Thursday, September 22, 2011

Trying to put together thoughts on the U.N. vote

First of all, here are two interesting/relevant texts to further blur/clarify/blur your opinions...

Poll: 70% of Israelis say Israel should accept U.N. decision

Obama's speech at the U.N.; Full Video plus text re Palestinian vote

Those are just two randoms (that are not so random) from today that added to my thoughts, that are only somewhat coherent.  Furthermore, you can find plenty of articles fleshing out all of these points and more better than I did just now; I doubt I am saying anything new, but since several people have asked me for my opinion here goes...

1) I want to see a two state solution become a reality.  I certainly do not think that the current Israeli government has done a good job showing that it is interested in a two state solution.

2) I do not want a failed Palestinian State.

3) A U.N.G.A. vote will not bring about a Palestinian state in reality. Any/every Palestinian who does not already know this will realize it the next morning when s/he wakes up and there are still checkpoints.

4) Think to yourself what you would want in a successful, recognized state in the international arena (functioning government, functioning economy, economy that is not almost totally dependent on foreign aid, the ability to have order within borders aka a functioning police/security force, and basic provisions for things like health and education, and whatever else might come to your mind), and then research whether the Palestinian Authority can/does provide these things for its people.  I can honestly say that I only believe they have accomplished a functional security force (trained by U.S. General Dayton, and cooperative with the IDF), as well as a 9% GDP growth it can boast as a legitimate sign of economic growth.  With the caveat that at this point everything still hinges on aid; and should U.S. or Israeli or other foreign aid cease, the PA would collapse rather quickly, a bad thing!

5) Tangible questions: Where will Palestine's capital be? More generally, what does a Palestinian state look like? Only the West Bank?  Where does the Gaza Strip fit in to this picture?  Where is Hamas?

6) Is the Palestinian Authority (or the Palestinian people for that matter) willing to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state?  All statements thus far have been resolutely no.

7) Finally, most importantly, where is the detailed plan of what an actual Palestine will look like post the vote? Something that answers all of the above questions?  I've seen nothing specific.

What does this mean to me?  It means that I am absolutely empathetic to Palestinian nationalist aspirations.  As a Zionist (that is to say, a Jewish nationalist), I appreciate other peoples' wills to have a country of their own -- so long as it does not seek to delegitimize my right to exist (in words) or physically try to remove my place in this world (through terror and war).  Hence, I want nothing more than to have an end to all fighting and bloodshed and live peacefully next to my Palestinian neighbors.  BUT, I know very well that going to the U.N. this week does not help accomplish anything short term in terms of palpable changes on the ground for the Palestinian people.  And here is where I am really conflicted. 

On the one hand, I truly believe that the only way to solve this is through direct negotiations between the two countries (possibly with an agreed upon 3rd party mediator), complete with set rules of conduct that go along with negotiations.  This is the best way to solve the final status issues (Jerusalem, Right of Return, Water, Borders) that have prevented peace to this point.  Going to the United Nations and applying for statehood without solving these issues through negotiations with Israel means that in reality there will still be no Palestinian state because none of the questions posed above will be able to be satisfactorily answered and solved.  If the U.N.G.A. does vote a symbolic state into being, should Israel accept the voice of the world?  Yes, sure, but nothing changes without negotiations...  On the other hand, the current government in Israel has done a pretty deplorable job at showing interest in a negotiated two state solution.  In my opinion there is simply no reason to be building in land that will be part of a Palestinian state and no excuse to not have every settlement deemed illegal by Israeli law dismantled.  In other words, the government has either been cowed by a zealous minority that has no regard for Israeli law or civility or actually tacitly condones settlement extremism.  Either option is scary.  [An argument can thus be made that the PA has no faith in the current Israeli government to negotiate and is seeking an alternate path instead.  And an argument can be made that there are intractable differences between the Israeli and Palestinian governments as long as the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as the undisputed homeland of all Jews and thus Israel sees no reason to make any moves.]

So in a nutshell, I believe that there must be a change in the Israeli government, with the new one reflecting the fact that 70% of Israelis do want to see that Palestinian state.  If we're being honest, Bibi and Lierberman have spent two years fighting with each other to prove who can be more hawkish.  They have not helped bring peace.  In the meantime, it would be well worth the Palestinian Authority's time to continue on its path of statebuilding by continuing to build the infrastructure of a functional country.  It should actually model itself after the Zionist Yishuv model of the Turkish and then British Mandate era, where the Jewish pre-state government spent some 40+ years building up its state infrastructure (hospitals, universities, courts, etc.) in preparation for independence and sovereignty.  It should continue to work on economic development independent of foreign aid.  It should focus on how it can convince its enemies in Gaza (read: Hamas) to put down their weapons and learn to accept Israel as a reality.  And finally and quite importantly, it should think deeply and carefully about the concept of Israel as a Jewish state and internalize that it is a reality that will not change.  Either way one looks at it, this must be a two sided street.

Unfortunately for all parties involved, going to the U.N. this week in no way helps bring about an end to this conflict. 

Ok.  Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Disagreements? Please post!
My opinions are also quite malleable and I am always learning from your input!

Getting up in 5 hours for advanced Hebrew,



  1. I agree with you about the dual state and believe its a positive step, but I don't think direct negotiations will go anywhere and see the UN note as being a good solution. When Israel became a Jewish state it was done by a UN vote which went above the Palestinians, but was successful as Israel is at least considered somewhat a Jewish state. Granted there are complications, but sometimes a higher authoritu/non-biased party has to intercept itself into the situation and deal with the matter.

    Also I see a nice benefit for both sides. Palestinians will now have a chance for advancement and will receive funding which they can use to improve while Israel will potentially have happier neighbors. If Palestinians fail, governmental or citizens then its really on them but at least they have a chance to and the freedom to really give it a shot.

    I'm a big Obama fan, but I think he really missed the ball on this one...unfortunate, but hopefully another chance arises soon.

  2. Let's say I am a Palestinian - My grandfather was murdered in Deir Yassin and my family fled, and since then, we have never been allowed to return home. Why must I accept, as a PRECONDITION (as opposed to it being part of the overall debate along with land swaps, borders, and the like) Israel as a Jewish state? Especially when Israel itself still has not exactly determined what exactly a "Jewish state" is (care to give it a shot?). It just seems egotistical. If a deal is made in terms of borders, land swaps, and the whole shebang, what does Palestine affirming Israel's Jewish character functionally accomplish? Why should they condone a country's racist policy of immigration? (and yes, I understand there are plenty of muslim countries which have racist policies also, but that does not mitigate Israel's actions)

  3. Anonymous should not throw stones:

    Name Date Location Deaths Notes
    Avivim school bus massacre 8-May-70 near Avivim 12 25 wounded
    Bat Mitzvah massacre 18-Jan-02 Hadera 7 33 wounded
    Beit Lid massacre 22-Jan-95 Beit Lid Junction 23 death toll includes 2 perpetrators
    Coastal Road massacre 11-Mar-78 near Tel Aviv 38 38 people were killed on bus. Other people killed nearby. 71 wounded.
    1838 Druze massacre of Safed 11-Jan-05 Safed
    Eilabun massacre 30-Oct-48 Eilabun 14
    Hadassah medical convoy massacre 13-Apr-48 Mount Scopus 78
    Kfar Etzion massacre 13-May-48 Kfar Etzion 157

  4. This is exactly the kind of argument that is not constructive. Forget I mentioned the Deir Yassin massacre. Deal with the rest of my comments, as opposed to naming past tragedies (which Israelis and Palestinians can go tit for tat for ages)

  5. How is it egotistical for Israel to want to be recognized as a state, but not egotistical for Palestine wanting to be recognized as a state? For the very same reason that Palestinians want a safe place for its refugees, Israel too, needs to be a safe and thriving state. In order for that to happen, not only must it be recognized by Palestinian authority, but conversations must happen. How are you going to deal with things as simple as border control, for safety, if Israel is not considered valuable in the eyes of its neighbors? It's not about defining Israel's Jewish character, it's about understanding it's existence in the political and geographical realm. Deals can be made. Land can be swapped. But if there is no sense of recognition or respect in the process, then Israel is sacrificing her dignity for peace that can never be achieved. We have to understand that the end goal is to achieve peace. If creating a Palestinian state does so, then right on. But it will never happen if the Palestinian state cannot recognize Israel, because how can two states live in peace if one state claims the other unworthy of recognition? Israel is not egotistical, it is practical.

  6. Ah, so you misunderstood my comment - Netanyahu, however, (and Jonah in the above blog post), has made it explicitly clear many times that there will be no peace until Palestine recognizes not just Israel's right to exist (which I might add, the PLO has done), but Israel's right to exist as a JEWISH state - This is what I find egotistical and counterproductive.

  7. It is not egotistical if that is how Israel is going to define itself. As long as Israel still recognizes ALL of its citizens, why does it matter? Israeli Arabs that live in Israel have been able to vote, work, and be represented in Parliament since Israel was established. The only way a definitive "Jewish" state would be detrimental is if it opened itself to Jews, and only Jews, and failed to acknowledge the presence (and importance) of the other citizens.

    Defining Israel as a Jewish state should not be what is holding back its full recognition to exist. That detail should not inhibit peace.

  8. But the Jewish state of Israel right now does have what could be considered as a racist immigration law - Any Jew can be a citizen upon arriving in Israel. It is EXTREMELY difficult for any Arab to try and get naturalized. So why does a Palestinian state have to recognize this arbitrary "right" of the Jews?