What's All This Then?

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Sunday, December 02, 2012

I stay away from commenting on the world around me for a couple of weeks and when I sit down in front of my computer to resume, it’s hard to pick something to write about from the wealth of material that has accumulated. Egypt elected a president and he turns out to be a dictator. The Republicans still don’t get it. Romney’s chief campaign strategists thinks he really won except for the people who don’t really count who voted for the other guy. Someone by the name of Charlotte Allen writes what seems to be a brilliant sit-com treatment in the Chicago Tribune about Sarah Palin being the best GOP pick for 2016 - only it turns out to be serious argument. Palin for President in 2016. Jesse Jackson Junior resigns from Congress and may be on his way to the Big House - and among the crowd clamoring for his seat is former Congressman Mel Reynolds who has already spent time in the Big House. I could go on and maybe I’ll come back to all of these topics - but right now I have to say a few words about the latest piece of alliterative nonsense - War and Peace in the Middle East!

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about Israel and when I have written, it has been a frustrating exercise. Sane people I am sure do not want to live in a state of perpetual war and I am reasonably sure that sane Palestinians want peace as much as sane Israelis. Yet for 64 years, madness has prevailed and shows no sign of abating. And when the recent violent eruption of that madness was destroying lives and property, the Arab world was quick to condemn Israel for being the "aggressor" while the United States and other western countries supported "Israel’s right to defend itself." And now we have a cease fire. And those of us who’ve lived through decades watching this madness await the next salvo of missiles

I have no personal expertise when it comes to the decades old conflict, but I have personal interests. My oldest grandchild was born in Israel and is married to an Israeli, though they live in the United States. And I am old enough to remember the U.N. vote that led to partition of what was left of Palestine after 70% of the land was shaved off to create Jordan. One Jewish and one Palestinian Arab state on a sliver of land about the size of Maryland. And the chicken and egg history of blame and madness and violence began. I won’t bother to try to recount the past history of the conflict, which, as you can see from this timeline, goes back a lot further than 64 years. But I have an opinion on the current state of affairs.

Some people view the cease fire as some kind of hopeful sign. I see it as another moment of madness in what has been a history of madness. There is an ongoing war. This cease fire, like all that have preceded it, official and unofficial, is just a momentary pause on the fighting on one of the several fronts of that war. There is nothing particularly hopeful about it. In the chicken and egg history of this conflict, you can pick any point in time to support your particular point of view of who is to blame and/or who started what. The Palestinian Arabs would probably pick what they call Disaster Day - the day that Israel declared its independence. From their point of view, the very existence of the State of Israel is at the root of the entire problem and in a sense, I would agree with them. Violence between Arabs and Jews had been going on a long time before the partition decision and the declaration of independence - but it’s that last thing - the official arrival of a Jewish state on a fraction of the Biblical Kingdom of Israel, that instigated what has become a never ending conflict - never ending because enough crazy Arabs refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist.

I’m not saying that the Palestinians have always been in the wrong and Israel in the right. Israel has made its share of bad moves that have thrown roadblocks in the way of achieving some sort of rapprochement with Palestinian Arabs, most of them since 1967 - a year which many Palestinian sympathizers around the world seem to think was when the conflict began. But I place most of the blame on the Arabs who rejected every opportunity for peace up to and including 1967. Of course Israel could have unilaterally withdrawn from the areas captured during the ’67 war, but that wouldn’t have brought peace - not without an agreement with the Palestinians.

I agree that the settlements in areas that would become a Palestinian state if agreement between the two antagonists could ever be reached are a problem - but the continued occupation of these areas only came about because of the "Three No’s" of the Khartoum Declaration - No Peace, No Negotiations and No Recognition of Israel. Yes, despite that declaration, Israel was eventually able to make peace with Egypt and Jordan, but as long as there are Arab leaders who insist that Jews have no historical connection to the land and as long as a member of the United Nations continues to call for Israel’s destruction and its Hezbollah client stands ready to rain down thousands of rockets on Israel and as long as leaders of Palestinian factions declare that their aim is the destruction of Israel, any "cease fire" is little more than a cruel joke.

There can be no movement toward a meaningful settlement as long as the bulk of what is described in the foregoing paragraph continues to be the case. Israel cannot negotiate a peace treaty with an enemy whose opening and continuing proposal is that Israel should cease to exist and all its Jewish citizens murdered. Their is no point in trying to reach an agreement with the faction of the Palestinians that might accept Israel’s right to exist while another faction continues to wage war. The cease fire allows Israeli citizens who live within range of rockets launched from the Gaza strip a chance to return to some semblance of normal life. For the rulers of Gaza, it allows time to restock weapons - as indeed they have publicly stated they plan to do, before resuming rocket fire.

Frankly, I am tired of hearing about peace processes and so called peace activists trying to break the sea blockade of the Gaza coast and all of the condemnation of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank. I have nothing but sympathy for those Arab s who want only to live in peace who have to put up with check points and other hardships and indignities. But as long as the crazed people who live only for Israel’s destruction or whose negotiating positions are know non starters are a substantial part of the group with whom Israel is supposed to negotiate and make peace, the chances of it happening are zero. Those who were involved in arranging this last cease fire are talking and will continue to talk about it offering a chance to break the stalemate. While they’re waiting for this miracle to take place, I’ll be waiting for the next group of rockets to land in southern Israel and beyond.

Maybe one day there’ll be a majority of sane people from both sides who can negotiate with each other who’ll leave pipe dreams outside of the meeting rooms and not make ridiculous demands of each other and actually find a way to live in peace and understanding. I hope I live long enough to see it, but I probably have a better chance of winning the next Powerball lottery - and you know what those odds are.