Summary: The gap in resolving the long running Israel-Palestinian Question has to do with the goals of each party: the Israelis believe they have been engaged in a peace process between peoples while the Palestinians are negotiating a divorce settlement between countries.
Politicians and the media – both well-meaning and otherwise – have blamed various parties for the failures to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When they are not directly pointing accusing fingers, they still use language which conveys their biases. A person needn’t look past the language used in discussions about Jewish homes beyond the Green Line/ 1949 Armistice Lines – the “settlements”.
“Viability”: As detailed in “A Viable Palestinian State”, various parties have described the “settlements” as a hindrance to a viable Palestinian state. The statement is meant as a direct attack on Israel, and is absurd. If a Palestinian state cannot exist with a 5% Jewish population, then surely Israel cannot exist with a 20% Muslim population. Are the people that make such a comment looking for Israel to expel a million Israeli Arabs?
Similarly, if a viable Palestine is compromised because such new country would be only 15km across at a single point, surely Israel cannot exist in its current configuration with a 15km narrow corridor for a dozen kilometers. Are these politicians and media pundits suggesting that Israel must annex the entire spine of the land?
“Complication” and “Provocation”: Another sentiment that is expressed is that settlements “complicate the peace process.” As conveyed in June 2015 by the New York Times in an article called “Israel’s work on a West Bank Site Gives Rise to New Suspicion,” even existing homes purchased by private individuals (as opposed to new communities established by the Israeli government) hurt the peace process. The article described a man who purchased an abandoned building and surrounding property: “Leftist Israeli politicians and advocacy groups have reacted with alarm, suspecting a new settlement in the occupied West Bank [a NYT term] that would further complicate the peace process.”
This statement is similar to the rebuke of the Obama administration to Jews buying and moving into homes they own in Silwan, in the eastern part of Jerusalem. As detailed in the FirstOneThrough article “Obama supports Anti-Semitic Palestinian Agenda of Jew-Free State,” the Obama administration condemned Jews for legally buying homes and becoming neighbors in an Arab neighborhood east of the Green Line, referring to such basic act of living as a provocation.
And therein lies the basic gap in understanding the actions, intentions and goals of the two sides.
Israeli Peace Process
The primary stated goals of the negotiations were to get to a peace based on two states:
- “The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are vital. But they’re not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state. I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility to lead my people to peace.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu May 2011
- “Our goal is two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The process is the one of direct negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to resolve all the permanent status issues and end the occupation that began in 1967 under which Palestinians have suffered so much.” Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas June 2003
As part of making peace with Palestinian Arabs, Israel has stated it will enable a new state of Palestine to be created. For their part, the Palestinian Arabs are interested in their new state to be self-governing and to not deal with Israeli Jews. Israel has focused on peace with the people; Palestinians have focused on separation of the people. Two states living side-by-side in peace is not the same as two people living side-by-side in peace.
A peace process is best established with various personal, commercial and governmental relationships and dealings. Such interactions would enable the parties to navigate ongoing thorny issues like water rights and security. It would enable partnerships to develop tourism and the economy.
Israel understands the importance of establishing relationships with its Arab neighbors. As soon as the country was founded in 1948, the country granted 160,000 non-Jews citizenship and extended an offer and desire for peace with the neighboring Arab countries. When Israel annexed Jerusalem, it offered all of the people there citizenship. As of 2015, non-Jews account for 25% of Israel and have full rights in the most liberal country in the region, and one of the most liberal in the world. In the 2015 Israeli election, the Arab party placed third among the dozen parties seeking seats in the Knesset.
Over the decades, Israel forged peace agreements with neighboring Arab countries Egypt and Jordan. It has stated that it is ready to so with Palestinian Arabs and the other neighboring countries as well.
Palestinian Divorce Proceedings
When Israel captured the area east of the Green Line in 1967 after it was attacked by the Jordanian and Palestinian Arabs, it rescinded the Jordanian ban on Jews living in the area (from 1949-67). Israel allowed Jews to live and establish themselves in the region once again where they bought existing houses next to Arabs, built new houses, and created new companies.
All of which, made the Palestinian Arabs angry.
The Palestinians do not want Jewish neighbors in a new state. Acting President Abbas made very clear his intention when he declared “we will not see the presence of a single Israeli – soldier or civilian – on our lands.”
The Palestinians do not want any Jewish businesses in a new state. Despite the extraordinary efforts that some companies like Sodastream went through to hire Palestinian Arabs in its plant east of the Green Line (EGL) to work alongside Israeli Arabs and Jews, Palestinians put pressure on the company to abandon the area – which it did. Palestinians promote a BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) of all businesses established by Jews in the EGL.
Palestinians think Jews have no rights to buy or live anywhere in the land. They think the entire region – including Israel – is Arab land and that Jews have no history in the region. One can often hear Abbas and other Palestinians refer to the “Judaization” of the land, as if the holy land never had Jews.
The Palestinians reject the legitimacy of Israel itself. While the Palestinians will acknowledge the fact that Israel exists and will negotiate with it, they do not view the existence of the Jewish state as legitimate. They consider Jews colonialists and Israel a foreign colonial enterprise. As such, they will not recognize Israel as a Jewish State.
The Palestinians are not looking for peace with Israel, nor are they seeking peace with Jews. They view the presence of both in the entire holy land as illegitimate. Their goals are to completely separate themselves from Israel and Jews in their own state, and to reestablish a majority Arab presence inside of Israel. Within their new country, the Palestinians do not want a single Israeli person or business. Inside of Israel, they want millions of Arabs that are second and third generation removed from Arabs that once lived in the land, to specifically move to Israel because they feel that such land is also Arab land which Jews took illegally.
That is why Jewish “settlements” east of the Green Line are inaccurately called obstacles to a “peace process.” Jewish homes and businesses east of the Green Line do NOT “complicate the peace process”, they complicate the divorce proceedings that the Palestinians desire. A Jewish presence can only be called a “provocation” to a people that want to be rid of Jews.
It is not inaccurate to state that Jewish homes in EGL complicate permanent status negotiations, but it is an inversion of the truth to claim that they hurt the “peace process.”
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