Settlement activity is not the moral equivalent of terrorism. President Obama and John Kerry missed an opportunity to move the peace process forward.
This week, I’ve been fielding questions like this:
“Deb, the Middle East peace process depends on a two state solution. Don’t you agree that the settlements are an obstacle to peace?”
Before I answer, I have to dispel the myths inherent in the question:
There is no “Peace Process”
Can we agree on some terms at the outset? A “peace process,” ought to consist of negotiations between parties who actually want “peace.” Also, “peace,” for the sake of this discussion, is more than just the absence of war. Acts of terrorism aren’t perpetrated by peace loving people.
Only the Israelis appear to want peace. The Palestinians say they want it, but seem to use peace itself as a bargaining chip. The Palestinians make demands, and justify terrorism saying Israel failed to meet them.
Often, they seem to be saying:
“You have to meet our demands, and if you don’t, we can’t be responsible for what will happen next.”
At the same time, they teach their children to fear and hate Jews.
The fact is, continuing Palestinian violence is and has been the plan all along. Don’t believe me? Read the PLO and Hamas charters for yourself.
Article 6 of the PLO Charter reads:
” The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.”
Article 22 reads:
“…the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence…”
So according to this charter, the destruction of Israel is essential to peace.
The Hamas Charter is harsher. It says that without complete submission to Islam, there can never be “peace.”
Article 31 of that charter reads:
“It is the duty of the followers of other religions to stop disputing the sovereignty of Islam in this region, because the day these followers should take over there will be nothing but carnage, displacement and terror.”
It may seem like it’s only words, written decades ago, but if that’s true, why not vote to amend the charters now? Isn’t it an “obstacle to peace” not to?
Back in September, Prime Minister Netanyahu asked the same question:
It’s a good question. I wonder how President Obama would answer it?
What about the two state solution? Another myth.
The Palestinians Don’t Want a “Two State Solution”
The PLO and Hamas charters paint a bleak picture all by themselves. But let’s pretend we never read them. Let’s pretend the Palestinians want peace with Israel. Do they want it enough to live next door to a Jewish state, as one of two states on the Jordan River? Let’s look at the evidence.
Right now, Israel is not in control in the West Bank or Gaza anymore. Fatah controls the West Bank, and Hamas controls Gaza. Why haven’t they used the billions in aid dollars they’ve gotten over the years to build a state? Why do people assume they couldn’t have? Where does all the aid money go since they don’t seem to use it to build better roads and schools, or a functioning economy? Why do we still not know what happened to the money Arafat took over the years? So many unanswered questions few seem to be asking, least of all the Obama administration.
Is it too much for me to expect the Palestinians to function as a civil society before they have a state? I don’t think so. I bet the Kurds wouldn’t think so either. The 40 million Kurds represent the world’s largest ethnic group without a permanent nation state or rights guaranteed under a constitution. Still, even they have a thriving civil society, and function as a “state” needs to function. There’s no reason the Palestinians couldn’t do the same.
The Palestinians have never recognized Israel’s right to exist. To date, they have never amended their charters, which make it clear they want Israel gone. They’ve held their own elections, in both Gaza and the West Bank too. They seem to be waiting for others to call them a state, rather than calling themselves one, or living as one. This makes me wonder if they’re holding off because they still want all or nothing?
I think so, which is why I say. . .
The Settlements Are a Red Herring
If the Palestinians wanted peace, the settlements wouldn’t be “obstacles.” Acts of terrorism haven’t been “obstacles” for Israelis.
That didn’t stop John Kerry from suggesting that Israel is the one who doesn’t want a two state solution:
“If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic. It cannot be both.”
The thing is, Israel has removed settlers after negotiating peace deals in the past. In 1989, Israel removed 2,500 of their own citizens from the village of Yamit as part of the peace with Egypt.
As then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said at the time:
“Never before has a people been prepared to face the trials of, and exhaust every last possibility for, peace as our people has. The ruins of Yamit will also serve as testimony that we have done the unimaginable to honor the peace agreement, so that our children will not point an accusing finger at us and say that we missed the chance.”
More recently, Prime Minister Netanyahu urged settlers in Amona to accept a deal that forces them to move . They were living on private land, and Netanyahu told them to move to public land instead. Public land in the West Bank is considered “disputed territory,” not officially part of any state yet.
The point is, Israel has removed settlements, so it’s willing and able to do so, when it’s warranted. The only question that remains is, when and why is it warranted?
The Obama administration seems to think it’s always warranted. To hear them talk, it’s only okay for Palestinians to live in the West Bank, and fine to ban Jews from living there too.
The Netanyahu government seems to think removal is only sometimes warranted. To hear them talk, it’s only okay to remove Jewish settlers if they are on private land. But, the rest of the West Bank up for grabs, to the point where they encourage settlers to move there.
If Arab Muslims can be a minority in Israel, why can’t European Jews be a minority in the Palestinian state? Why does the U.S. President accept bigotry from Palestinians?
I know, neither side wants to be demographically overrun by the other, but why is that? What are they each afraid of? History gives me some clues. Israeli Jews are afraid a one state solution would replace their Jewish culture with the Muslim one, and the Palestinian charter language confirms their fears are well founded.
The Palestinians think settlement activity will mean less land for them because Israel won’t give up land occupied by Jewish settlers. But history has shown that Israel is willing to trade land inhabited by Jews to get peace.
The question we Americans have to ask ourselves is, how do we feel about supporting bigotry? After all, that’s what it is when the Palestinians get angry that Jews are trying to live amongst them. As long as the settlers agree to live as Palestinians when there’s ultimately a Palestinian state, what’s the problem? The settlers may say they want to be Israelis, but if that’s not how peace talks play out, so what? They’ll have to move back to Israeli territory, or remain and be Palestinians.
The bottom line for me is this: The issue is a lot more complicated than Obama and Kerry would have us believe. Settlements are not on Palestinian land, because there is no Palestinian state. We call West Bank land “contested” for a reason. The Israeli government removes settlements built on private Palestinian land, because those are illegal.
If building a settlement in the West Bank is an obstacle to peace, what are terrorist attacks? Aren’t literal acts of violence greater obstacles to peaceful resolution of conflicts?
President Obama and John Kerry missed an opportunity to move the peace process forward. Instead of condemning Israel, they should have defined peace. If they had, perhaps the Palestinian definition would have stood out like the sore thumb it is. Instead of accusing Israel of wanting a one state solution, they should have defined a two state one. If they had, perhaps the Palestinian insistence on all or nothing would have stood out too.
Unfortunately for those who actually want peace, the administration did neither. Instead, they chastised Netanyahu and implied that settlements were a greater obstacle to peace than terrorism.
Now, all a terrorist needs to blame are “Israeli settlements.” The President has given them a script to follow. I can’t speak for anyone else, but in my book, that makes his policy worse for peace than the settlements.