My word: What friends are for....

"I’d rather have the Palestinians living next door as friends than as enemies. But, unlike their supporters, I have to live with the consequences."

By
September 24, 2011 22:39
Netanyahu and Obama meet in New York

Netanyahu Obama 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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This is hard to admit, let alone put in print, but you don’t want me as your friend. I am loyal, capable of sympathy in tough times and willing to celebrate the good moments. But I am, I fear, the type of person who does not necessarily support the winner. In fact, on a global scale, I would say I’m not so much on the losing side as completely off the map.

Recently, for instance, I have given a great deal of thought to the issue of the United Nations and statehood and come to the conclusion that I am firmly in favor.

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I believe the time has come for Taiwan, celebrating its centennial next month, to become a member. It was a member until 1971, when the Republic of China was kicked out of the international community to be replaced by the bastion of human rights and enlightenment, the People’s Republic of China. The People’s Republic is, of course, bigger and richer and – as any Grade 1 schoolkid can tell you – that’s a good way to win friends.

If you want a lesson in the transient nature of political alliances, look at the Taiwanese example, and weep.

Taiwan has defined borders, a booming economy and is a vibrant, thriving democracy.

What’s missing is international recognition (no wonder as an Israeli I feel a certain empathy, another mark of friendship).

The United Nations refugee agency last month launched a campaign to highlight the plight of up to 12 million stateless people worldwide.



I’d put in a good word for the Roma, but I’m not sure it would help them – I’m friends with all the right people in all the wrong places.

Still, when it comes to discussions on statehood, I believe the so-called Gypsies should be prime candidates.

They have their own language, customs, history and traditions and have been persecuted for centuries as they wandered stateless across Europe and elsewhere. All they lack is a charismatic leader who can create a homeland for them.

He – or she – would have to be very charismatic indeed.

Like the Jewish people, the Roma do not have any natural alliances based on a common language, culture or religion.

Somehow I don’t see European countries willingly giving up parts of their own territory in order to provide a state for what is very clearly a separate and distinct nation unless they feel they can get something in return.

I DO FORESEE more and more pressure on Israel to create a Palestinian state. Or two.

Israel could eventually come to a modus vivendi with Fatah in the West Bank. It’s unlikely that either Fatah or Israel will be able to live in peace with Hamas in Gaza, which is already a state in all but name.

It’s hard to live in peace with a people whose leaders are dedicated to your extermination and are willing to use missile power faster than you can say “infidel.”

The Palestinians have the Arab world on their side – although I suspect that the support stems largely from the fact that none of the Arab countries really wants them, certainly not Egypt, which ruled Gaza until 1967 and did not jump at the chance of taking it back after the now-strained peace treaty of 1979.

I’ve also had interesting conversations with residents of the Gulf states about the Palestinians – none of them flattering, but perhaps they spoke differently before the Palestinians in Kuwait threw in their lot with Saddam Hussein in the 1990 Gulf War.

The international community is anxious for “the Palestinian problem” to be solved.

And, at the risk of torpedoing their chances of statehood forever, I should say that so am I.

I’d rather have the Palestinians living next door as friends than as enemies. But, unlike their supporters around the world, I have to live with the consequences of Palestinian statehood.

In the UN last week, even President Barack Obama pointed out that peace will not come from a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. There are no shortcuts: Without sorting out the issues of borders, security and refugees there will be no peace. Without negotiations, there will be no solutions.

If the Palestinians cannot accept Israel as the one Jewish homeland, there’s not much to talk about. It’s a blood-red line.

In recent years, whenever the Palestinian track of negotiations failed, foreign diplomats and politicians automatically raised the question of the Syrian option. Even Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his neo-Ottoman quest offered his services as a mediator in 2008. Friendly, we now know, he is not. At least not to us.

I trust this time, with the nature of Bashar Assad’s regime so painfully apparent, the world will realize that withdrawing to the pre-’67 borders on the Golan Heights is not going to bring global peace but death and destruction on citizens of the Jewish state.

As a top Israeli official recently pointed out, it is sobering to realize that there are three non-Arab countries in the region: Israel, Turkey and Iran. Two of them, the Muslim ones, are competing to pick up the spoils of the turmoil in the Arab world.

For Israel, this seems to be a good time to create stronger alliances – the political equivalent of friendship – with Greece and the Balkans. For the US and Europe, as their leaders seem to realize, they could do worse than making sure the strategic alliance with Israel is not harmed as the “Arab Spring” turns into the “Arab Winter.”

Extraordinarily, if there was one country put on the map by the Palestinian statehood bid in the UN it was Gabon.

The African republic became the talk of Israel as the prime minister openly wooed its support in the UN Security Council.

The Palestinian statehood bid has shown up several interesting anomalies.

For example, while the Durban III conference continued to promote the “Israel is an apartheid state” myth, MK Ahmed Tibi, who serves as a deputy Speaker of the Knesset, was in New York, having traveled with the Abbas entourage to express his support of the Palestinian state – not that he is likely to give up either his Israeli pension rights or his residency in the Israeli-Arab town of Taiba if a state were declared tomorrow or next year.

Tibi definitely makes me feel sorry for Israel’s Arab citizens.

Surely they deserve better – a Knesset member who truly represents their needs and interests.

My friendly advice? The adage of British writer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784): “True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and choice.”

The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post.

liat@jpost.com

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