Sheikh Jarrah

Sheikh Jarrah


Leonard Zwelling

It’s a neighborhood in East Jerusalem in which Palestinian families live. It is land that was occupied by people who are now Israelis before 1948—before Israel was. Some of these Jews want the Arab occupied land back now and the government of Israel and its courts have deferred making a decision about who gets to live there. During the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, violence has broken out yet again at the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount and has spread to street fighting in mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhoods (e.g., Lod). Israeli police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets and injured hundreds. Over 20 Israeli police were hurt as well. Rockets have been launched at Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv from Gaza and the Israeli air force has rained lethal terror down on Gaza in return killing many including Arab children. Israel is at war with the Palestinians yet again. As I write, ground forces of the Israel Defense Force are moving into Gaza.

Just when we thought there might be an end to Arab-Israeli fighting in the Holy Land, it starts again. Will this tamp down as in 2014 or will this be yet another intifada? It’s hard to know as yet. The Palestinian Authority has deferred elections again in the West Bank and Israel keeps having elections without outcomes. Hamas, which rules Gaza, clearly has launched aggressive action against Israel in a bid to control both Gaza and the West Bank. What to do?

I think there actually is a way out, although I have little hope this will actually occur given the massive divide amongst Israeli political leadership. This time the rockets have not brought the various Israeli parties together behind Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is all occurring in the middle of Yair Lapid trying to form a new Israeli government after Netanyahu has failed as at his attempt to do the same following Israel’s fourth indecisive election in two years.

First, the leaders of both the Israeli government (Netanyahu) and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank (Mahmoud Abbas) have to go. They have both over stayed their effectiveness and timed out their sell by date.

Second, the new leaders in both Jerusalem and the West Bank need to reengage in peace talks that will lead to a single government in Israel with two states, Jewish and Arab of equal sovereignty and with population based representation in the Knesset. Each state will need a capital. The capital of the country Israel will be Jerusalem and I suggest the capital of each state of Israel NOT be Jerusalem. The question of the settlements needs to be resolved. If the current ones are in the state of Israel and the rest of the West Bank is left for Arab building, that might be a way to go.

Third, Arabs in Israel must have full citizenship and that includes the right to own land. I have seen the Arabic on the houses of East Jerusalem occupied now by Jews since 1967. It’s a shame that it has come to this, but a resolution must be attempted.

Fourth, the new state of Israel must turn its attention to finding a solution to the problem of Gaza which plagues both Israel and Egypt. It would be best if Gaza became the third Israeli state.

Israel will remain the Jewish homeland, but Arabs are fully welcomed there.

Finally, Israel and its Sunni Arab neighbors must turn their full attention to the real threat in the area, Iran. With the help of the larger world powers a new peace agreement must be reached with Iran so that war is averted. It is up to the Iranian people whether or not they wish to tolerate the theocracy that has dominated their land for over forty years, but once that theocracy becomes a regional threat it is up to the world to end that threat.

The current violence in Israel is born of disputes that are hundreds of years old, but which have been largely settled in reality. Israel is a Jewish state and will remain one forever now that it has the wherewithal to defend itself. The Arabs in the area have lost the battle and the war. They can either thrive under one flag or continue to fight for a Palestine that never existed and probably never will given the number of times the Arabs have “missed the opportunity.” It’s time to end the “struggle.”

Of course, it’s been going on for hundreds of years and may well go on for another thousand. But, It’s up to those on the ground to solve this, not the United States and clearly not the United Nations.

I don’t know if the latest fighting is what Tom Friedman called “the big one”—the next intifada. The Arabs who live in the region formerly known as Palestine have got to decide what is best for them, but it cannot be the status quo with ancient leaders taking their people nowhere.

Israel won the war in 1967 and continues to rule the area, and will. As has been the case for decades, the Arabs still need to cut a deal that’s good for them. The one arrived at by their current leadership is not it and every time the Arabs reject a new offer, their leverage diminishes and the deal for them gets worse.

But first, Abbas in the West Bank and Netanyahu in Jerusalem need replacing. That is clearly step one.

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