Sunday, June 7, 2009
Jews and Muslims: Two-State Solution?
For a little history lesson on the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, read from Ron Mossad:
Two-states of confusion
“Two states for two people. Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and harmony. A Jewish state and a Palestinian state. People talk about this as if it is the magic solution to not just the Israeli/Palestinian issue...according to President Obama it will cure the Iranian issue, the General Motors bankruptcy and pancreatic cancer. Only one of those is true but they're all equally likely.
There is no magic pill to the Israel/Palestinian issue because it's not really about Israelis and Palestinians. Nor is the issue restricted to just Israelis and Palestinians. (Or even humans at all...)
In order to understand the roots of the conflict you have to go well beyond 1948. Muslims have been killing Jews since they rejected Muhammad almost 1,500 years ago...so the roots of the conflict go well beyond ‘disproportionate force' in Gaza. Now you could say to me ‘that's not true, Jews flocked to Islamic-controlled lands all through the Middle Ages’ or that under the Moors in Spain the Jews flourished...until the Christians took over and threw all the Jews out during the Inquisition.
This is partially true, since in many cases Jews did have a significantly better standard of living under Muslim rule as compared to Christian rule - but it's only comparative. They were still treated as second-class citizens and forced to distinguish themselves by wearing certain clothing (yellow turbans for example) to distinguish themselves from non-Jews. If that sounds familiar, it's because Hitler used this idea as the basis for the yellow star that he forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust.
Jews under Muslim control had to pay a jizya (tribute/tax) and could not build any synagogues or houses that were larger than the local mosque of their town. They were not allowed to mock the Qur'an, Islam, Muhammad or other Muslims - on penalty of death. They were not allowed to serve in the military or bear arms. They were regularly forced to convert on pain of death when the locals decided to get up in arms about something or other. It was only when compared to Inquisition-style organized attempts at genocide that went on in Europe that they ‘had it better‘. All this occurred over a thousand years before the very first 'European Zionist invader' set foot in Ottoman Palestine.
And it is this same system of control that al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizballah and other Islamist organizations want to re-institute for Jews and Christians. Except they don't want to limit themselves to just Israel or the Middle East this time. They want everything.
So it's not just about Zionists and Palestinians or Israel and Syria or Hizballah or Hamas or any of the buzz words that are thrown around in the media. It's JEWS and MUSLIMS. That's the bottom line. It does not surprise me at all that when Jewish pioneers returned to their ancient homeland of Israel in the 1800's that they met riots, hatred and violence. Please note the violence referred to in that link took place in 1921...27 years before the 'Nakba' and 46 years before the ‘occupation‘.
But anyway...enough of the history lesson for now...let's talk about the present and the future.
The most common answer given to this problem is the one that's been championed for decades - mainly the two-state solution. Palestinians will have to be content with the West Bank and Gaza and Jews get the rest. There are however, several problems with this alleged solution:
1. Contiguity. If I live in Ramallah (in the West Bank which is attached to the Jordanian border) and I have a cousin in Gaza (which is attached to the Sinai Peninsula, currently owned by Egypt) I have to cross through Israel. This creates a security issue for Israel and a travel issue for the Palestinians.
2. The aforementioned pioneers/settlers. After the 1967 war (when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza), the government, whose initial offer of land for peace was rejected by the Arab dictators, decided to do what any nation that had just tripled its land size would do...they settled their new territory. Today there are over 400,000 Jews living in the West Bank as pioneers/settlers. The vast majority of these Jews are law-abiding citizens who just want to live in peace as normal people. Many of them are Americans who moved to Israel out of religious idealism.
You see, most of the land that we have in today's Israel is not biblical Israel. Many of the towns that are mentioned in the Bible such as Jericho and Hebron are today not in ‘Israel proper‘. They are in the West Bank. So this is a big deal for Jews.
It's easy to paint them as fanatics because they have long side-burns and pray for a Messiah to deliver the Jews from their problems. But that doesn't make them crazy, it just makes them devoted to their religion. Most of these people are no different from the average devoted American Christian. They pray everyday, don't work on their Sabbath and believe in the 10 commandments. If we give up the West Bank, what happens to these people? Remember that the last time we evacuated a group of settlers - was Gaza and look at what that got us. Is there any question that the same exact thing will happen in the West Bank (which is much closer to the major Israeli population centers than Gaza is) when/if we retreat from there?
3. The ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinians. After the 1948 war and then again after the 1967 war Palestinians left Israel en masse. Today these ‘refugees’ and their descendants number in the millions (as do the descendants of the nearly 1 million Jews tossed out of Arab countries at the same time). Fatah and Hamas both insist on allowing these millions of refugees back into Israel proper. This will effectively end Israel as a Jewish state or a democracy because the Arabs will be able to vote their people into the leadership through demographics. Either the Arab majority runs Israel or the Jews bar the not-Jews from holding office. Lose-lose.
4. Jerusalem. It's been the capital of every Jewish state going back about 3,000 years. Palestinians want it as their capital. It's the third most holy city in Islam...but the most holy place in all of Judaism. When it was under Jordanian control Jews were not allowed to go to the Western Wall (the holiest place in Jerusalem to Jews) and before that under Islamic rule it was used as a garbage dump. Israel allows all religions access to their holy sites.
5. There are currently three entities in power within the borders of Israel. Not two. There are the Jews who control Israel. Palestinians under the banner of Fatah who control the West Bank...and Palestinians under the banner of Hamas who control Gaza. Hamas is dedicated outright to the destruction of Israel and rejects any deals that Fatah makes. Even if there was a 'two-state' solution negotiated with Fatah, it would not apply to Hamas which will still fire rockets into Israel...making any peace agreement worth......precisely zero.
6. Independence. Today fuel, electricity and jobs are supplied to the Palestinians by Israel. The Palestinians have been recipients of billions upon billions of dollars of foreign assistance (over $10B since 1999 alone). I don't know too much about power plant construction but this article says a plant that generates 3,600 Megawatts of power in India is projected to cost about $370 million. Couldn't they have used some of those billions of dollars of aid to build a power plant somewhere so they could avoid Israeli 'blockades'? Maybe Hamas could put some of that Iranian cash to more than just death, destruction and violence? Before a nation can prove that it is ready for an independent state, it should show some proof that it is capable of actual independence.
By the way...take a guess at who the single biggest individual Palestinian aid contributor is. If you guessed Saudi Arabia you were.....
WRONG. Israel, the source of many Palestinians' jobs, transfers hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority every year in income tax revenue. Income taxes that if Israelis worked in those jobs would go to the Israeli infrastructure instead of into rockets and machine guns.
7. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Palestinians have rejected every offer the Israelis have ever given them...up to an offer that gave them 97% of the West Bank, all of Gaza and part of Jerusalem as their capital. That offer was made in 2000...
They rejected it and almost immediately began the 2nd Intifada which killed thousands. In 2007 Peres and then Olmert offered them 97% of the West Bank, all of Gaza as well their right of return for thousands of Palestinians...they rejected that as well.
Let's also not forget that the initial UN partition of Palestine created a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, side-by-side that was supposed to live in peace and harmony. Palestinians would have gotten even more than the most generous Obama-supporter could dream of. Their response? Invasion. War. Violence.
So a two-state solution in any form has not been the answer so far. Even if the Fatah government negotiates in good faith and fully intends to stop the violence, it's hard to imagine the peace holding for very long since Iran and other Islamic countries incite the Palestinians to continue to fight with Israel so they don't have to. Furthermore, even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict miraculously comes to an end - that doesn't end the threat Iran poses to Israel and the West, it doesn't finish the support for the Taliban and al Qaeda. It doesn't solve the issue of Islamist hatred for America, the Jews and anyone who doesn't eat hummus five times a day.
To end the conflict the only solution is to cure the disease not mask the symptoms. We don't need Advil to stop the headache, we need an operation to remove the brain tumor.
The only option Israel really has is to wait it out until there is better leadership for the Palestinians that is more open to real progress. Don't build any new settlements, but continue allowing the existing ones to grow. Finish building the security fence and keep going after terrorists wherever they operate from. If Hamas fires rockets from Gaza, level it again. When they rebuild Gaza and start firing rockets again, re-level it. It doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks because they have no idea how to prevent disaster...witness WWI, WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam...
This depressing status quo will likely remain until two things happen:
A) The Middle East is no longer run by dictators
B) Children in the Middle East are no longer brainwashed in schools and on TV to hate Jews, Americans and the West
Odds are that B cannot happen without A happening first. In reality neither option is likely without C) WWII-style regime change all over the Middle East. Remember that Japan and Germany were also aggressive, expansionist nations with warrior cultures that dated back to the Middle Ages and earlier. Today they make Mercedes Benzes and Nintendo Wiis. But C) is not happening anytime soon and should obviously be seen as an absolute last resort. The tipping point is rapidly approaching however...and I'm not talking about 'climate change'.
For the Israelis, Palestinians and rest of the hopelessly oppressed people of the Middle East...until the day that the rest of the world gets its act together and addresses the much larger issues than settlers, check-points and final status negotiations - the entire concept of a 'two-state solution' (or any solution for that matter) will remain little more than a buzz-word and should be treated as such."