The world is tired of the Arab-Israeli conflict

Time to move from "they started it" to "we will end it."

October 2, 2011 06:14
4 minute read.
PA President Abbas addresses rally in Ramallah

Abbas Ramallah Rally 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Paternal Western values of fairness and compromise grind a lens through which we see one of the children with all the pie and the other child with none. It follows, therefore, that we must make them sort out their differences and force them to share; that a “viable, contiguous” Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel is the solution to the core of the problem. Re-partition the land, we are told. This is the logical compromise.

This view is naïve and arrogant in that it ignores the dynamics and history of the conflict: Arab rejectionist terror; stagnant Arab economies and repressive governments; absolutist religious claims; settler demographics; fundamental Israeli security concerns rooted in existential defense in 1967 and 1973; and the fact that the Arabs have twice before rejected more generous partition plans than they could hope to achieve now.

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First, the Arabs rejected the original Partition Plan of 1947 that would have created an Arab state in well over half of the land west of the Jordan. Israel’s successful fight for survival was pronounced the Nakba, or “Disaster.”

Brokered by US President Bill Clinton, the 2000 Wye Plantation Accords offered PLO chairman Yasser Arafat a stake in east Jerusalem and over 94 percent of the West Bank land Israel captured when attacked in the 1967 Arab Naska, or “Setback.” Yet, the Palestinian leader rejected Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak’s offer in a spectacle reminiscent of the Arabs’ infamous “Three No’s”: No Peace with Israel, no Recognition of Israel, no negotiation with Israel.

As Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas makes the Palestinian UN bid, Israel is labeled the apartheid state even though 20 percent of the population are Israeli Arabs citizens with rights and freedoms Syrians would die for, and even though “moderate” Palestinian leaders speak with candor about a West Bank Palestinian state free of Jews.

Israelis and introspective Jews in the Diaspora are seen in peace rallies with both Israeli and Palestinian flags, but we see Arabs with only Israeli flags in hand...just before they are set alight.

Yet, that is the beauty of naiveté. If there was true Western appreciation of all the constraints to conflict resolution, effort would cease. If parents placed much stock in “who started it” as opposed to “I will end it” then managed conflict would erupt into open warfare.

The twist is that while the Palestinian UN statehood bid miscalculates the depth of Western naiveté, under the right terms and conditions of design, a Palestinian state is in Israel’s long-term strategic, diplomatic, and existential demographic interests.

THE KEY terms and conditions include a negotiated and demilitarized Palestinian state that leaves Israel defensible via control of a strip of land on the Jordanian border and major settlement blocks. In exchange, Israel would cede equivalent parcels of land along the Green Line with ethic Palestinian populations, a safe West Bank-Gaza corridor under Israeli sovereignty, and continued open access to Jerusalem, also under Israeli sovereignty. There is no reason why a Palestinian parliament could not operate in east Jerusalem with joint Israeli-Palestinian police, under ultimate Israeli command.

First and foremost, such a Palestinian state has the potential to force Iran and the Arab world to deal with domestic despair without recourse to the distraction of the Palestinian question. Abbas tired of Iranian rhetoric some time ago, and the Arab street might do so as well if corrupt leaders could no longer invoke the image of the Zionist monster under the bed. Arab grievances would not evaporate, but the prospect of a war, or further deterioration in relations with Egypt and Jordan, would be reduced.

Second, such a Palestinian state has the potential to restore warm relations with fatigued Western allies such as France and the UK. In exchange for territorial concessions, Israel would have great leverage to apply for NATO membership and/or a formal alliance with the United States.

Israel would also have a chance to rebuild failed relations with powerful Muslim states such as Turkey and Pakistan, or at least to defuse tensions.

Third, such a Palestinian state promises to solve the core contradiction that plagues Israel: how to remain both Jewish and democratic. Israel cannot retain the West Bank under occupation and ensure both these core values.

None of these challenges are addressed in a UN bid, which is more theater than diplomacy, even to the naïve. The United States and Canada continue to show resolve and leadership in their insistence upon direct, bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations as the process to achieve a viable Palestinian state beside a secure Israel.

The writer holds a PhD in International Relations from Queen’s University, Ontario. He completed post-doctoral studies at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and follows Israel’s diplomatic and strategic position. He lives with his family in Toronto, working as an Information Technology Architect.

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