate the five-year interim agreement dividing administration of the territory into three categories. The big problem for Israel: Nobody left. The classic phrase “a land without people for people without land” no longer applied. What to do. Historically, Israel simply disregarded the Palestinian perspective. The string of resolutions at the UN over the last 40 years bear witness that a majority of world nations including our close allies did consider them to have merit.
It may well be true that the aspirations of Palestinians and their allies would like Israel to disappear but that is theoretical. In actuality Israel is a powerful, established nation with the United States as its protector. It also has uncritical support from Congress, as well as a majority of the Jewish and Christian evangelical community.
Since President Reagan called settlements “unhelpful” to the peace process, settlement activity has steadily increased in size and numbers. Relocating the handful of settlers in Gaza turned into a big deal (Jews don’t expel Jews). Imagine relocating at least 10 times many more, some of whom had settled for more than a generation. Creating facts on the ground has worked as planned.
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Israel and its supporters were highly offended by President Carter’s characterization of the Palestinians’ status in the West Bank as apartheid. However, categorizing his and other criticism as anti-Semitic is beginning to lose its bite, and continuing to say one thing while doing another thing will also run its course. The victim card is still effective, although beginning to show signs of wear.
Without getting into semantics, there are rabbinical laws against intermarriage, separate rules about property, travel restrictions, schooling, military courts and so forth. Describing the conditions that Palestinian residents of the West Bank live out their lives – separate and unequal – would be no more soothing.
Democratic governments have a responsibility, other than security, commerce, welfare, law enforcement etc., to guarantee civil rights to the population that live within their borders. In Israel’s case this includes all territories under its control. The “Arab Spring” has proven that ignoring this expectation has caused the toppling of repressive regimes and perhaps instilled a sense of solidarity with the plight of the West Bank community.
In spite of all the hopeful advocacy of the “two-state” solution, Israel appears well along the road towards a binational state. It is choosing this path of its own free will and will have to accept the consequences.