I have heard many powerful speakers over the years talk about Israel. Few among them compare with Leon Wieseltier whose absurdly elevated language and flowing shockingly white hair would make him stand out in any crowd of speakers. Wieseltier is someone who most often makes sense to me amid a plethora of voices out there who are all too unrealistic. Wieseltier regularly sees things that should be obvious but are not. When he wrote in the New Republic this week about losing hope in peace between Israel and the Palestinians, people listened. His words have been shared in forum after forum since. Wieseltier has lost hope that a solution is possible in his lifetime.
I have communicated, over the past few weeks, with Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center, who would like to see hopes for peace around every corner. Waskow, in an article he wrote soon after Operation Pillar of Defense began, had cited Gershon Baskin of IPCRI’s opinion that Hamas, with whom Baskin has been a part of negotiations to some extent, was interested in a negotiated peace. Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas’ statement upon setting foot in Gaza this past Saturday put the kibosh on those hopes. Meshal said that:
Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land… We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take.
Gershon Baskin’s own response to Meshal’s statement posted on Facebook was very strong:
Hamas says never recognize Israel, never make peace with Israel, fine. Palestine is a recognized state. Gaza is a liberated part of Palestine. Rafah border with Egypt is open. No occupation any more. Israel should announce that Gaza has 2 years from today to take care of its own electricity, water, food and economic needs. In 2 years from today, the Israeli-Gaza border is closed and nothing will come to Gaza from Israel. Let them trade through Egypt, use El Arish, Port Said, whatever, not through Israel which they desire to destroy. If they want to build a sea port – go ahead, if they smuggle arms through the port, Israel will stop it. If they want quiet, they have to give quiet. They want war, as Khaled Mashal said, they will get war. Two years – that’s that I would say, they they’re on their own.
One certainly must add to this all the fact that the Palestinians sought and received Observer State status in the United Nations about which I wrote recently for We Are For Israel and others, including Barry Rubin, have noted that in theory abrogates the Oslo agreements. Then to this also there is Israel’s decision to move forward with planning construction of housing in the E-1 corridor which I discussed in a separate article.
But perhaps as far as peace goes, as crazy as this may sound, all is truly not lost. Several seemingly intractable problems have potentially been solved.
First, there has always been concern about trying to allow for a physical connection between Gaza and the West Bank. Additionally, concerns about Hamas coming to power in the West Bank should they obtain increased access to it have made it difficult to consider national elections. Fully separating Gaza from the West Bank may enable everyone to move forward toward finding a solution. It makes sense for Israel to do what Gershon Baskin suggests for Gaza and potentially for the Palestinian Authority to simply let it go. Is there any realistic hope that Gaza will cease to be home to an Iranian backed Hamas and Islamic Jihad anytime soon? No. Separating Gaza’s leaders from the West Bank’s leaders allows for Israel to be at war with the people of Gaza and at peace with the people of the West Bank. Why must we insist on allowing those filled with hatred in Gaza to torpedo prospects for a better future for Israel and for those in the West Bank? Of course, the Palestinian Authority itself would need to stop claiming Gaza and its radicals for this to happen. This has not occurred yet, but it could.
Meanwhile, Observer State status allows for all sorts of solutions that full state status would not and most of those potential solutions that Observer State status would allow are better for the lives of Palestinians than are the full state alternatives.
Full state status could potentially result in a similar relationship between Israel and the West Bank as Israel has with Gaza. Israel could completely shut its border with the West Bank essentially forcing Palestinians to use the Jordanian border and severing the Palestinian state from economic cooperation with Israel. It could, should attacks come from the West Bank, go to war with its residents as it has in Gaza. Jordanian border control solely in the hands of the Palestinians would necessitate significantly increased border controls between Israel and a Palestinian state if that border remained open. In other words, full state status may well sever Israeli-Palestinian connections, economic, social, cultural and religious or make those connections much more difficult to maintain.
Observer State status on the other hand, as I discussed in a previous article, potentially resolves many, if not all, of these issues. Interaction between a West Bank as an Observer State and Israel could provide numerous advantages to both Israelis and Palestinians, including economic cooperation, tourism, defense cooperation and a whole host of other things that could be severely limited should the West Bank be fully independent. Palestinian residents of the West Bank could be allowed to go in and out of the country through the Jordanian border at will while passing through Israeli security upon entry. As internal security increases and this arrangement becomes the norm, security between Israel and the West Bank could easily diminish significantly. Most outposts and settlements could be removed from the territory allotted to the Palestinians and governance of the residents of that territory could be conducted primarily, if not exclusively, by the Palestinians themselves as an Observer State.
While some would argue that Israel maintaining security over the Jordanian border would turn the West Bank into a giant prison, one could make the argument instead that it would turn the combination of Israel and the West Bank into secure places for cooperation and prosperity to take place, providing a healthy and happy future for the peoples of both areas for decades to come and potentially opening the doors, as nothing but long term peaceful coexistence could do, for the prospects of a fully independent Palestinian state living alongside a safe and secure Israel.
Negotiations based in reality could potentially get the two sides to achieve an agreement.
Normally, we find that idealists believe that peace is possible in an ideal world, while realists argue that it is not. It may actually be the case now that realists should believe that peace is possible in the real world, a world in which idealists have lost hope that peace is possible.
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