A Reasonable Stance for Peace in the Middle East

A Reasonable Stance for Peace in the Middle East.

Recently I have engaged in some criticism of the recent historical position and actions of the US/Israeli alliance on Israeli/Palestinian issue as it relates to the prospects for peace. Even more recently, I have witnessed some voices, including the voice of Israeli PM Olmert, speaking out in ways that I consider at least marginally reasonable.

I am going to attempt to define my own definition of a reasonable position on the prospects for peace in the Holy Land. My definition is not going to satisfy the right wing of our side because they blanch at even the suggestion of "two states for two peoples" and they consider all of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) as part of Greater Israel and refuse to even give up one inch for a future Palestinian state.

Now I am going to self define myself as being a supporter of Israel. While the right wing might describe me as being an "Arabist" (like they describe Condi Rice) for my viewpoint, I am going to take solace that I probably comfortably fit into Israeli PM Olmerts definition of a supporter of Israel. I am going to say that it is PM Olmert who has changed his definition to include me. I did not change my position to match his definition. However Olmert had to change his definition in order to find majority support for his proposals in the Western World and in my opinion the developing majority opinion within the United States and even amongst Diaspora Jews. Now that Israeli leadership has emerged that represents majority Western opinion (and conceivably majority Israeli opinion) on the issue, it is time to reward such expressions of leadership with backing as long as such expressions (and actions) continue.

Make no mistake about it. Soft words accompanied by contradictory actions will be judged harshly. However if conciliatory words are matched with the actions required... if Israel takes the steps necessary for peace? Well, in my opinion, we must then give Israel credit, stop being unreasonable, and start giving voice to our expectations about what the other side must be do to prove they are worthy of our continuing support.

First I am going to point to some articles that support points that I wish to make.

To the question "Can Olmert deliver from the Israeli side?" I ask you to (see here) where Olmert states he can provide the leadership necessary towards the painful compromises that will be required to resolve the issue. Now I am not saying the leadership task that Olmert is going to take on will be easy. Strong elements within his current coalition are threatening to increase the stakes and attempt to crash his currently assembled coalition if he makes any progress towards real steps towards compromise. However Olmert does have the realistic threat of then excluding these right wing elements from his government and then continuing on with a coalition comprised of/with replacements gathered from left wing elements. Even the left wing has threatened to desert him at the first sign of progress. However it is my opinion if the Olmert government collapses, peace efforts should continue. If the ability of the Israeli government to represent itself once again is removed, the Western World is going to have to continue on with peace efforts absent a voice that can claim to legitimately represent the Israeli people. I am fairly confident such an effort would yield the best deal possible for the Israeli side even if the Israelis insist on ripping their tongue out and taking a vow of silence in the resulting peace efforts. Even if the Israeli government, as currently comprised, collapses? The path to peace still is still clear. We do not need an Israeli representative to lead the rest of us down the correct path.

But what happens if an extremist, right wing Israeli leadership quickly rises from the ashes of the Olmert government? Such a government should be forced to settle for DICTATED terms. It is my opinion that the international community has proven itself capable of providing inducements to other powerful entities within the world community to "change their evil ways" in the past. If the Israeli right wing wants to turn its back on the leadership of Olmert, perhaps it will be time to take off the felt lined gloves of encouragement and replace it with the steel fist of forced compliance.

Is the world community willing to support Israel in a just resolution of the conflict? (See here)
a Haaretz piece, written by Bradley Burston, that seems to point towards a developing consensus amongst supporters of Israel towards a just and reasonable end to the conflict. Please note that nothing expressed by Bradley suggests Israel needs to lay down and commit suicide. It is my opinion that this piece (as well as the previously sited articles statements to Israeli PM Olmert) supports a developing consensus in the Western World (perhaps including Israel) for a just settlement of the conflict.

However does not this piece hint at what the Western World might be facing in our efforts to bring about a just settlement? That perhaps the Palestinian side will be unwilling to settle for a just peace? I think it does. The only thing we can do is dangle the carrot. If the Palestinian side refuses to take the carrot, then perhaps we must allow the Israelis to keep going after them with a stick.

Israel must not be forced to accept suicide as being the price for peace. When a just settlement is offered, Israel needs go no further. It is my opinion that a continuing occupation of the West Bank is even justified (without continuing expansion of land that might be annexed into Israel) until the Palestinian People are following leadership that promises peace.

The Israeli right wing argues that expansion of settlements in the West Bank is justified by the failure of Palestinians to settle for peace. (See here) where the Israeli right wing promises to meet current peace efforts with resistnance. I argue that such continuing expansion during such attempts continues to fan the flames of passion that prevent the Palestinians from settling for that which is offered. While the Palestinians might be forced to compromise and accept some of the "facts on the ground" due to previous expansion by the Israeli right wing, that does not mean the Palestinians must be forced to roll over and accept an ever changing, endlessly expanding, definition of the "facts".

When the world community settles on the definition of just what "just boundaries" are, then we will have the boundaries of just what claims of "reasonable resistance" and "reasonable annexation" really are.

It is my opinion that the Western World made a grave mistake by allowing the life of Yassar Arafat to expire without negotiating a peace agreement with him. However it is impossible to go back in time, and now we are forced to deal with that which is left after the death of Yassar Arafat. While no Palestinian leader remains that could as justifiably claim to represent the Palestinian side of affairs, we must continue on with negotiating with fractured Palestinian leadership. Those Palestinians that follow the path of Abbas will be met with welcoming arms. Those that follow the leadership of Hamas in Gaza will have to deal with hardship and suffering.

It is on this premise that my opinion on what to do about the Israeli Palestinian conflict stands. Israel has the right to just self defense. Israel does not have the right to defend injustice.

I am willing to honestly judge the efforts of Israel and Palestine towards gaining peace. Perhaps I am all to willing to negatively judge Israeli efforts to reward the Israeli right wing with the trophy of new "facts on the ground" in their efforts towards a just settlement. I balance my decisions on judging justice on the pivot of how for nearly 60 years the conflict has gone on, and for nearly 60 years Israeli leadership has dominated without leading us to peace. For 60 years, the result of failure to accept peace (by one side or the other) has resulted in continuing expansion of the Israeli state.

It is time for the expansion to cease. It is time for final boundaries to be set. Efforts by the Israeli right wing to scuttle peace efforts must be met harshly, if need be. Then we can turn our eyes of judgement upon the Palestinian side and be just as honest.


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