by Mortimer B. Zuckerman
Israel and the Palestinians must learn to accept the legitimacy of the other's narrative
How could Israel think that the life of one captive soldier,
The answer is that
The case dramatically illustrates the agony of a nation repeatedly denied the peace it seeks. Go back to Israel's decision in 1947 to accept the partition resolution by the
The Jewish link to this region is historic and undeniable. It is there in the Old Testament and it is underscored by a relatively recent, amazing archaeological discovery. In a burial cave southeast of Jerusalem, archaeologists have found tiny silver scrolls worn as amulets that date back to the 7th century B.C. Inscribed not in Arabic but in paleo-Hebrew are the lines: "May the Lord bless you and keep you; may He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may He turn His countenance on you and give you peace." As
This explains why there was such distress when President Obama gave his first Middle East speech in Cairo. He attributed the existence of Israel to Jewish suffering in modern Europe, particularly the Holocaust, and failed to mention that the Jews had a 3,000-year history in the Promised Land. Did he just not understand the Jewish attachment to Israel or Israel's importance to the Jews as a people? And when the president spoke of the Arabs being displaced by Israel's founding, did he not understand that the Palestinians turned down offers of statehood in 1937, 1947, 2000, and 2008? Defenders of the president's partiality have insisted that the "1967 borders with land swaps" is nothing new. Do they also not understand that by uttering this statement Obama casually adopted a Palestinian goal as U.S. policy?
Does he not understand that there are people who mean what they say when they talk of exterminating Israel and all the Jews? Israel and the Jewish people have stood largely alone in facing existential dangers. That is what has given birth to their preoccupation with security risks, which are intensified by Israel's borders; until 1967 the country was but nine miles wide at its narrowest point, at its mid-section -- wherein lies the largest portion of its population -- rendering Israelis extremely vulnerable. The president may have forgotten what Israelis cannot fail to remember: that when the Golan Heights was in the hands of Syria before the 1967 war, Jewish villages and farms below were regularly targeted. Remember that and you begin to understand why the Israelis seek some kind of defensive positioning on the high ground running north and south in the middle of the country, and that is the West Bank.
Israel is a small country, roughly the size of New Jersey, looking out at a world of much larger Arab nations in a region of aggressive, violent Islamic fanaticism, whose children are taught to hate Israeli children. Millions of dollars from Europe and the United States are spent on poisoning the minds of the Palestinian young.It's a moral outrage. It explains why the Israelis know they will have to protect themselves without assistance from risk-averse Western democracies. International U.N. forces have a poor record of defending Israel; just look at Lebanon. They have thoroughly earned the derisory description of them by Abba Eban, Israeli foreign minister during the 1967 war, as an umbrella that is taken away when it rains. Hence Israel's determination that any Palestinian state must be demilitarized and be without tanks, artillery, or missiles that could be deployed and threaten Israel. It is also why Israel has consistently rejected the 1967 lines as future borders. It was Abba Eban again who epitomized what they meant: They are "Auschwitz lines."
In 1967, Israel did not face the existential menace of short- and medium-range rockets, mortars, and missiles supplied by Iran. Thousands of them were launched from Gaza after Israel's withdrawal in 2005 under Prime Minister
Something else has changed since 1967. As
The Israelis see the Palestinians as divided into one camp that is more radical and one less. The more radical camp is led by
The PLO of today seeks not a peace agreement but a U.N. resolution in the hopes that this will give the Palestinians what Israel cannot and would not give them at the negotiating table, to wit, a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines. Opinion polls indicate Palestinian support for their own state alongside Israel, but only as a first step toward one state in which they will rule over the Jewish people.
It does not inspire confidence when President
To reach a peaceful solution, each side must find a way to accept the legitimacy of the other's narrative. The Israelis can never forget that had there been a Jewish state in the first half of the 20th century, there would have been no Holocaust, and had there not been a Jewish state after the Holocaust, there would have been no Jewish future. This history is the culture that affects their worldview.
Nevertheless, the Israelis must recognize the need to achieve a Palestinian state, just as the Palestinians must accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state and that Palestinian refugees will have to be resettled in that new state, the same way the Jewish refugees were settled in the new Jewish state. Obama does not help by leaving unsaid what had been stated by his predecessors: that the Palestinians who fled Israel do not have the right to return to the Israeli state but will become part of the Palestinian state.
The Israelis were fortunate that Abbas's determination to go to
The only glimmer of hope for resolution of the long-festering conflict is in two events that suggest at least the possibility of second thoughts by the administration: the president's U.N. speech and the willingness of the United States to veto the Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Maybe these moves will begin to resolve the contradictions of the past. But the themes will have to be repeated if we are to see any talks on a lasting peace.
"Two-State Solution is Only Solution in the Middle East"