Every time I hear about a flare up in the Gaza strip, I cringe. It seems like there has been a never-ending cycle of violence, with civilians being targeted by Hamas radicals and innocents being collateral damage in Israeli bombing attacks. Thousands of protestors charging the border fence with some throwing Molotov cocktails. Israeli troops firing on them.
There is clearly right and wrong on both sides. However, it’s Palestinian intransigence that is the root cause as to why there has been no settlement in 70 years.
Is Israel perfect? No. There are right wingers in Israel who have always wanted a single state including Judea and Samaria (Palestine). However, they are a minority of Israelis. The majority of Israelis want a two-state solution, 55 percent per a 2016 Times of Israel poll.
Palestinian leaders have traditionally avoided negotiating a final settlement regardless of terms for one basic reason. Per polling (Mosaic, 4-3-17), the majority of Palestinians do not believe in a two-state solution. Realistic or not, their leadership’s often stated grand scheme has always been to permit millions of Palestinians around the world to return to Israel, rather than only Gaza/West Bank (Palestine).
Doing so would change permanently change Israel into a majority Muslim state, even if there were promises of somehow keeping the state Jewish. This sort of a plan was tried with Christians in Lebanon after World War II. It did not work, and Christians are now an oppressed minority in an unstable and increasingly radical Muslim nation.
Returning all of the displaced Palestinians to Israel proper would make Israel into an Arab state, negating the very reason for the creation of Israel as a safe haven for Jews worldwide. As a practical matter, no Israeli government, left or right, will ever agree to that action, which would create a de facto majority Palestinian state that would then merge with Palestine.
There are practical alternatives. In the 90s, the Clinton administration proposed a comprehensive peace settlement. Although the Palestinians got almost everything they asked for, Israeli Prime Minister Barak’s left wing government was positive.
That proposed settlement included:
A) Creation of an independent Palestinian state consisting of 92 percent of the West Bank and the entire Gaza strip;
B) Palestinian control of East Jerusalem with the exception of Jewish religious sites and neighborhoods;
C) Admittance of 100,000 Palestinian refugees into Israel itself; and
D) A $30 billion compensation fund for other Palestinians.
Yet, Arafat indignantly rejected that proposal with no counter. Not only did he reject it, but he called for an intifada (a domestic war) against the Israelis. As a result, his popularity with the Palestinian masses improved from 39 percent to 46 percent.
A majority (57 percent) of Israelis surveyed thought that Barak had given in too much to Palestinian demands. As a result, Barak was defeated by General Sharon, a hard liner similar to Netanyahu.
If the Palestinian leadership was unwilling to accept this very favorable deal, what will they accept short of a majority Palestinian state? The answer is nothing other than total capitulation by the Israelis, and that is why there has been no progress towards peace.
That situation can change. The alternative is to have other Arab nations do what they should have done decades ago: pressure the Palestinian leaders (Hamas and the Palestinian Authority) to settle along the lines of the Clinton proposal. These nations must simultaneously offer full citizenship to their own Palestinian refugees. Those refugees wishing to return to Palestine can go to Gaza and the West Bank, which can be unified as a new Palestine state recognized by Israel.
Finally, all of these Arab states must recognize Israel as the Jewish state it has been for 70 years.
If Trump is serious about peace, he needs to remove Jared Kushner and appoint a Middle East expert to move in this direction. Now, before things worsen.