Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Palestine/West Bank/Israel

As a Jewish American whose family most fortunately lost almost no family members to the Nazi's atrocities, despite having many family members in Germany in the early 1930's, I am certainly aware of some of the fears of fellow Jews.

I am also most aware of how many of the words commonly used about Palestianians were used in a different context about Jews before 1948. Palestinians are people who have a history which we as Jews should relate to of being exploited by others when we weren't lucky enough to be ignored by them.

Why do the Palestinians not want a state as the Israelis tried to give them and are trying to bring about today? I can't imagine living in a state with barriers all around me and borders that chop up what I would see as "our land" into separate chunks of land. I can't imagine trying to go 10-20 or 30 miles and needing to cross borders within the West Bank.

Water and other resources are important to the West Bank. Israel - similar to the U.S. - uses a disproportionate amount of the available resources.

But why are the Palestinians so violent? Sadly, there is a history of not giving the Palestinians what they want when things are peaceful. We asked for the Palestinians to "be democratic" and they voted for Hamas. We don't respect their political choice(s).

But why is Hamas so militant and so violent? Did the Israelis and Americans - support the "other side" in Palestinian politics? Why should the Palestinians accept a corrupt, "middle-of-the-road" government which gets them next to nothing. Doing things "the American Way" hasn't worked. Surprise - Surprise!

Unfortunately much of the rhetoric we use and accept speaks against our interests! Israel is The Nuclear Power in the Middle East. Israel has The Strong Military in the Middle East. Though we often still think of Israel as the "underdog" it has turned into the "oppressor" and the "bully" in many ways.

But isn't "giving" the Palestinians anything going to further their desire to "drive the Jews into the Sea?" Certainly there are parts of the Palestinian public who would like to destroy Israel. There also are Israelis who seek to kill Palestinians and wish to expel them from the West Bank. There are many, many Palestinians who will be happy to have peace and will live peacefully if there is true peace around them.

Building a true peace with the Palestinians is Very Risky and unpredictable in important ways. Not making peace in the short-term is just as risky! Currently Israel is "strategically important" to the U.S. and other western countries. As the oil supplies lesson in the Middle East in the coming decades the entire Middle East will be much less important to Western Interests.

It is much, much easier to make peace from a position of power, rather than from a position of weakness. Israel currently has the potential to take risks and make peace. 20-30 years from now such options may not exist.

There are clear areas where there could be consensus in the building of a Palestinian State on the West Bank. They require negotiations, not unilateral partialing of "ghettos" as is now talked about by the Israeli Government. Nearly all of the West Bank should be Palestinian. There is No Valid Precedent for maintaining Israeli settlements deep in the West Bank.

Israel will hopefully seek to create a real Palestinian State on the West Bank. Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity may well require negotiations "down the road" and trust building before it can be worked out. No Palestinian leadership can make peace as things are now proposed by the Israelis and the Americans.

Full, simple and clear recognition of Israel's right to exist must be coupled with a scaling back of Israeli settlements (which continue to grow outward) and a true beginning of a real peace. There are certainly risks for the Israelis. At the same time they have been the "victors" and the "dominant force" for 39 years since the 1967 war.

The Powerful must take the big steps and take risks! Doing anything else is asking for things to get worse and drag on for another generation. We must do our best to prevent further massive killings of Jews. We must also recognize that we are oppressors now and morally and on a practical level shouldn't continue as we have to date.



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