Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Israel and Palestine; The Two State Solution

What is preventing a two state solution?

What does a two state solution mean?

When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." Lewis Carroll.

Here are two key questions;

A. ”Two states for two peoples” is the position of the majority of Jews, both in Israel and in America. Why isn’t it happening?

 B. Why does the government of Israel insist that the Arabs recognize the existence of a Jewish state? Many persons, both Arab and Jew, believe that this is simply nit picking, possibly a deliberate stratagem designed to serve as a barrier to proceeding with negotiations.

The expression “two states for two peoples” has different meaning for the two parties to the conflict, meanings that are mutually exclusive. Here is a primer, with seven parts and a conclusion.

1. For the Israeli Jews, the two states will be a Palestinian Arab state, (to which any Palestinian may “return”, but no Jews will be allowed to live there, no matter how long they and their families have been there), and a Jewish state, in which the rights of all minorities will be safeguarded

2. For the Palestinian Arabs, there will also be two states. They agree with the Jews on one of those. There will be an Arab state, free of Jews. . However, the other state is to be a binational, not a Jewish state, and Palestinians Arabs may invoke the “right of return”, entering this state in large numbers.. Demographics are such that the binational state will eventually be a majority Arab state, and if democracy prevails will be controlled by Arabs. Palestinian Arabs will live in both states, Jews will only be permitted in the binational state, where they will eventually be a minority,.

3. For the Arabs, there can never be a Jewish state in the Middle East. This is fundamental, and is why there have been multiple wars. This principle has been reiterated by President Abbas (“we refuse to recognize a Jewish state”) and by all the key figures in both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. This intransigence by the Arabs makes peace most unlikely at the present time.

In 2000, in talks brokered by President Clinton, a two state plan was offered to the Palestinians by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. President Arafat said no, offered no alternate proposal, walked away, and started a deadly intifada. Similarly in 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered a deal that would have given the Palestinians the equivalent of 100% of the West Bank. This too was refused.

Why did the Palestinian Arabs shun these opportunities? Because for them preventing a Jewish state is more important than having their own state. If this were not so, a Palestinian state would have been established many years ago.

4. For the Jews, there must be a State of Israel , and it must be a Jewish state, meaning the end of subjugation as a people. This is the essence of the Zionist enterprise, a movement of national liberation for the Jewish people, who have survived 2000 years of persecution, pogroms, and mass murder.

 In his recent speech to the US Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stated “Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state”

 No agreement is possible when one side is committed to the other's destruction. Israeli Jews are not willing to watch their state be eliminated. This means a standoff with the Arabs..

5. J Street also claims to exist to promote a two state solution. However, their version of a two state solution is one that would exist after President Obama put pressure on Israel to give in to Arab demands, thereby facilitating the scenario desired by the Arabs described above. For J Street to claim they are pro-Israel is simply untrue. Unfortunately, many American Jews accept this simplistic and completely wrong argument. Similar groups, like Jewish Voice for Peace and Tikkun, encourage criticism of Israel, and utter meaningless and false slogans, statements that have no basis in history, logic, and current realities.

 Many American Jews have been seduced by the easy promises of these groups (don’t we all want peace? Why won’t Israel get with the program?) They believe that J Street is simply presenting a way to achieve progress, and is doing the work that Israel should be doing. In other words, sitting in the safety of the US, and funded by the anti-Zionist George Soros, J Street claims to know what is needed for a permanent solution, and they claim that they know better than the government of Israel, elected by the people who are facing rocket attacks and suicide bombers.

Unfortunately the presence of this attitude by some American Jews has encouraged President Obama to put pressure on only one side in the conflict, pressure to do things that will promote the achievement of the Arab goals, while endangering the Jewish state Paradoxically, all this “peace making” by President Obama, by the Quartet, by the European Union, and by the United Nations, has resulted in making a real solution more remote.

6. For the Obama administration, desperate for a foreign policy “success”, pressure on Israel makes perfect sense. The words “two states” means exactly what they want them to mean. To achieve a deal that will make the Arabs happy has greater importance than to actually have a Jewish and Arab state living in peace side by side.

Most of Obama’s advisors recommend leaning on Israel. They believe that prior and current financial and diplomatic support for Israel by the US, will now provide the needed leverage to force Israel to bow to the demands of the US. (In the condescending attitude of Tom Friedman and the New York Times, how can Netanyahu dare to say “no” to the President of the US?).

The reality is that such pressure, perceived as suicidal, has no effect on Israel, and only makes the Arabs more recalcitrant, expecting that the US and the various international bodies will do their negotiation for them and force Israel to give in to the Arab version of the two state solution.

7. There was one more historical “Two State Solution”, that occurred in 1922. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War 1, the British were given a mandate over the Ottoman province known as Palestine. In 1917, The British Foreign Secretary, James Arthur Balfour, indicated by letter that Palestine was to be the homeland of the Jewish people. This was later incorporated into the “Mandate for Palestine”, in which the Allied Powers agreed that the Mandate would be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made in 1917, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

In 1922, Britain divided the Palestinian Mandate into two parts (two states). One part, consisting of the 74% of the Mandate, the area East of the Jordan, was made into an Arab state known as Transjordan (later Jordan), the remaining 26% was kept by the British and was intended to be the future Jewish state. This was the first two state solution, 90 years ago, designed to create an Arab state and a Jewish state.

Until the Arabs are willing to accept the existence of a Jewish state, there will be no solution to the conflict. The proposal of two states for two people, one Arab, one Jewish, is eminently fair. It has a long historical pedigree, including the recommendation of partition (into two states) by the UN in 1947, and achieves appropriate goals for both sides. The US Congress and the American people understand this; our Administration does not.

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