From time to time, one of my readers requests me to write a posting on a particular topic. In this case, the requestor and I share a strong passion on this controversial issue. So, Dr. AF this blog is for you.
Currently, one of the hot topics in the world is Palestinian statehood. The prevailing opinion among world leaders seems to be that the formation of a Palestinian state, even if it were imposed by outside powers, would be a panacea for the conflicts in the Middle East between Israel and its Arab neighbors. I believe that this is simplistic and fallacious, as I will show below.
This week, representatives of some 70 countries have been attending a peace summit in Paris dealing with this very issue. Significantly, neither Israel nor the Palestinians has sent a representative, although the Palestinians’ points of view are being amply represented by various supporters. Not one participant has supported Israel, although the UK tried to strike a somewhat sensible tone by questioning the wisdom of holding the conference mere days before the change in power in the US. For this, it was heavily criticized. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu correctly labeled the conference as “biased against Israel.” He characterized it as a “rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French [support] to adopt anti-Israel stances.” I heartily agree.
It is also clear to me that the tone of this conference is blatantly anti-Semitic. The attendees, while excoriating Israel for establishing settlements on the West Bank, have conveniently ignored the ongoing Arab terrorist activities and human rights atrocities. Historically, Jews have had very few friends, and at the present time, thanks to the Obama-Kerry dynamic duo, they really don’t have any reliable allies. On the other hand, the Arabs have many supporters. Why is that? The answer is OIL. The Arabs have it; the world needs it. That, my friends, is the crux of the matter.
Doubling down on the outrageous recent UN resolution that condemned Israeli settlements in the disputed area, the representatives have resolved that Israel should retreat to its 1967 borders as a basis for meaningful negotiations, which, they claim, would enable the two sides to reach an agreement on a lasting peace. If only the Palestinians could have their own land, they say, then all conflicts would magically disappear.
I say, that conclusion is simplistic and demonstrates profound ignorance of some 5,000 years of mutual mistrust and Palestinian animus towards the Jews. Does anyone in their right mind seriously think that would end ME conflicts? In my opinion, no. Consider:
- I believe that although most Arabs in the area are in favor of a peaceful solution, anyone who has been paying attention knows that the Arab terrorist elements among them do not under any circumstances. If the Palestinians ended up with 99% of the disputed land, and they would still want the other 1%.
- No peace treaty would be possible unless the Palestinians recognize Israel as a legitimate State, which they have continually refused to do.
- The Palestinians have rejected many opportunities for peace in the last 70 years, and the terrorist elements have intimidated the moderate majority with violence and/or threats (see Anwar Sadat).
- The Palestinians have consistently refused to talk directly with the Israelis. Remember, they don’t recognize Israel as a State. Instead they engage in diplomatic end-runs through the UN or conferences like the current one in Paris. Those tactics hinder the process immeasurably.
- For various reasons, religious, political and security, the Israelis would never give up the West Bank or East Jerusalem, which is where the Palestinians insist on establishing their state. Those areas are the holiest of holies to Jews. To give them up and risk the Arabs denying access or, even worse, destroying them, is unacceptable. Any Israeli politician who were to do so would be committing political suicide. As far as security, would you like a hostile neighbor on your doorstep? Remember how the US reacted to Russian missiles in Cuba in 1962? I don’t think so.
- The Arabs have steadfastly refused to recognize the State of Israel nor acknowledged its very right to exist.
- Iranian leadership, among others, has vowed to destroy, Israel and soon, I predict, will have the nuclear capacity to do it.
These seemingly insoluble issues would have to be resolved before any meaningful, lasting peace could be achieved, and by the participants, themselves, not by an outside party.
In order to appreciate the situation fully, one must be cognizant of the history of the region. It has been characterized by deep hatred, mistrust and violence for over 5,000 years. Control has been passed violently from one power to another. In the years immediately preceding WWI the region was part of the Ottoman Empire. After the War the League of Nations gave mandates to England and France to divide up the empire and create various states. For example, France got Syria (which also included present-day Lebanon) and England got Palestine (which included present-day Jordan and Israel). In 1917 England issued the infamous Balfour Declaration, which, among other things, declared support for a Jewish homeland.
This incensed Arab leaders in the region who had supported the British against the Turks in the War based on the promise of autonomy in the region. (The Balfour Declaration created other problems which have persisted to this day. For instance, it mixed Shia and Sunni Muslims, who loath each other, together in Iraq, and it failed to establish a separate homeland for the Kurds, but that is a separate subject outside the scope of this blog).
The situation in Palestine came to a head in 1948 when Israel, with the approval of the UN, became a nation. Israel and its neighbors have been in a perpetual state of conflict ever since with no end in sight.
French President Holland had the temerity to warn incoming US president Trump against taking any “improvised” or “destabilizing actions” after he becomes president. That is really humorous. Like Trump is really going to listen to Holland!
Trump has consistently expressed strong support for Israel. Whereas Obama-Kerry have actually condemned the establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Trump strongly supports them. In addition, he has expressed a desire to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Provocative? Perhaps, but it would be a very strong signal of support and could even be interpreted as recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Mr. Trump knows Israel is the US’s only reliable ally in the region. Therefore, we need them almost as much as they need us. Among other things, it is the only counterweight to Iran. Now that Iran is on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power (thank you Obama-Kerry), it has designs on taking over the entire region. That would be a geo-political disaster. Israel is the only country with the means and the will to oppose it.
It is a misnomer that Israelis do not want peace. Of course, they do. All the polls have consistently said so. Few sane people would prefer war to peace. The sticking point is that few trust the Palestinians’ sincerity for reasons discussed above. Impossible? No, of course not. After all, the IRA and the UK have made peace. Very difficult? Extremely challenging? Most certainly. But, it can only happen if and when both sides want it, and any lasting peace would have to be agreed upon by the parties involved directly, not one imposed by a third party.