Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More on "Thought re: Netanyahu's Vision"

sent 23.June.2009

Dear Friends

A friend of mine forwarded my previous letter (Thoughts Re Netanyahu's Vision) to some Jewish friends here in Israel. My friend received one response which in so few words typifies so much of our government's policies towards the West Bank and towards Israeli Arabs, it also typifies the short-sighted "vision" of our Israeli Right.

This was the response:

"My vision for Israel is a country for the Jewish People...If you don't like it, LEAVE. This small piece of land cannot accommodate more than one people and the Israeli people are it! Arabs have their own countries and have overtaken much of Europe & Indonesia. They have their Mecca and we have our Wall...And never the twain shall meet! T---."

This was such a simple, pure, direct and honest response, that I felt obligated to comment on it. How well our problem is embodied in T's few short words. And so I wrote back to my friend:

Thanks for sending my letter onwards to others.

Yes, T's response is why Netanyahu is prime minister. T's answer is also a short-sighted one, perhaps given without much thought to what happens next. Its easy to say "If you don't like it, LEAVE", but what happens if that doesn't happen: They don't like it, but they don't leave. The 20% of Israeli citizens (2nd rate citizens at that) who are Arab have no intention of leaving Israel. The two and half million Palestinians in the West Bank also have no intention of leaving. Your friend T then has three alternative solutions because according to T the land "cannot accommodate more than one people":

1. Force them to leave…..mass deportation "somewhere", of up to four million Arabs. Quite a tragic scene, though perhaps T is not worried either of the moral implications or the consequences. If so, we don't belong to the same Jewish People.

2. Annexing the West bank as part of Israel and thereby making another 2.5 million Arabs citizens of Israel. Of course this would mean that we are on our way to be an eventual large Jewish minority within the country, a bi-national State….not really a Jewish State by any means. This is what the Palestinians would prefer. I don't think T would go for it.

3. Annexing (or not) the West Bank but keeping the Arab population without any rights of citizenship and penned up under a military clamp….Essentially similar to today's situation. In that case I refer you back to my previous letter which tries to show some of the consequences of this alternative.

All alternatives boil down to some concoction of one of these three. If T knows of some other alternative model, I would be anxious to learn of it. (Having Jordan take over the West Bank is also not an alternative. Both Jordan and the Palestinians reject any such possibility. Just as Egypt refused to take over Gaza once we were ready to give it up. Also "Leave everything to God" is not a viable alternative, I won't even begin to rebut that. Well, maybe I will say that God helps those who help themselves, and then only sometimes. )

But yes, there is one more possible alternative: Coming to some kind of mutual agreement about two States for two People. This too is not simple, and all of our moves via settlements in the West Bank are made to preempt such an alternative, but perhaps we have not quite yet passed the point of no return. Any agreement needs to be mutual, needs to refer to security matters, needs international participation and guarantees, needs to have stages for building trust, stages for reducing hatred, and probably a lot more.

There are many more moral and historical grounds that would classify T's response as lacking both knowledge and foresight, but the problem of the above alternatives will suffice for now. I assume Terry will probably choose alternative number 3 above. In that case, once more I refer you back to my previous letter (see below) and to where that alternative is taking us.

Still hoping for a brighter and more sensible tomorrow,
Be well.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thoughts re: Netanyahu's Vision

sent 19.June.2009
Dear Friends,

After Prime Minister Netanyahu created a great media spin around his pronounced “vision” for the future of our country in response to President Obama’s prodding, I needed to share my worries with others. I am not a politician, nor do I organize demonstrations. But I know that I need to do something….and sharing my worries with others seems to be the minimum I can do. I know that some of my friends and acquaintances will find dire displeasure with a few of my remarks…….nevertheless………..

While many Israelis praised the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s supposed about-face and his readiness to foresee a situation where the State of Israel lives beside a Palestinian State, my own impression was that Netanyahu spoke his best to put a damper on any such possibility. This is coupled to so many of his government’s actions since taking office a few months ago and to the unfortunate path led by most Israeli governments since those six days in 1967.

Among other conditions, Netanyahu preconditioned his grudging acceptance of a Palestinian State with a specific Palestinian assertion of Israel as the Jewish State. Not an “Israeli State which is the homeland of the Jewish People”, but a “Jewish State” – and without a single word about the 20% (and rising) Arab Israeli population (which a goodly part of his government would like at least to disenfranchise and preferably to transfer over to the Palestinian areas). While Palestinian negotiators could swallow the reality of Israel being the “Homeland of the Jewish People”, they can not openly voice a terminology which places Israel as a state solely for the Jewish People……not with a 20% (and growing) Arab population, and a desire for at least a symbolic return of some Palestinians.

Among other conditions, Netanyahu preconditioned his grudging acceptance of a Palestinian State with Palestinian knowledge of an undivided Jerusalem. Eastern Jerusalem with all its Palestinian neighborhoods, all of the Old City and the Temple Mount, and a greatly expanded city boundary so as to reach important outlying Jewish settlements within the conquered West Bank: all this within the Jewish State. This is a vision Netanyahu knows will be unacceptable to the Palestinians and will help drag the “peace process” on and on while energy is diverted to expanding settlements and setting broader boundaries which will make negotiations even more unacceptable to the Palestinian negotiators.

Netanyahu made it clear that his government will not halt the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This of course emphasizes that our cardinal sin of expropriating Palestinian land under various guises of legal manipulation or direct illegal land-grabbing will continue with the full support of our government. Netanyahu emphasized this knowing full well that his words (and deeds) are a spade that buries any process towards mutual understanding.

It is difficult to know what to do when faced with the pessimistic prospect of my country eventually crossing the point of no return between a democratic State which is the homeland of the Jewish people, and its metamorphosis into a quasi-authoritarian, quasi-theocratic, neo-colonial State steered by a jingoistic nationalism, led by a pride lacking humility and fed by fear.

Once crossing the point of no return, our future becomes fairly clear. We shall hold on to the West Bank and continue expanding our inhabited real-estate in the area. The Palestinians will continue to live without equal rights (or rights at all) in a territory policed by military rule. Within the Middle East we will remain a pariah whose moral and physical strength will be guided by the sword, a sword that will gradually weaken relative to the military abilities of our neighbors, a sword which will not sit favorably with the nations of the world on any continent. We will have wars. We will not always win. In the future, Jews in the Diaspora will write heroic stories about the rise and fall of the Third Jewish Commonwealth.

Our lust for real-estate in the West Bank will also continue to undermine our trust in the Arab citizens within Israel. We will continue discriminating policies which will ensure the righteousness of our mistrust. We will then at long last face our First Israeli-Arab Intifada. We will kill many while restoring order, thereby ensuring the Second Israeli-Arab Intifada, and the Third………and perhaps this will even happen during one of those wars which needed winning in order to ensure the continued existence of the Third Jewish Commonwealth and our precious God-given real-estate in the West Bank.

My Prime Minister offered all the reasons why all of Greater Israel is ours and ours alone. Under dire pressure he conceded the possibility of a Palestinian state. But, while insisting that negotiations with the Palestinians be with no preconditions or previous understandings, he firmly stated a heavy variety of preconditions for any possibility of a Palestinian State…..conditions making it ludicrous to begin mutual talks, and meant to perpetuate the status quo.

My Prime Minister could have offered an extended hand towards a “Sulcha” with our Palestinian neighbors. My Prime Minister could have conceded that not only the Jewish people have suffered. He could have delivered words of empathy to the suffering of the Palestinians over the last 60 years. He could have even conceded that other peoples had managed to root themselves in our land at various times during our two thousand years of exile. He should have hinted that our national aspirations came into inevitable conflict with other national aspirations which were already also evident at the very beginning of the 20th century. He could have conceded to all of that without giving up an inch of ground from our Jewish-Zionist legacy. He could have conceded to all of that as an introduction to our understanding that the conflict also resulted in a tragic calamity to the Arab people rooted in the ancient land of Israel. He could have conceded to all of that as an introduction to our welcoming the end of the conflict by the creation of a Palestinian State living peacefully side by side an Israeli one.

But he didn’t.

Once more he disregarded the opportunity of taking the initiative in the struggle for peace. For my Prime Minister the struggle for peace is worthwhile only if it involves no risk. It is therefore not worthwhile.

If we are ever “forced” into an era of “peace” by outside pressure, it will probably be a short respite not lacking in a continuation of hate and mistrust, for it will not have the element of “Sulcha” and the affirmation of the other’s legacy – two ingredients we ordinary Israelis refuse to initiate. My prime minister is just an ordinary Israeli. Evidently, nothing more.

With sincere wishes for a better tomorrow,