We are at a tipping point in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The UN Palestinian resolution and Israel’s response are indicative of a sea-change in the Middle East. Time is quickly passing and for those who believe that it is vital for Israel to reach a two-state solution with the Palestinians for the sake of her own Jewish democratic character, peace and security, the window of opportunity is quickly closing, as a report shows fairly conclusively just published by “Territorial Jerusalem” headed up by long-time Jerusalem settlements’ expert Daniel Seidemann:
“As the entire world knows, Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided that Israel’s answer to the UN vote will be the construction of thousands of new settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the expediting of the E-1 settlement, which has long been recognized as the “fatal heart attack” of the two-state solution. Indeed, E-1 is not a “routine” settlement. If built, it is a game-changer, maybe a game-ender. E1 is the “binary”settlement. If you support E-1, you cannot possibly be in favor of the two-state solution; if you are in favor of the two-state solution, you must oppose E-1.” (For the full report see http://t-j.org.il/LatestDevelopments/tabid/1370/articleID/625/currentpage/1/Default.aspx
If true (and I believe it is), what can and should we American citizens do to support a renewed peace process? We should be exerting concerted pressure on President Obama to reengage with Israel and the Palestinians to achieve a two-state solution, to visit Israel and connect personally with the Israeli population, and to visit Ramallah to connect personally with the Palestinian population. This should all be done as soon as possible after his inauguration and the Israeli elections scheduled for January 22.
The President needs to appoint a new high level “A Team” led by him and his new Secretary of State to bring a plan with defined parameters addressing all the outstanding issues including borders, security, Jerusalem, water, and refugees, and then work diligently with both sides to achieve a two-state solution within a few months.
Doing so is clearly in both America’s and Israel’s best interests. This unresolved conflict has become a catalyst for radicalism across the Arab and Islamic worlds. It strengthens the hands especially of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaida to foment anger in the Arab and Islamic street against America and Israel. It diminishes American influence throughout the region and weakens moderate Arab regimes.
A resolution of the conflict will not only help to reverse these trends but also stabilize Israel’s relationships with most of its neighbors and bring Israel back into positive relationships with the family of nations.
Yes, there is a high risk of failure, as this conflict seems intractable; but so too is there a high risk for inaction.
The general outlines of a two-state solution are likely already supported by the majority of Israelis and Palestinians. Israel, of course, cannot deal with Hamas unless it recognizes the right of Israel to exist and stops its terrorist attacks. A separate agreement, in the meantime, can be reached with Fatah (assuming President Abbas recognizes the futility of including Hamas as currently constituted and bravely goes forward to negotiate in good faith) with a future expansion of an agreement to include Gaza on another day.
Despite Abbas’ nasty remarks at the UN, he does support a two-state end-of-conflict solution. Only a month ago he was asked by journalists if he ever wished to live in the city of his birth, Safed, again. He said he would like to visit, but Safed is in Israel and he has no intention of living there. He wants to live with his own people in Palestine which is the West Bank and Gaza.
Winston Churchill noted in a speech in the House of Commons on November 12, 1936:
“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”(cited by Daniel Kurtzer in “Pathways to Peace – America and the Israeli-Arab Conflict,” 2012, p. xiii).
What was true in 1936 for the world is true now for the Middle East. The time for inaction is over. Bold and courageous leadership is needed now by the United States, Israel and Palestine before it is too late.