Thursday, December 20, 2012

Where Is Israel Going?

The other day I read a comment posted in response to Alan Elsner's article "Israel’s diplomatic problem in one word: Settlements" that stated simply: “There should never be a two-state solution.” The poster didn’t offer any additional clues that would explain her position.

What is the alternative to a two-state solution? I assume that no one is suggesting a three-state solution to resolve our problems (Israel, Palestine, Gaza), so I will make the logical conclusion that this person either favors a one-state solution or a continuation of the status quo.

Supporters of a one-state solution have over 3 million Palestinians to answer for. Arab Muslim residents of Taibe today have the right to vote and to form political parties. In an expanded State of Israel permanently encompassing the entire West Bank, wouldn’t these basic rights be extended to all Palestinians?

Would the Palestinians become first class citizens of the democratic State of Israel, with voting rights and an obligation to serve in the army and pay taxes? I don’t think anyone is suggesting this, as Israel would lose its identity as a Jewish State.

If Israel claimed permanent rule over all the West Bank and Gaza, subjugating an entire people and granting them second class citizenry, the only way to describe the resulting country would be as an apartheid state. This would not be the democratic thing to do, or the moral thing to do. More importantly; this would not be the Jewish thing to do.

Continuation of the status quo is not an option

A continuation of the status quo will put us on the path to renewed violence. The recent Pillars of Defense operation left the Hamas claiming victory, although its military achievements were marginal. The real loser in the confrontation was the Palestinian Authority. The results of a recently announced poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Arab World for Research & Development found that 87.7 percent of Palestinian Arabs either agree or strongly agree that "armed struggle, as adopted by Hamas, is the best means of achieving Palestinian independence."

With no signs suggesting a resumption of peace talks, and following Hamas rallies in Ramallah, Nablus, and Hebron, it is clear that the status quo will lead to eventual Hamas control over the Palestinian West Bank.

In many ways, it appears that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the parties to the right of the Likud prefer the Hamas over the leadership of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. With the Hamas it’s easy for the political right as it is clear that will never be negotiations, never be joint recognition.

This is very discouraging, because it offers no hope for conflict resolution and instead guarantees that the violence will continue, possibly for another generation.

Two other options

There are two other options staring us in the face. One would see Israel making a unilateral withdrawal from all territories over which it is willing to give up claims of sovereignty. The withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 was the right thing to do, but the fact that it was unilateral led to the rise of Hamas and years of missiles falling on Israeli cities. A unilateral declaration of Israel’s final borders would not be accepted by the international community and would be rejected out of hand by the Palestinians. The conflict would continue.

And finally, there is the one path that should be followed. The cessation of the Pillars of Defense operation should have been the impetus to resume talks with the Palestinian Authority. This would have decreased the so-called “gains” of Hamas in the operation, and instead given hope to Palestinians that they could achieve their goal of independence through peaceful means.

The end goal would be a Jewish State of Israel in secure, recognized, final borders alongside an independent Palestinian state.

So, I ask that comment poster, what is the alternative to a two-state solution? Give me something that will bring hope for an end to the violence and bloodshed. I personally think that launching peace talks with the sincere intention of reaching a permanent solution fair to all offers the most hope. That is the direction Israel should be going.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.

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