Restraint Is Hard,
Resignation Is Easy
As we approach the end of another trip to Israel, I am
struck that much like the problems facing the US, the ones here seem insurmountable.
The cacophony on the ground about what to do with the Palestinians, let alone
ISIS, Syria, Iraq, Iran and the Russians leads to an instant headache. Liberal
Israelis cannot understand why a one-state solution giving Arabs full rights
would not do the trick. The majority of Israelis, especially the ones to the
west near the corridors of industrial power want the Palestinians to go away.
How much different is this fight than the one on the southern border of the US?
Enough, but not entirely. Here, in Israel, they already built the wall and are
There is little sympathy for the plight of the Arabs living
in or tracing their family roots back to the land that was the British Mandate
of Palestine. They call themselves Palestinians, but so are Israeli Jews and
most Jordanians, but neither of these two groups is remotely interested in
joining with the Arabs of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in any meaningful
way. Where once I thought there was a chance to leverage the economic growth in
Israel to a boot-strapping benefit to these Arabs (1998), that time is long
gone, replaced by the post-Second Intifada 9 meter cement walls and miles of
barbed wire. The restraint of the late 1990’s has been replaced by the
resignation of today. Just get rid of them! No deal is available to the
Palestinians because most Israelis are no longer interested in their progress,
Besides, with whom would Netanyahu deal? The PLO? Hamas? Why bother?
See NY Times of Sunday October 18: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/world/middleeast/in-east-jerusalem-palestinians-are-seething-after-years-of-neglect.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
I see a vibrant bustling economy of active people in Israel.
Everything is on the move. In Nablus, we could have been transported to a movie
set 100 years ago with the same dress, the same market and the same dirt
streets filled with broken down Japanese, French and Korean cars had these cars been invented.
Anyone who thinks he has an answer to this problem is lying
or delusional. The facts on the ground prevent a solution. Furthermore, there
is no amount of coercion from outside entities like the US that will alter that
reality. Israel is better off the way things are. The Palestinians are only the
concern of the Palestinians and the corruption in their leadership suggests no
exit from the merry-go-round with these folks in charge.
Just as the major issues in America of income inequality,
racial injustice, concentrated wealth, and a corrupt political class will never
fall to logic because the leadership won’t even ask the right questions, the
players on the ground in Israel and the West Bank are denying the essential
issue. When one power displaces another in a piece of land, should the
displaced be given reparations for their loss. In the end, that’s what it comes
to. The Arabs have to decide whether to deal for peace or continue to be a
Third World non-state, whining to the UN and sinking deeper into poverty.
It is not for me to suggest the answer because I can do
nothing to move the ball forward. Only the principals can do that and neither
is inclined to do so right now.
Israel will continue to prosper using its military when
necessary to protect its citizens from external attacks. This is an absolute given.
The Arabs of the former British Mandate of Palestine will stay impoverished and
powerless until they find a leader with the vision to start the hard work of
forming a real country. That person has not arisen yet. The Arab Ben Gurion has
not yet appeared.
I continue to return to the one problem of poor leadership.
Until new leadership rises to combine self-sacrifice and vision like Sadat did,
there will be no peace in Israel or the West Bank. Israel will show little
restraint, but plenty of resignation. The Israelis carved out this country in
1948 and extended it in 1967. They are not going back.