Friday, May 20, 2011

Glass Half Empty or Glass Half Full?

If I ruled the world I would choose to annex all of the West Bank to Israel and tell Arab residents to ‘love us or leave us’. Israel is God’s gift to the Jews. You don’t like that? Tough!

What many people don’t know is that there were no Arab Palestinians prior to the establishment of the State. After Israeli Statehood was declared Arabs who lived in Israel were Israeli Arabs. Those who left Israel during its war of independence lived in the West Bank under Jordanian rule. The Jordanians kept them in refugee camps for the 19 years they had it. It was about the time of the 6 day war when Israel recaptured that territory that those refugees started to call themselves Palestinians.

If Glen Beck were President of the United States we might see some American support for that idea expressed above. But the reality is that he is not. The leader of the free world is not Glen Beck. It is Barack Obama.

Yesterday in a major foreign policy speech the President addressed the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Yes, there are Palestinians. There is no point in denying it or pointing to yesteryear. There is no point in saying that the identity was made up just so they can lay claim to land once called Palestine. It may be true that this is why they did it. But what difference does that make now? This is how they identify themselves and this is how the rest of the entire world sees them. Including the United States.

In his speech yesterday, the President said what many of us see as the unthinkable. Israel must make ‘bold moves’ for peace and return to its pre 67 borders. He added that there would be land swaps to accommodate large settlement areas on those borders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu (who is currently in the United States to discuss these issues with the President) rejected pulling back to those borders which he says are indefensible. If one looks at a map of pre 1967 Israel one will see what he means. I believe at its narrowest point Israel would be no more than 9 miles wide!

The reaction by many Jews, especially religious Zionists was contempt and outrage. The same is true for politically conservative non Jews. Mass protests have already been called by religious Zionist organizations and others. I have already gotten my share of ‘Hate Obama e-mail’ declaring him anti Israel in the strongest terms.

I do not see it that way. I realize that by saying that it makes a lot of my usual supporters very angry. But I value the truth as I understand it over being popular.

Yes, this is the first time an American President said anything about returning to the pre 67 borders. But it is not the first time the idea has been forwarded in peace negotiations. The first time was in the early 90s at Oslo during the Clinton administration. President Obama merely advocates exactly the same thing that current Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak did later at Camp David based on the Oslo accords: to move back to the pre 67 borders with some minor adjustments to accommodate settlements like Maale Adumim.

So I’m not exactly sure where all this outrage is coming from. What else is new? What’s the big Chiddush?

Israel has already laid its cards on the table. Do we expect the Palestinians to accept any less than what was already offered – by Israel itself? It is all well and good to say that offer was withdrawn; that there is a new Sheriff in town and his name is Benjamin Netanyahu.

However the world already knows the extent of what Israelis are willing to exchange for peace. If I recall correctly the majority of Israelis were in favor of that peace deal then – even though it gave up sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem (Jews would have been allowed access to the Kotel and other holy places). If I recall correctly even a major Gadol (I think it was Rav Schach who was alive at the time) said that for a real peace, he would accept the deal. As much as it pains me to give up any part of Jerusalem, I would do it in a heartbeat to enable my brothers and sisters in Israel to live in peace without fear of ever being attacked again. I oppose bloodshed more than I desire keeping parts of Jerusalem in Jewish hands. At least until Moshiach comes.

Of course few if anyone in Israel would be in favor of anything like that today – including me. That’s because the Palestinians keep trying to kill us – mainly in the incarnation of Islamist Jihadist terrorist groups like Hamas who rule in Gaza aided by their benefactors in Iran. They have been relentless in sending deadly rockets indiscriminately into civilian populated areas of Israel. There is no guarantee that they would stop if we gave up any land at all. They refuse to recognize Israel and say they will never stop calling for its destruction!

And if I understand correctly it isn’t only Hamas. The Palestinian Charter still calls for the destruction of Israel. All indications are that the danger to Israeli lives would increase. Giving up the West Bank now would be suicidal. There is no way to assure that the West Bank would not turn into Gaza. Especially now that there has been reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Does Israel need another Gaza on the West Bank? No thank you.

The President knows this and he respects it. Those who are so vehemently outraged by that part of his speech do not bother to focus on the fact that he also acknowledged that Hamas must renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist; that talk of its destruction will not be tolerated; that the United States will veto any attempt by the United Nations to single out Israel for criticism. Perhaps most importantly he did not endorse the idea of Palestinian ‘refugees’ returning to Israel. This is a key point that should not go unnoted.

And he once again reiterated the United States position that the relationship between Israel and the United States is unshakable.

Is the glass half full or half empty?

In essence the President must know that nothing will come from this. He knows that Hamas, who has now reconciled with Fatah will never accept Israel’s right to exist – a condition the President insists must happen in any peace deal.

So why did he say it?

He wants his foreign policy to be seen as more sympathetic to Arab concerns and not simply as unapologetically supportive of Israel. I do not see that as being anti Israel. I see that as being pragmatic. He has no intention of selling us out. Agree or disagree – the President is an honorable man and I truly believes that he is doing it because he thinks it’s the right thing to do.

Besides let us face reality. In the unlikely event that it ever happens - any ultimate peace deal will look something like Oslo - should there be assurances, guarantees, and systems in place that would eliminate terrorism and rocket attacks. All the anger and outrage about such a peace deal will not change that fact.

But I don’t think we have to worry about it. The chances of making peace with the Palestinians are about as good as my becoming the President of the United States. The Jihadist mindset – reinforced by the innate hatred of the Jews by most even moderate Arab Muslims - will never tolerate it.