Wednesday, February 3, 2016
The Other Middle Eastern Time Bomb
By 2040, there will be more Muslims than Jews in the United States, and by 2050, there will be more Muslims in Israel than Jews. Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbors and an increasingly embedded population with growing rage. And still, the peace talks that are supposed to lead to a two-state solution – Israel and a separate Palestinian state – are a dream without a remote path to implementation. Israel keeps building new Jewish settlements on the West Bank (literally all over the territory that is supposed to be the future Palestinian homeland) while the Palestinians are taking the position that since Israel is seizing that land, they are no longer bound by any peace accords aimed at settling this dispute.
Wikipedia fills in the background: “The framework of the solution is set out in UN resolutions on the ‘Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine,’ going back to 1974. The resolution calls for ‘two States, Israel and Palestine … side by side within secure and recognized borders’ together with ‘a just resolution of the refugee question in conformity with UN resolution 194.’ The borders of the state of Palestine are ‘based on the pre-1967 borders.’ The latest resolution in November 2013 was passed 165 to 6, with 6 abstentions. The countries voting against were Canada, Israel, the United States, the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau.
“The Palestinians have ‘shown serious interest’ in a two-state solution since the mid-1970s, and its mainstream leadership has embraced the concept since the 1982 Arab Summit in Fez… Over the years, polls have consistently shown ‘respectable Israeli and Palestinian majorities in favor of a negotiated two-state settlement.’
“There have been many diplomatic efforts to realize a two state solution, starting from the 1991 Madrid Conference. There followed the 1993Oslo Accords and the failed 2000 Camp David Summit followed by the Taba negotiations in early 2001. In 2002, the Arab League proposed the Arab Peace Initiative. The latest initiative, which also failed, was the 2013–14 peace talks.”
Lots of words. Lots of actions making the words infinitely more difficult to implement. As U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, nears the end of his tenured position, he has let go of walking on eggshells and seems ready now to speak his mind. His recent words vindicating the anger of Palestinians, particularly younger constituents, at the constant Israeli commitment to growing those West Bank settlements, led Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to charge Moon as fomenting “terrorism” and questioning whether the United Nations itself can retain any claim as a neutral arbiter of international disputes.
The Secretary General elaborated further: “‘The time has come for Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to read the writing on the wall: The status quo is untenable,’ Ban wrote in an opinion piece published in the New York Times late on Sunday [January 31st]. ‘Keeping another people under indefinite occupation undermines the security and the future of both Israelis and Palestinians.’
“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Ban last week, saying he gave a ‘tailwind to terrorism’ after the secretary-general put some of the blame on Israel for four months of stabbings and car rammings by Palestinians.
“Ban, who will step down at the end of 2016 after 10 years as U.N. chief, had told the U.N. Security Council that it is ‘human nature to react to occupation.’
“‘I will always stand up to those who challenge Israel’s right to exist,’ Ban said in the Times, ‘just as I will always defend the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own. That is why I am so concerned that we are reaching a point of no return for the two-state solution.’
“The United States and the European Union - Israel's closest allies - also have had unusually stern criticism of Israel in recent weeks, reflecting their frustrations with Netanyahu's right-wing government.
“‘When heartfelt concerns about shortsighted or morally damaging policies emanate from so many sources, including Israel's closest friends, it cannot be sustainable to keep lashing out at every well-intentioned critic,’ Ban wrote.
“U.S.-led efforts to broker a ‘two-state solution’ collapsed in 2014. France said on Friday it will recognize a Palestinian state if a final push that Paris plans to lead for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians fails.
“‘The stalemate carries grave risks for both sides: a continuation of the deadly wave of terrorism and killings; the collapse of the Palestinian Authority; greater isolation of and international pressure on Israel,’ Ban wrote.” Reuters, February 1st. Is Israel killing itself, pushing aside reasonable entreaties, or acting as a reasonable country simply protecting itself from clear terrorism? If the recent overwhelming U.N. votes on everything from allowing Palestine into the U.N. General Assembly with “observer” status to allowing the Palestinian flag to fly about the U.N., the world attest – minus the very few nations listed above (including the U.S.) – clearly the vast majority of the world is supporting the Palestinian interpretation.
As tensions rise in the Middle East, the American voice has never been less effective, less likely to influence the Muslim nations in the region on any issue, than it is today. And when you think of those demographic realities that Israel must face, wouldn’t a two state solution be a better choice than becoming a predominantly non-Jewish country?
I’m Peter Dekom, and it is a time to diffuse unnecessary tensions wherever they may appear.