I’m sure everyone has had at least some look at Secretary of State Kerry’s speech – mostly it’s just a recitation of things Obama and his Administration have been saying for nearly 8 years; but when coupled with our abstention in the UN, it actually shows a policy which is just flat wrong.
The basic US policy has been for a Two State solution – and this remains the most logical way to assure basic justice and freedom for everyone. But a Two State solution has some firm requirements – first and foremost that all major Palestinian political groups acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign, Jewish nation. Right up to now, there has yet to be any firm commitment by any of the Palestinian leadership on this. A bit of lip service from the so-called “moderates”, but no concrete effort to get the bulk of the Palestinian leadership on board with the idea, while the propaganda put out for consumption by the Palestinian people indicates no desire for the existence of a Jewish State. Other requirements are that the Palestinians acknowledge Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and that the 1967 borders are a dead letter – whatever borders are eventually made will have to be made by free and fair negotiations between the two sides. Finally, whatever settlement is made must have as a key element the inability of the Palestinians to reverse by military means the final settlement – Israel’s military security must be paramount.
It must be kept in mind that the eastern part of Jerusalem and the West Bank was conquered by Israel in defensive war. It was the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim side of the conflict which was preparing apocalyptic war against Israel in 1967, not the other way around. As it relates to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, those who lead the Palestinians in 1967 gambled on war, and lost. Badly. And, so far, no one on the Palestinian side has acknowledged either their war-guilt, nor their crushing defeat (histories produced for the youth of the Muslim world still claim that it was US and British intervention which caused their defeat…they just won’t admit that the Jews beat them). Traditionally, those who launch a war and then lose are in no position to make demands. Now, a wise people will be merciful in victory – magnanimous, even. The Israelis have shown time and time again that they are willing to go quite far towards the needs of the Palestinians in pursuit of peace. In fact, things like the Oslo Accords probably went a bit too far towards the Palestinian position. At the end of the day, any peace deal will leave a very hostile people with authority deep in Israel’s strategic vitals – it would be like us making a peace with an enemy and allowing them to live just outside of Washington, DC.
The problem with the position of the Obama Administration is that by their policies they have entirely undercut any ability to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. By saying we want a return to the 1967 border, by saying we consider all settlements to be illegal, by saying that Israel has no rights in Judea and Samaria, we are essentially saying to the Palestinian leadership that Israel, itself, is on the negotiating block. What else is there? If our position is for the Israelis to surrender what they won in defensive war, then what is there to negotiate about save Palestinian designs upon the territory of Israel? And that is how the Palestinian leadership views it. Remember, 30 years ago such leadership were hunted criminals in exile…by action of the “peace process”, they have been allowed to return home and erect a government in the West Bank and Gaza and take full control over large numbers of Palestinian people. And what have they given up? Nothing. They haven’t given up terrorism. They haven’t given up the so-called “right of return” (and, remember, that right of return is a claimed right to return to Israel for those who left in 1948 and their descendants). They haven’t given up their position that Israel, itself, is illegitimate. Now they’ve got a US Administration saying that we back them in demands for all the pre-1967 territory…which includes the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. Roll that around a bit – the Jewish Quarter is “illegally occupied territory”. No word about how the Jewish Quarter was ethnically-cleansed of it’s ancient, Jewish population by the Arabs in the aftermath of the 1948 war. Such a policy is the result of sheer stupidity, or an anti-Israel view. It can’t be anything other than one of those two views…unless it is a combination of both.
The proper position for us to take is that Jerusalem is entirely Israeli, forever, and that the rest of Judea and Samaria is up for negotiation. We must also insist that all of the Palestinian leadership renounce in public the “right of return”, as well as acknowledging that Israel will exist after the peace deal as a Jewish State. To do otherwise is just to play into the hands of the most radical elements of the Palestinian leadership – because doing otherwise allows them to tell their people, “see, we’re pushing them back: just keep with us and eventually we’ll push the Jews into the sea”. And if the Palestinian leadership will not or cannot make such declarations, then there is no possibility of peace. Peace requires that the Palestinian leadership acknowledge Israel and it’s Jewish character. If there isn’t that, then the Palestinian leadership has determined upon continued war.
Leave aside notions of “illegally occupied”. Also, forget about supposed prohibitions against population transfers. Constantinople is “illegally occupied”…heck, a stronger case can be made on that than on any Israeli occupation. Remember, Israel got the West Bank in defensive war – Constantinople was taken in aggressive and entirely unjustified war. And if we’re going to get hung up on population transfers as part of a permanent peace deal, then what is one to say to all the Germans – and their descendants – who used to live in East Prussia and Silesia? The Greeks and the Turks settled their affairs in the 1920’s by population transfers. This is a tricky situation and there aren’t a lot of cut-and-dried things about it (for instance, a good number – perhaps a large majority – of the Palestinian population are descendants of people who arrived in Palestine after Zionist immigration started…it was the rising prosperity of Palestine created by the Zionists which induced many Arabs to move to Palestine in the early part of the 20th century; what is today Israel and the West Bank was a burned-out wasteland 150 years ago – the population of Jerusalem was only a little over 15,000 in 1850 or so; it had been 80,000 under the Romans; 30,000 during the Crusades).
It is a requirement, in my view, for all free people to back other free peoples. That is the central fact in my view of Israel. Israel is a democratic republic. While no nation is perfect, in Israel people of all faiths – or none – can live in peace and freedom. While there is official and un-official discrimination in Israel against non-Jews, that is changing – for instance, not a lot of non-Jews serve in the IDF, but some do…and the number is increasing as Israeli Christians and Muslims realize that defending Israel means defending themselves (anyone really think the Muslims of, say, Nazareth want to come under Abbas’ rule?). There is also a debt we of the West – especially we Christians – owe to the Jews. It isn’t just the Holocaust (though that is a gigantic part of it), but the general discrimination and injustice we visited upon the Jews for centuries which we atone for by supporting Israel. We cannot allow that a free people come under tyranny (and, so, I also back our defense of Taiwan, come what may, against China) and we also cannot allow another Holocaust to happen…and such would happen if the Arabs, as things currently are, got atop the Jews of Israel. As my title says, this is a test of decency – defense of Israel is a Pass/Fail thing on that matter. This does not mean we have to just blindly defend Israel in all circumstances – if a reasonable Palestinian leadership arises willing to meet all legitimate Israeli demands and then the Israelis balk, it would be time for us to pressure Israel…but such a Palestinian leadership would only fully arise under a free Palestine…not free of Israel, but free of tyranny. And, as that works out, if there was genuine freedom in Palestine, then I’m confident that the free people of Palestine and the free people of Israel could come to a swift and equitable arrangement.
In return for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, I’d be willing for our nation to do quite a lot…and not least for the people of Palestine, many of whom are my brothers and sisters in Christ. The real cost, given our wealth, would be small…but we could help the Palestinians make their land bloom with prosperity as much as Israel does. A grand and glorious future awaits – the Holy Land should be a place of peace and justice, and I pray for the day when it is. But we also must be realistic – there are bad actors in the world. Those who take the tiny resources of a poor people and turn them into rockets to fire at random civilians are bad actors…not people who, at present, can be partners in peace and construction. Peace can be had in short order, as soon as both sides want it. Right now, honestly, only one side does…and as they are the democratic side, I must back them. It is the only decent thing to do.