Friday, 27 May 2011

Will the Israeli and Palestinian problem ever be resolved?

In September 1975, I was at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization’s official observer to the U.N. and after two meetings with him, I got the PLO to agree not to sanction acts of violence against anyone in the Olympic Games beginning in the Games that were to be held the following year in Montreal. As an aside, the PLO kept its word.

Then the PLO observer and I discussed the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I suggested that the Palestinians had two choices. They were; become Israeli citizens and obey its laws or share some of Israel’s land as an independent nation. He told me that the Palestinians would prefer to have their own nation within the boundaries of Israel.

I will give you a brief history of this area in the Middle East which I got some of it from Wikimedia.

Between 1922 and 1948, the term Palestine referred to the portion of the British Mandate of Palestine lying to the west of the Jordan River; that is, all of what is now Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. During the period of the British Mandate of Palestine, the term Palestinian referred to all the people residing there, regardless of religion, and those granted citizenship by the Mandatory authorities were granted Palestinian citizenship.

Up to 1947 Jews constituted only 33% of the total population of what was then called Palestine and has been called Israel since 1948 when the United Nations mandated the Jews could have all of Israel as their homeland. The other 66% were Arabs, Christians and others who are now and have been for many years referred to as Palestinians. The 1948 Palestinian exodus occurred when approximately 725,000 Palestinians left, fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the Civil War that preceded it.

The Israeli authorities refuse to permit most of them to return to their homes and just like the Jews prior to 1948, they were homeless and began wandering about trying to find a homeland of their own one day. unquote

When I discussed the PLO Observer’s proposal with a senior member of the Israeli delegation during my meeting with the PLO Observer to the U.N., he was totally against the Palestinians ever having their own homeland anywhere on Israeli soil.

As the years progressed, the PLO (which was an umbrella organization since 1964) was dedicated to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Certain elements of the PLO had advocated, carried out and accepted responsibility for acts of terrorism.

When I asked the PLO (via my talks with its U.N. Observer) to denounce terrorism, my request at that time was futile. it wasn’t until December 1988 that PLO Chairman Arafat finally publicly renounced terrorism on behalf of the PLO.

Here is more from Wikimedia. Slowly, the Palestinians began to get part of Israel as their homeland. The West Bank and Gaza Strip were later jointly administered to varying extents by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Pursuant to the May 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement and the September 1995 Interim Agreement, Israel transferred most responsibilities for civil government in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. In January 1996, Palestinians chose their first popularly elected government in democratic elections, which were generally well-conducted. The 88-member Council and the Chairman of the Executive Authority were elected. They also has a cabinet of 20 appointed ministers who oversaw 23 ministries. Its Chairman, Yasir Arafat continued to dominate the affairs of government and to make its major decisions. Most senior government positions were held by individuals who were members of, or loyal to, Arafat's Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization. unquote

Current polls have shown a significant shift around the world towards support for the Palestinians. Will the UN general assembly support the recognition of a Palestinian state within its 1967 borders? Only time will tell.

Whether such a solution is even possible at this stage is an open question. Through the Israelis land grabs and settlement building on Palestinian lands, Israel has created an ugly patchwork out of the West Bank, which is sewn together with a range of separate and unequal ID cards, access roads and car registration plates for Israelis and Palestinians that would be difficult to correct without the whole solution unraveling like an old worn out carpet.

Israel's refusal to talk to Hamas and the effective emasculation of Fatah has left it with no one with any credibility to negotiate with. The Palestinian Authority – an authority without any real authority – is regarded by most as simply another layer of occupation. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said he opposed another armed uprising. But the truth is that Fatah wasn't behind the last uprisings, and would be incapable of leading any more. During the talks, Abbas's name did not come up once.

In this regard, the Israeli occupation has been a victim of its own success on its own terms. It has not provided enough security for a Jewish state as it has created a fortified country in which non-Jews live as a majority either as second-class citizens or not as citizens at all.

A Palestine nation that is independent, non-contiguous and home to thousands of foreigners who do not respect its laws is not viable. Given the trajectory of Israeli domestic politics, an Israel that reverses the expansionist impulses of the past 44 years in return for peace is hardly likely. The status quo is neither sustainable nor desirable. Something has to give and it appears that it won’t be brought about by the Israelis.

One need not embrace Palestinian self-determination to challenge this situation. A simple demand for equality and human rights for Palestinians will suffice.

The Jews and the Arabs live at a time when east Jerusalem has truly become the ‘burdensome stone’ to carry between them. The Palestinians consider East Jerusalem to be their capital and they appear to be unwilling to accept a Palestinian state that does not include it. The European Union has made it very clear that their position is that East Jerusalem is going to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Even the United States has made it the official policy of the U.S. government that East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank and the Obama administration has been pressuring Israel very hard to stop all construction in East Jerusalem.

But now Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that Israel will never give up control over any part of Jerusalem. He declared that Israel would never give up control of a united Jerusalem and it would never fully retreat to the pre-1967 borders. That is certainly not going to sit well with the Palestinians. But those are exactly the things that the Palestinians and most of the world is demanding that Israel must do.

If you look at a map of Israel as it looked in 1967, Israel was divided into almost two equal parts, one for the Israelis and the other for the Palestinians. There is no doubt in my mind that the Israelis are not happy with the prospect of having to give half of Israel to the Palestinians especially when you consider that the U.N. in 1948 gave them all of the lands encompassing Israel.

When Israel’s prime minister addressed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in May 2011, he said that there were five points that must be adhered to make the peace process to work. They first as follows;

First: Peace must be anchored in security. He said that it was vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state must be fully demilitarized. He added that it was vital to Israel’s security that Israel maintains a long-term military presence along the Jordan River so that Palestine will no longer pose a threat to Israel.

I think his proposal is unfair. To ask another nation to demilitarize its armed forces would be no different that the United States demanding Canada to demilitarize its own armed forces. Every nation has a right to possess its own armed forces. When peace finally came to Korea, no one suggest that one side or the other side should demilitarize its own armed forces while the other side didn’t.

Second: He wants the Palestinian refugee problem to be resolved outside the borders of Israel.

So far, the Palestinian politicians have publicly refused to recognize the Israelis’ right to exist as a nation. They have refused to have their Palestinian state if it is right next to the Israeli state. Further, the Palestinian leaders want Palestinians to move back into their homes that they were evicted from even if it means living in Israel. This is wrong on their part. As long as this kind of thinking exists, there will never be peace between those to groups of people.

Prime Minister Natanyahu has in my opinion, correctly stated however that since the Jews had the right to settle in Israel, the Palestinians have the equal right to settle in Palestine. In theory that is a sound idea but unfortunately, Netanyahu speaks (as the North American Indians used to say) with a forked tongue. He has done nothing to stop Jewish settlers moving in on Palestinian territory and building Jewish communities on land that doesn’t belong to Israel but in fact belongs to Palestine. Imagine if you will, Canadians crossing the American border and then building their homes in the United States and then claiming that they are still in Canada.

Third: Natanyahu says that the Hamas that controls Gaza is really no different that al-Qaeda. To some degree, he is right. He says that he will not negotiate with the Palestinians if they continue to support the Hamas which have consistently claimed that Israel has no right to exist as a nation. On this issue, I am in agreement with the Israeli prime minister. Although the people in the Gaza strip are Palestinians, their land is some distance from the West Bank where the majority of the Palestinians live.

It reminds me of the time when the Hindus moved north of India and Pakistan comprised of two separate areas. Those two areas finally separated and one became Pakistan and the smaller area became Bangledesh. The Palestinians in the West Bank should continue to sympathize with the people in Gaza but not support the Hamas in any manner whatsoever. Those two peoples will invariably become two separate nations of Palestinians.

Fourth: Natanyahu said that Jerusalem must never again be divided and instead it should be the united capital of Israel. Jerusalem is really in two sections. The modern Jerusalem to the west and the old walled City of Jerusalem to the east. As I see it, the Old City should be under the authority of the United Nations as it is a holy place not only for the Jews but also for the Christians and the Muslims. The Israelis should have the modern city of Jerusalem as its capital and the Palestinians should choose the city Jericho as its capital.

Fifth: Natanyahu wants the borders to be changed from the original borders set down in 1967. I believe what he wants is the Israeli borders to extend as far as he has the Israelis have extended their Israeli settlements in lands belonging to the Palestinians. I doubt that he will get that wish granted. Admittedly, this is going to be very difficult for the Israeli government because it approved of the move onto Palestinian lands of 650,000 Israeli citizens moving into their new homes specially built for them under the auspices of the Israeli government. What is going to become of them if they end up living within the Palestinian borders? They will still be Israelis but they will live under Palestinian rule.

Unfortunately, the Israelis have come out of this fracas looking like thugs. If they want to come out of this dilemma smelling like roses, they have to give more consideration to the Palestinians. To do otherwise is to drag this problem right into the next century just as they dragged it from the last century into this century with the smell of a skunk lingering all over them.

No comments: