“I am going to extend sovereignty”- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding settlements (4-19)
Although I’m 100 percent supportive of Israel, I disagree with the settlement movement and Bibi in general. Only an equitable two-state solution, a reasonable compromise like the Israeli founding fathers wanted, will bring lasting peace. Peace will not come from further expansion of Israel proper, or financial aid to the Palestinians, as proposed by Kushner.
Pew just came out with a survey proving that I’m mainstream in my views. While 64 percent of Americans support the Israeli people, only 41 percent support the current Israeli government which does things like cave into President Trump and bar two Muslim House Reps from entering the nation. However, it also shows that these numbers are skewed due to heavy GOP support for Israel and its people.
Along these lines, I constantly hear from the far left about the current extremist government in Jerusalem and the persecuted “innocent” Palestinians. (Note: The two Reps supported radical groups and were hardly impartial) Pew indicates that 13 percent of Democrats feel this way versus only 2 percent of Republicans.
Virtually none of them have a clue about how that surrounded nation arrived at where it now stands politically. This necessarily brief column will give them a better understanding of the post-1948 Israeli/Palestinian situation, if they will take off the blinders.
Left of Center Israeli Government
Israel’s first political group was Mapai (Labor Alignment), a typical left-wing multiparty coalition with extensive social welfare platforms. Along with them came the Kibbutz, the closest thing to a communistic utopian farm commune the world has ever seen. National unity left-wing coalitions ruled until 1977, at which point the right-wing (secular) Likud was formed from various factions by Begin and Sharon.
During this 20-year period, Israel repeatedly attempted to make peace with its hostile Arab neighbors, which refused (until Sadat in 1991, resulting in his assassination). Meanwhile it endured repeated terrorist attacks by radicals determined to “drive the Jews into the sea,” their war cry.
The “Khartoum Resolutions” (9-1-67) were signed by eight Arab heads of state. That documented Arab policy: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”
Over this same 20 years, there were numerous wars. Because of terrorist attacks and the closing of the Suez Canal to Israeli ships, Israel joined England and France in their victorious 1956 Sinai campaign. Shortly after, Israel withdrew from the Sinai and Gaza (a part of Egypt), which it had captured, in exchange for promised peace which never came. Terrorism from neighboring Arab lands never halted and Egypt again blocked Israeli shipping in the Strait of Tiran.
Egypt, Jordan, and Syrian forces were building massive forces on the Israeli border for an imminent invasion. The Six Day War (6-5-67) began with a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Egypt. The war was then joined by other Arab states. The West Bank and East Jerusalem were captured from Jordan, Gaza from Egypt. Syria’s Golan Heights, used for 19 years to reign rockets on peaceful Israeli farms, was also captured. As part of strained negotiations, Israel only partially withdrew.
Humiliated, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on 10-6-73, the Yom Kippur War. After three weeks of Israeli military victories, hostilities ceased. After two years of tense negotiations, Israel withdrew from additional territory it occupied as a result of the ‘73 war. However, Israeli voters did not forget this surprise attack by Muslims on the holiest day in Judaism.
Right of Center Government Ascends
After decades of fighting, the Israeli public had enough of extending the olive branch; security was more important. Since the 1977 elections, the right wing has been dominant with few exceptions, the main one being 1999 when General Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister. His One Israel Party was left wing, wanting a reasonable peace agreement.
President Clinton brokered a peace process involving Barak and Arafat, head of the PLO. Barak compromised, with the Israeli public (and objective observers) believing he had gone more than halfway. Arafat’s unfathomable self-interested response was to walk away, provide no alternative plan, and begin the Second Intifada (war) against Israel.
An unpopular failure, Barak eventually resigned, called for new 2001 elections, and lost to the resurgent right still in power now. Arafat became even more popular with the Arab street, which incorrectly thought that peace could not be negotiated but rather won via war.
Per the PSR survey (Palestinian), only 39 percent of Palestinians now think a two-state solution is viable. More Israeli citizens still believe (48 percent), but not as strongly as in 1999. Pew (2016) found that 50 percent of Arabs who were Israeli citizens believed a two-state solution is possible versus only 28 percent in the West Bank and Gaza. Other surveys have shown varying results, depending on the group conducting them.
Netanyahu’s failure to form a government coalition is problematic and the election is being redone. Regardless, my personal belief is the Israeli public will only return to its former strong support for a two-state solution if: Hamas is folded into the less radical Palestinian Authority (PA), currently rejected by Hamas; and the PA has new far-sighted leadership endorsing a more realistic two-state approach (i.e. no open “right of return”) with a gradually phased out Israeli military presence. As the latest failed economically oriented effort by Kushner illustrates, don’t hold your breath for peace.