Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Israel seeks peace


The Arab-Israeli dispute has origins that only the doggedly stubborn use to determine their perspective. The Palestinians who want Israel eradicated (such as Hamas) are dreaming - Israel was, unfortunately, a creation of the UN, supported by both the western powers (US, UK, France and then non-communist China) and the USSR. It had been promised by Britain, the colonial power.
The best option at the time would've been to give Palestine independence, and allow Jews, Arabs and others of Palestine to live together -in a liberal democratic state. However, the Balfour Declaration in 1917 did promise a Jewish national homeland, as long as it did not prejudice Arab communities. The events that followed meant the creation of Israel - which tragically saw some Arabs expelled or fleeing homes in Israel, while some Jews were expelled from Arab states. A unified Israel was not going to happen, as Arab states opposed the establishment of Israel - so the UN partition plan was meant to be a compromise. That plan was what Israel originally intended to be - but the Arabs were not interested in a separate Palestinian state. So then came war, and war, and war and war.
Throughout the last nearly 60 years, Israel has fought for its right to exist. Only the most blinkered socialist would say that it would have been preferable for the authoritarian bully Nasser or totalitarian Asad to replace Israel. Israel has maintained a liberal democratic state, that has allowed Israelis to develop, trade and be reasonably free (although Israeli Arabs tend to feel like second class citizens). Compared to Egypt, which has had three Presidents, none democratically elected - Syria, a one-party state and Lebanon (only recently recovered from Syrian imperialism), Israel was a shining light for individual freedom. Even Nasser would listen to Kol Israel (Radio) to get the truth of the defeat in the Six Day War, because Arab broadcasters were so beholden to state propaganda of success and victory.
The Six Day War was Israel's response to an imminent attack - a wonderful victory over bullies ready to destroy it - and take enough territory for borders that could be readily defended. It also provided the chance for some Zionist plans for greater Israel to be implemented - the West Bank was known by some as Judea and Samaria - sacred Hebrew territory, and settlement were established as part of a grand plan to keep Israeli borders to the river Jordan.
Israel has always been willing to seek peace with security. It surrendered the majority of the land it annexed in 1967 (the Sinai) when it made peace with Egypt - which cost President Anwar Sadat his life due to an Arab extremist assassin. Syria has refused to guarantee Israel peace, which is why Israel retains the Golan Heights. Jordan has made peace in 1994, recognising Israel and refusing any historic claim to the West Bank - so now it is the matter of the Palestinian Arabs.
Until 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation - a terrorist group if ever there was one - refused to recognise Israel's right to exist. At that point, Israel still did not believe that land for peace could work. After the Cold War ended (and Soviet sponsorship of the PLO evaporated), the US pushed for Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians - and President Yitzhak Shamir did not even recognise the Palestinians could be a nation. It was only because the US intervened decisively against Saddam Hussein to roll back his invasion of Kuwait, that Israel commenced peace talks with Palestinians, but not the PLO.
The Oslo Accords in 1993 saw Israel agree to the creation of the Palestinian Authority - allowing Palestinian self-government - an enormous change from the greater Israel envisaged by the Likud party previously. It cost Yitzhak Rabin his life. However, the PLO's corruption and inability/unwillingness to stop terrorism was its downfall. Every time a bus was bombed by Hizbollah, Israel rightfully blamed the PLO for being unable to secure its borders or clamp down on terror.
The second intifada has seen Israel respond with enormous force - which is unsurprising. So Israelis have faced three options:
- Continue to intervene in the West Bank and Gaza, and defend the settlements - maintaining the occupation;
- Negotiate a settlement with the Palestinian Authority for peace;
- Withdraw from Palestinian territory and defend what is left.
Voting Kadima means the third option. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip because it gave nothing - the land was not important for defence, and it was costly. Better to leave it to the Palestinian Authority to have a go at running everything, and seal the border off if it couldn't stop terrorists slipping into Israel. The strategy for the West Bank wont be far different - abandon vast swatches of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority - maintain a military presence along the Jordan Valley (which is sparsely populated, but can also control arms into the West Bank), clear out settlements that are not close to Israeli borders and build a wall around what is left.
Given in the first instance, despite much Western Aid, the Fatah (PLO) run Palestinian Authority was a disaster - and now Palestinians have voted for the terrorist thugs Hamas - can you blame Israel? Well, it wont probably work - unless Palestinians start running a civilised operation, Hamas renounces terrorism, recognises Israel and respects all previous agreements - and then starts to negotiate. Only then will Israel consider relinquishing more of the West Bank, moving the concrete wall barrier and talk about the hardest issue of all - Jerusalem.
A Palestinian state will only emerge when it can not be a haven for those bent on terrorism in Israel - and when it can be reasonably uncorrupt and focused on protecting Palestinians, and a shared peace in the Middle East with Israel. Nothing else would contribute to peace in the Middle East and the world more generally than a settlement - but it wont come at the cost of Israeli security. Nor should it. Those supportive of the Palestinian's plight should take time to notice how far Israelis have come. They want to leave Palestinians to govern themselves, and withdraw settlements - the dream of greater Israel is only held by a small minority. However Palestinians have not helped their cause, by having political masters that have been inept and corrupt, and are now advocates for terrorism and Israel's annihilation. Hamas could - if it tried - prove it wants to be competent and uncorrupt - but it will be for nought if it refuses to recognise that Israel, nuclear armed and war wearied, will go away or be defeated or tolerate Palestinian territory being a base for attacks on civilians. Anything less is uncivilised, and Palestinians who cannot understand that deserve to live under occupation. A liberal democratic open tolerant Palestinian state would not threaten Israel, and be a model for its corrupt neighbours like Egypt or despotic regimes like Syria - and would remove one of the reasons Arabs have to remain united, despite their governments' continued pillage and abuse of their people.

1 comment:

Why Palestinians Usually Get It Wrong said...

YOu write: "A Palestinian state will only emerge when it can not be a haven for those bent on terrorism in Israel."

This is not really true. Israel may very well have a terrorist, thrid world country next door to it run by Hamas. And that might actually be preferable to the legacy of Arafat and pretending to be seeking peace. We shall see.