Posts Tagged ‘arabs’

Israelis & Palestinians: Enemies Forever?

5 January 2009

The conflicts between the Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis has been going-on since the birth of the modern Zionist movement in the early 1920s. This conflict has run the gamut from street demonstrations to low-level guerilla tactics to open warfare.

Despite the best attempts of successive US Presidents, especially Carter and Clinton, there seems to be no end in sight for this conflict, which some claim has its roots in the Biblical accounts of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. Thousand of hours have been spent attempting to negotiate a lasting peace between the two sides, with little success, if any.

The basic issue is the Land of Israel – or Land of Palestine, depending on your point of view – which both sides claim in its entirety. Both sides want the land, all of the land, and they want to be the dominant people of that land with the other side either forced into a secondary status or remove altogether. After decades of conflict, a few people on both sides are willing to share the land, each side keeping what it has, though the Palestinians want a little extra piece consisting of the Eastern half of Jerusalem to serve as their capital. Naturally the Israelis are unwilling to give-up that part, having won it in a war at the cost of many lives of Israeli soldiers.

Of course, you also have people on both sides who simply want the other side gone from the land entirely.

There doesn’t seem to be a solution in-sight to end the conflict that has engulfed so many lives on both sides for so long. There are Israelis and Palestinians who do not know what it is like to not have this conflict going-on, since such an occurrances has not happened in their lifetime.

But, let me take a stab at it and tell me what you think:

First, both sides have to acknowledge that the other exists. Strange as it may seem, there are people on both sides who doubt the legality of the others claims on the land, due to a supposedly artificial nature of the others status as a people.

Some Israelis claim that there were no Palestinian Arabs in Palestine before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and that they only arrived from Jordan, Syria,Egypt and Lebanon after the quality of life in Palestine improved when the Jews arrived, improved irrigation and raised the quality of life in the area. In other words, they believe that the land was vacant of people before the Jews arrived to settle there. Of course, we know that isn’t true, since there have been books written about Arabs living in the area for centuries, as well as mosques and churches that have existed for centuries in Palestine.

The Palestinian side isn’t much better. Their side has claimed that since most Israelis are decended from European Jews and not Middle Eastern Jews, that they have no right to claim that their ancestor lived on the Land of Israel centuries ago and they only came to Palestine after World War Two and the Holocaust. This ignores all genetic research and family histories, as well as documentation that Jews fled from the Land of Israel after the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70AD.

So, Step One: admit that the other side has had a history on the Land of Israel/Palestine for as long as you have.

This will be a hard one to give-up as it has served as a valuable piece of propaganda on both sides for a long time.

Secondly, both sides have to agree that the war could go on forever, unless immediate steps are taken to stop it. Generations have grown-up knowing nothing but warfare and subsequent generations should be spared. Nothing could be gained by expelling either side from the Land. The Jews waited two thousand years to return and would fight for another two thousand years to return. Likewise, if the Palestinians were evicted, they would also fight to return and would fight as long as it took to win.

Both sides need to admit that the other would fight for as long as it took to return to the Land, if they ever were evicted enmasse.

So, once we have that out of the way, we can get started building a lasting peace.

Third, Israel and the other Arab states, including the Palestinians negotiating on their own, would agree to allow the other to live in peace and formally recognize the other side. All would grant complete freedom of religion to the Three Major Faiths of that region (Israel already does this, anyway) and would agree that holy site belonging to any of the three would be sacrosanct from then on. So, Jews would have complete freedom of religion in Arab states and Arabs would enjoy the same rights in Israel. This part would be easiest for the Israelis, since they already make this guarantee to Arabs living there. But, it would be more difficult for the Arabs, where freedom of religion is less guaranteed in their countries, especially in the Gulf States.

After this, the work should begin to build-up the infrastructure of the Palestinian areas of Israel. Roads, hospitals and schools should be built; houses repaired; sewage treatment and water supply systems need to be installed, all of which would be paid for by the Arab States, who have previously been the major suppliers of arms to Palestinian terror cells and locations provided for training of militants. Since they have helped finance the fighting, they should now finance the building of the Palestinian areas to be fit for human habitation.  For the Israelis, they should allow the public works to be allowed to be built and to be left alone and free from their interference.

As for the Palestinian capital, the Palestinians already have their potential capital under their control and it is just as good a capital as Jerusalem would be: Bethlehem.

Bethlehem is the city where the Jewish Messiah is supposed to be born in and was the birthplace of King David, a major figure in all three of the major faiths. The current mayor of Bethlehem is a Palestinian Christian and a strong supporter of the Palestinian National Authority. Given the sheer number of Christian tourists who come to Bethlehem every year and the worldwide interest Christians have in the city, it would be a potential tourist attraction and money-maker for the PNA for years to come. It would also be a source of comfort for Christians that, by law, the mayor of the city must be a Christian. Mayor Victor Batarseh is Roman Catholic and a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

A secondary capital could be Nazareth, also under the administration of a Christian mayor, as far as I know.

Whichever city they chose – though I believe that the far better choice would be Bethlehem, since it is both David’s birthplace and the future birthplace of the Messiah, which would be a good thing for the Arabs to claim a victory, of a sort, over the Israelis – the Palestinians should be guaranteed access to religious sites in Jerusalem, as Jews would be guaranteed the same rights in Bethlehem.

The Israelis would have to give-up any thought that they can pick and choose whichever Palestinian government they wish to recognize. If Hamas wins a victory, the Israelis should recognize them as the legitimate government. After all, the Hagannah and Irgun committed acts of terror against the British in their war for independence, but yet the British recognized the Israelis who had been in both groups when they became heads of state, as was the case with Menachem Begin, a former member of the Irgun.

None of these ideas is perfect and each of them asks a lot from both sides. Some might be easier for one side to fulfill than the other side. But, this entire conflict has not only affected the lives of the Israelis, but all citizens of the Arab states as well. Israel has long been used as a scapegoat by successive Arab regimes as the chief reason they must arm themselves and the arms buildups have made arms dealers wealthy, while leaving much of the Arab world in poverty.

None of these ideas is a solution in itself. But, taken together, might be a good place to start.