Israel and Palestine – One “Common American’s” View

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What does a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs have to do with making the world a better place for our Grandchildren?  Reducing political tension in the Middle East helps maintain steady oil supplies and prices while America develops other (green) sources of energy.

Brief History

Here’s my layman’s view of the history of the region know as “Palestine.”    The region was ruled by the ancient Hebrews from approximately 1200 to 700 BC (when it was called the Land of Canaan) and again briefly around 100 BC.  It was then conquered by the Romans who called the area Palestine. The Roman Empire transformed into the Byzantine Empire, and was in turn replaced by the Ottoman Empire. After WWI it became the British mandated territory of Palestine.  The United Nations was formed after WWII and in 1947 proposed the patchwork division of territory that created Israel, gave the Gaza Strip to Egypt, and designated the balance of territory for “Palestinian Arabs” to create a country.  The various wars in the region have resulted in the present day boundary of Israel, including the area called the West Bank. [Information taken from World book Encyclopedia.] The point of this historical review is that by any modern (last century) considerations both Israel and what would be the Palestinian State were creations of the U.N.  Therefore modifications by the U.N. would be legitimate.

Why is this relevant today?

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, has been hinting that unless Israel begins serious negotiations on a separate Palestinian State, he will take his case directly to the U.N. General Assembly.  The U.S. Administration has stated that it would veto any such proposal. This will clearly not make the U.S. any friends (besides Israel) in the Middle East.

Why should the U.S. care?

“Countries do not have friends; they have interests.” I’ve read this in various forms by various noted authors.  The question we should ask ourselves is, “What’s in it* for the U.S.?”  [* supporting Israel over the Palestinian Arabs.] Quite honestly, I don’t get it.  Certainly Americans inherently favor justice and freedom for all.  These are self evident principles to support as good ideals and as practical applications.  Supporting Israel against the many Arabs who have stated they don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist aligns with these principles. Historically we know that shortly after WWII when Israel was created and the world become bipolar (U.S. versus U.S.S.R.) the Arab nations generally sided with the U.S.S.R. because the U.S. had created Israel.  That polarization is history. It doesn’t explain why we still side with Israel, even when they over-react to small Arab attacks.  Clearly both sides are willing to resort to violence.  It would serve US interests in the Middle East much more if we took a more balanced approach of, “both of you kids are at fault; knock it off.”

Proposed path forward

Cutting through all the rhetoric of “historic homeland” the truth is the Jewish/Hebrew people would still be scattered around the globe (and to a large extent are) if the U.S. and Brittan hadn’t created modern Israel through the U.N.  Given that the U.N. legitimized the country of Israel.  It can and should legitimize a country called Palestine. The U.N. needs to redraw the boundaries based on the realities of today, because the patchwork of Arab and Jewish territories in the 1947 Proposal were not and are not realistic.  The U.S. sends millions in foreign aid to both groups; it could designate the money for aiding people and businesses in relocating. The U.S. should support a U.N. resolution with the following conditions; Israel, Palestine, and all other countries:

  1. Formally recognize Israel’s and Palestine’s legitimacy.
  2. Cease hostilities.
  3. Honor the borders or conduct U.N. sanctioned negotiations on alternate borders.
  4. Pledge not to send arms or funds to either country if it attacks, or doesn’t prevent rogue attacks on the other.

Another obvious, practical matter is that the city of Jerusalem needs to be an international city held by the U.N., as designated in the 1947 Proposal.  It is too important as a religious center for Christians, Jews, and Moslems for one country to “own,”  The day-to-day operations could be run by a mayor and city council, while the U.N. should provide permanent peace keeping and policing forces.

There are two weaknesses to this proposal. The first is that the U.N. doesn’t have the teeth to force either country to accept the proposal.  Nor can it prevent countries and individuals from secretly supporting continued hostilities.  However, that is happening now so the world would not be worse off.  The advantage of this proposal is that it would remove the façade of supporting Palestinian violence as an effort to “gain their freedom.”

One way to hand off a better world to our Grandchildren is to make it more peaceful.  This would be one step, and each step advances the journey.

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