I worked on a kibbutz in Israel for a couple of summers while I was in college. On Saturdays, the Israelis would drive me and the other foreign workers to various parts of the country so we could see the sights. Once, we made trips into the occupied territories of the West Bank to visit the city of Ramallah, north of Jerusalem, intending to do a bit of sightseeing. I had visions of shops and buying souvenirs.
As we got off the bus, we noticed a group of perhaps twenty or thirty people gathering off to our right. Within minutes, they were pelting us with stones. The Israelis who had brought us to the city quickly herded us back into the bus and we left. According to the expectations that some pundits have, I suppose we had done something to “provoke” them. But I can’t recall any other cities I’ve visited—except Ramallah—that ever treated tourists like that. I should also point out that the Israelis who were with us—about six of them—were all heavily armed with Uzis and M-16 machine guns. Remarkably, no Palestinians were gunned down—in fact no shots were fired—despite the belief of many pundits that Israelis are bloodthirsty savages who delight in shooting unarmed Palestinian children.
The search for peace in the Middle East is a desirable thing, and occasionally peace actually happens there instead of war. One of the more spectacular examples of that occurred between Israel and Egypt in 1977, when Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt, unexpectedly flew to Israel and addressed its parliament. Within a year, Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement and normalized relations. In exchange, Israel gave up control of the Sinai Peninsula which it had acquired following the six day war with Egypt in 1967. It should be pointed out that the Sinai had the only oil wells that Israel had ever had access to.
Why did peace happen between Israel and Egypt, and later between Israel and Jordan in 1994—which also normalized diplomatic relations with Israel—while no peace has yet been achieved between Israel and the Palestinians or between Israel and Syria? Some try to argue that Israel is to blame, but that seems hard to demonstrate given Israel’s track record of repeatedly attempting to achieve peace with its neighbors, and a demonstrated willingness to give up territory captured in war in exchange for it.
Many seem to forget how the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and Golan Heights happened to come into Israel's possession in the first place. Hint: several nations attacked Israel in 1967 but lost the war with them. Oddly, although the Arab states had controlled those regions from 1948 to 1967, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), formed in 1964 never attacked Jordan, Egypt or Syria. They only threatened Israel. No Arab state ever suggested, between 1948 and 1967, that Jordan, Egypt or Syria establish a Palestinian state, despite the fact that the original UN mandate that had created Israel as a Jewish state in 1948 had also created a Palestinian Arab state that Jordan, Egypt and Syria merely annexed for themselves in 1948.
In 2006 the terrorist organization Hamas took control of the Palestinian government after winning an election. Hamas’ attitude toward Israel and their thoughts about finding a peaceful solution to their problems are discussed in Article 13 of its charter:
Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight. "Allah will be prominent, but most people do not know."
Now and then the call goes out for the convening of an international conference to look for ways of solving the (Palestinian) question. Some accept, others reject the idea, for this or other reason, with one stipulation or more for consent to convening the conference and participating in it. Knowing the parties constituting the conference, their past and present attitudes towards Moslem problems, the Islamic Resistance Movement does not consider these conferences capable of realising the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed. These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitraters. When did the infidels do justice to the believers?....
There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with….
Obviously, such sentiments as Hamas expresses would seem to make the achievement of peace much more difficult. Given that the majority of Palestinians currently agree with such sentiments (based on their vote in 2006) makes the prospect of achieving peace anytime soon between Israel and the Palestinians improbable. Just because we in the United States want peace and just because the Israelis want peace, does not mean that peace will happen if the Palestinians don’t want it. If one side is not actually interested in solving the problem, is it possible then to solve it? And how then is it Israel’s fault if peace cannot be achieved?
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Peace in Our Time
From my article in this week's Ridge Rider News: