Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Impediments to Peace

Rabbi Kaufman

In recent days, there have been a number of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. As we consider the implications of this fact and its causes, we must remember that peace could have come multiple times since 2000 at Camp David. The Palestinians have thus far refused to agree to a solution with which Israel could possibly agree to end the conflict and at the moment, the Palestinians refuse even to negotiate at all. Before you argue about what the Israelis have not offered in previous negotiations, let’s just look at the primary issues that have prevented the success of the process. Here are the main stumbling blocks as I see them: 1. Control of the Old City of Jerusalem. The PA insists on the 1967 lines which would put the entire Old City and all of the Holy sites, yes including the Western Wall Plaza, out of the safe reach of Jews for the foreseeable future. This is only one of many problems posed by Palestinian insistence on the 1967 lines regarding Jerusalem.
2. Right of Return. The idea that not only must a future Palestinian state be allowed to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees from the 1967 conflict, but that Israel must accommodate millions of refugees from the 1949 conflict who are hostile to its very existence is so unreasonable a demand as to be laughable were it not a main goal of the Palestinian side. If Israel is to be a Jewish state, refugees may only be afforded restitution and remain where they are or potentially locate themselves in the Palestinian state.
3. Security. No matter what the resolutions of the issues of borders and refugees might be, if those resolutions jeopardize the security of Israel to such an extent as to threaten its very existence, they are not viable. This is a primary concern around Jerusalem and Ben Gurion Airport.
4. Settlement Blocs. Yes, Israel settled hundreds of thousands of people across the Green Line, but two things must be considered here. First, territorial exchanges could easily adjust the total land area in a future Palestinian state. And second, one might ask why there is an assumption that the Palestinians are entitled to all of the West Bank to begin with? The fact is that the territory which Israel settled was disputed territory, not territory belonging to another nation. No Palestinian state exists now and certainly none existed when Israel took over the territory. Thus, Palestinian national claims to all of the disputed land amount to demands for land for which Israel has potentially a greater legal claim (possession is nine-tenths of the law) in spite of fit throwing at the UN by opponents of Israel.

Israel may well “lose” when the Palestinians go to the floor of the UN General Assembly in September. A significant majority of the members of the UN will almost certainly vote for the Palestinian side. Yet, one must also understand that the game being played is not fair either. Israel is not going to get anything resembling a fair hearing by the vast majority of nations in the UN. It never has, no matter what concessions it has made.

Peace will only be possible when the four issues that I cited above are addressed. No vote in the UN is going to accomplish that. Direct negotiations are the only way. Israel will make concessions, hurtful concessions, to achieve peace. It already has. But it cannot concede those things that would threaten its existence or its primary purpose as a place where Jews may live and thrive in peace and security..

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