I’ve now finished Jimmy Carter’s book and have a much better understanding of the history and geography of the region. My last post on the subject elicited two very pertinent questions/comments. In that post I stated that Carter points out that the framework for peace has existed for a long time, and writer ptfan1 asks, in that case, What is it?
Writer spencercourt brings up the question of whether Israel has the “right” to exist in the first place. Indeed, the modern problems can be traced back without a doubt to the establishment of Israel in the beginning, and spencercourt answers his own question: might makes right. Or said another way, the Golden Rule is that he who has the gold makes the rules.
On one hand, it’s understandable that the international community, as personified by the U.N., would want to mandate a homeland for the Jews after the horror of the Holocaust. It seems like the least we could do. In addition, I have incredible admiration for the Jews’ resolution never to let themselves be victims on that scale ever again. I have further admiration for their resourcefulness, intelligence, and even ruthlessness in going after those who threaten them (see: Munich, Entebbe). As for a “right” to a homeland, that is now a moot point. The creation of Israel did not occur by a piece of paper issued by the U.N. It was accompanied by another war in which an estimated 900,000 Arabs either fled or were driven from their homes in the new, artificially created land of Israel. They were supposed to be allowed to return, or at least compensated for the loss of their homes and land.
The creation of Israel called for the two-state solution. Part of the land went to form Israel, and part to remain Palestine. An area surrounding Jerusalem and Bethlehem would be an “international” area. Everyone ignored that part and both sides were intent on annexing the other. Now we hear about the two-state solution as if it’s a new idea.
And now: the framework for peace. All subsequent negotiations revolve around U.N. Resolution 242 in 1967. In the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel simultaneously attacked Egypt, Jordan, and Syria and then occupied the Sinai (belonging to Egypt), the Golan Heights (belonging to Syria), and the West Bank (belonging to Jordan). UNR 242 says that Israel must fully withdraw from those areas and be satisifed with the boundaries of their country as established in 1948. There must be a resolution to the refugee problem. The Palestinians must have autonomy. It has been determined to be against international law to establish civilian settlements on land taken by force, and yet as late as 2006, Israel continued to build new settlements in the West Bank.
Jimmy Carter’s description of the West Bank is hellish. It’s a land where Jewish settlements are connected by roads that Palestinians are not allowed to use or even cross. As in Gaza, Israel controls all access into or out of the area (by land or sea or air). Israel must somehow see its way to giving Palestinians more freedom, because they are perpetuating their own misery and creating more terrorists by the day.
War is hell in the region, but so is working for peace. (See: Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin.)
Carter points out that the apartheid here is not strictly the same as in South Africa but is about the acquisition of land. Israel wants more. Any time they are pressed to give up their settlements or conform to the agreements they have signed themselves, they come up with onerous conditions that will never be met. Any attack on Israel, by some single suicide bomber, is judged to nullify any agreement Israel has ever made. “How are we to guarantee that?” said someone from the West Bank. “If the presence of 200,000 Israelis troops can’t do it, how will we?”
If this commentary sounds pro-Palestinian as opposed to pro-Israeli, that isn’t the case. I am reminded of the NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who shared a meal with friends in Egypt during the election process in the U.S. when it looked like Obama had a good chance of winning, and he asked them, Could that ever happen here? In the U.S., a man named Barack Hussein Obama could become the next president. Could a Christian do that here? Their reply: Are you crazy? Of course not.
I was further reminded today of our differences with the Muslim world (not to be equated with terrorists) by a stunning picture in the NY Times of Israel’s Foreign Minister (Tzipi Livni) and the U.S. Secretary of State (Condoleeza Rice) concluding the signing of an agreement whereby the U.S. will help stave off the supply of weapons to Hamas in Gaza. Here are these two powerful, intelligent women–Condi Rice in this blazingly red suit–signing an agreement that commits entire countries to a course of action. Could that happen in Egypt? Or Syria? Or Jordan? Or Saudi Arabia? That two women would be in such positions? Are you crazy? Of course not.