|Before there can be two states…|
|Friday, 29 October 2010 02:11|
| Israel should not be the only party to make concessions |
It’s not often that I get direct feedback from my Rhode Island readership. So I’m honored that in the last several weeks four letters to the editor were published in response to my column. It’s hard to keep my finger on the pulse of what The Jewish Voice & Herald’s readership would like me to write about, which is why suggestions are always appreciated. One reader recently suggested that I write about how I could be part of a two-state solution and where I think a Palestinian state should be located, and I am more than happy to oblige a request from an avid reader.
Regarding my views on Efrat, I refer you to my last two columns (“Three years after aliyah” in the July 23 issue and “I live in Efrat, Israel” in the Aug. 20 issue) and the two letters to the editor that defended them (“Efrat is in Israel, nothing more or less,” by Grace Novick in the Aug. 20 issue and “Efrat is Israel,” by Ben Zion Taube in the Sept. 3 issue). I think they say all that needs to be said for the time being, there’s no reason to rehash the same points again and again.
If I had unlimited power, I would make two identical copies of the Land of Israel – every rock, tree, resource and all the historical and biblical sights. The Jews would control one copy, and the Arabs would control the other. But I can’t do this; it’s just the only scenario I can think of that has the potential to be mutually beneficial for both sides.
Everyone is an armchair president or prime minister. We sit at home and say what can and needs to be done. What I don’t understand, however, is why there is so much talk about a two-state solution, when such a proposal can never come to fruition until both sides agree on more basic elements. A two-state solution is not the first step in the peace process – it’s the last.
First and foremost, Israelis and Arabs must agree to a mutual respect and understanding. Each side must understand the issues that, for whatever reasons, stab at the heart of the other. For the Arabs, one of these issues is the settlement freeze.
Despite my personal opinions that the settlements are legal, putting a temporary freeze on the settlements is a gesture I would be willing to consider if I really believed it would lead to a lasting peace (which I don’t, since the Arabs have been trying to destroy Israel since long before the settlements existed). In order for me to believe that, however, the Arabs would have to acknowledge and respect the issues that stab at Israel’s heart, such as agreeing to cease their violence against Israeli civilians (a fatal example of which took place on the eve of the current “peace” talks).
Israel has proven that it is willing to make concessions, whether major or minor; if it genuinely believes those concessions will lead to a lasting peace. In 1979, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, a concession that honored the terms of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Has the world forgotten that gesture already? I hope not, since rockets fired from Gaza are still landing in Israel.
Israel is not the only party that must sit down at the table; therefore, it is not the only party that must be willing to make agreements and compromises. Why should Israel acknowledge Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people if the Arabs don’t acknowledge Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people? Why should Israel care that the Arabs are bothered by construction projects, if the Arabs don’t respect that violence committed against Israeli citizens is unacceptable? Only when both sides, not just Israel, learn to respect the concerns of the other, will the parties be able to sit down together to discuss a realistic peace. Only then can they figure out a peace plan, only then can they draft and sign a peace treaty, and only then will a two-state solution become a realistic possibility.
For now, I think Israel has made enough concessions, and it’s high time the other side reciprocated if ever a two-state solution is to become a reality.