Israel and Palestine

PALESTINE / ISRAEL, 2 August 2010

by Deena Stryker – TRANSCEND Media Service

In 1988 I visited Israel as the first intifada was gathering steam. I interviewed several political figures sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, and saw from the air how narrow Israel was from East to West, between the Mediterranean and the West Bank.

Twenty-two years later, two concepts I imagined then could, I believe, break the continuing deadlock between Israel and the people it displaced. The first is process dynamics. For any given act, unforeseen consequences far outnumber those that were anticipated. Interaction between processes creates yet other unforeseen consequences, which interact ad infinitum. Awareness of having ever-diminishing control over major events breeds public resignation and irrational government behavior. The Israeli government is not the only one affected by these factors, which in broad terms are a result of exponential population growth and increasing complexity. Confronted both at home and abroad with challenges they cannot meet, governments everywhere fall back upon reactive rather than creative policies, increasing the number of unforeseen consequences.

Like all processes, international law has a feedback effect; it codifies the evolution of mentalities, while pushing them along, generating both positive and negative outcomes. Laws that were excellent forty years ago may today be counter-productive. Yet even when the evidence is overwhelming, governments largely fail to question their validity.

The territorial divisions that have evolved through conquest since Israel accepted the U.N. partition and the Palestinians rejected it, ensure that a Palestinian state composed of two non-contiguous parts would be a recipe for continued conflict. Meanwhile, many Jews who envision Israel as

a homeland for a people that endured persecution as members of a far-flung Diaspora cannot accept a one-state solution that would be agreeable to many Palestinians.

Even in 1988 it was clear that the new Palestinian generation was different from the old: like youth everywhere, it moved through time more rapidly. Today, Arafat is dead, his successors are challenged by their own constituents in the West Bank and an organization that was then still in its infancy is in power in Gaza. In Israel, a far-right government is in-creasingly at odds with the world community.

Before the U.N. adopted a proposal for the partition of Palestine, in 1947, a dozen alternatives had been put forth. All of these were based on existing population distributions and resulted in two non-contiguous states. The territorial divisions that evolved through conquest since Israel accepted the U.N. partition and the Palestinians rejected it, make the idea of a Palestinian state composed of two non-contiguous parts a recipe for continued conflict. Meanwhile, many Jews who envision Israel as a homeland for a people that endured persecution as members of a far-flung Diaspora cannot accept a one-state solution that may be acceptable to many Palestinians.

The Fourth Geneva Convention, drawn up after World War II, aimed at protecting populations from arbitrary relocation. Numerous dramatic precedents justified it; but those forced population movements took place in a very different world from that of today. In 2010, arbitrarily delineated boundaries often force groups whose national or religious conflicts have deep historical roots to live side by side in unending violence. But new technology and international structures would enable us to extract with minimum suffering populations from co-habitations that condemn them to daily strife.

With these advances in mind, the notions of symbolism and sacrifice could allow us to redraw the map of Palestine so as to create two consolidated states. The Palestinian state would include Gaza, part of the Negev and a small portion of Judea and Samaria up to Ramallah and the southwestern border with Jerusalem, leaving Bethlehem Hebron and Bersheva in Israel.

Israel’s main objections to a Palestinian West Bank are based on security concerns (although it views its most serious threat as coming from Iran, a thousand miles away). Currently, as part of any settlement, it envisions a military presence between a Palestinian West Bank and its neighbor, Jordan. Such a cumbersome arrangement would be unnecessary if the only point at which Israel were ‘perilously’ narrow were east of Jerusalem; also by sacrificing part of the Negev, the Jewish state would be of one bloc.

Since 1947, Israel has lost and recovered the Negev Desert, where it has located much of its high-tech industry and military installations. It has plans to relocate about 250,000 Israeli settlers there to coun-terbalance the presence of a slightly lower number of Bedouins, most of whom have resisted efforts at sedentarization and live in ‘unrecognized Bedouin villages’.

As hitherto envisioned, the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza would require the same kinds of special roads which today alter the human character of the West Bank. And even were a significant number of Jewish settlers to be relocated, the West Bank component of a Palestinian state would be highly fragmented. If two compact states were created, it is probable that fewer numbers of Jewish settlers would have to be relocated. For the Palestinians, the sacrifice of their historical homes in the West Bank would bring them a contiguous state. High-tech development and ample financial means have allowed the Israelis to reclaim the desert; today’s Palestinians are capable of no less, on condition they benefit from comparable funding.

This brings us to the problem of Jerusalem, a key component in the Palestinian-Israeli deadlock. The idea of belonging to a certain land is a powerful cultural symbol. So also is the idea of sacrifice – on condition that it not give the advantage to the other side. The fact that the name Jerusalem means peace, as in the Hebrew greeting “Shalom” and the Arab “As Salamu Alekum”, is symbolic for both sides, provides a way out of the deadlock: Israelis and Palestinians could renounce their respective claims to the Holy City by giving the advantage to peoples struggling over territory in other parts of the world, rather than to the other side.

By agreeing to make Jerusalem the site of a new U.N. Peace and Conflict Resolution Council, both peoples would reap the benefits of an internationally recognized sacrifice. Their new status would enable each of them to accept another city as capital, for example Tel Aviv and Ramallah, without appearing to back down. Jews and Palestinians would live freely in and jointly administer Jerusalem together with the U.N.

As Itzak Rabin said: It’s always with an enemy that one makes peace.” As the head-quarters of a U.N. body devoted to peace, Jerusalem would incarnate recognition of this truth by the two peoples who have fought the longest, to the benefit of others still involved in territorial disputes, and would at last embody the symbolism of its name, becoming a site for pilgrimages both religious and political.

U.N. organized population exchanges would be coupled with an appeal to the Jewish communities of the diaspora, as well as to wealthy Arab nations, for financial support destined to insure that the newly settled – both Jewish and Arab – are provided with maximum technical, agricultural and investment support.

New international entities would join the Conflict Resolution Council bringing additional economic stimulus for the development of Palestine and Israel’s other neighbors:

1) A U.N. University War and Conflict Resolution Studies Programs

1)     UNESCO Peace Education Programs

2)     U.N. population transfer implementation programs

4)     U.N. Peacekeeping Force

5)     NGO’s involved in monitoring peaceful coexistence once territorial issues are resolved.

The Bible and 20th century international law are not interchan-geable. Today’s Palestinians must not be held responsible for their fathers’ – or other Arabs’ – mistakes, anymore than today’s Germans are held responsible for the Holocaust.  Unreserved acceptance of Israel by its Arab neighbors, like that of any inhabitant returning after a long absence, rests not only on its refusing to be intimidated, but on being generous toward the community it seeks to reintegrate

Israel’s technological achievements put it far ahead of its neighbors. For it to become the Jewish homeland it was intended to be, the answer may no longer be that it make the desert bloom – but that it help its neighbors do so.

______________________

Deena Stryker is an American writer who has lived mainly in Europe, but became a speech writer in the Carter State Department after studying Global Survival at the University of Massachussetts, and later published a book in France which foresaw the reunification of Europe and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  Her other works can be seen at www.otherjones.com.

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