Tuesday, June 05, 2007

It was 40 years ago today, the 6-Day War

What if the Israelis had acted with their heads and not their hearts 40 years ago and refrained from claiming eastern Jerusalem? Strategically, there would have been fewer obstacles to a peaceful coexistence, argues Tom Segev, an Israeli commentator in the New York Times. The prize which some young intellectual Zionists describe provocatively as "the Jewish Mecca" brought turmoil. The fabled city on the hill has been sacked at least 23 times in historic memory.

I belong to a generation of Israelis who slowly but surely came to believe in peace. We needed to believe in it. The years since the 1967 conflict led us from war to war, and from one mistake to another. When new hopes emerged, they were overcome by disappointments, and then forgotten. Still, we regarded the conquests of 1967 as temporary and were encouraged by the 1979 peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, under which Israel withdrew from Egyptian territory captured in 1967. We believed that peace with the Palestinians would follow.

But peace with the Palestinians has not come one inch closer. As a result more and more Israelis realize today that Israel gained absolutely nothing from the conquest of the Palestinian territories. Speculating again in hindsight — Israel may have been better off giving up the West Bank and East Jerusalem without peace than signing the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan while keeping these territories. Forty years of oppression and Palestinian terrorism, both extremely cruel, have undermined Israel’s Jewish and democratic foundations. With about 400,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and with extreme Islamism as a driving force among the Palestinians, the conflict has become infinitely more difficult to solve.

Hence young Israelis have good reason to look at my generation and say, “You blew it.” I suppose we did. In contrast to my generation, these young people no longer presume to know what should be done to solve the conflict; indeed they often no longer believe in peace. Many resort to cynical skepticism and fatalistic pessimism.

And yet — less idealistic and more pragmatic than people of my generation — young Israelis may also be more realistic than us. Their immediate challenge is conflict management, rather than futile efforts to formulate grand schemes of ultimate solutions to the conflict. With fewer hopes and lower expectations they just may be able to make life at least somewhat more livable for both Israelis and Palestinians. Given the present circumstances, that would be no small accomplishment.


Izzy said...

Shalom, Salaam, Peace upon you,
Good point even though it misses out on the reality of '67, it hits the current situation on the head spot on.
Thing is that there is a way out and it doesn't take the bungling efforts of Olmert and Peres to get there. In '67 there could be no peace without Syria, but history has moved on and Syria has become more and more surplus to requirements. Another victim of the Russian tumble. No longer a spider weaving the Arab interests into its own sinister aims, it has become the magpie that thinks she can rob the eagle's eggs without punishment.
We have to look in not out to find a solution that works. We have to live together. Not with the Syrians or the Egyptians or for that matter the Americans or The EU, but us: Israeli and Palestinians; Jew, Muslim, Christian and Druze.
The original borders proposed by Count Bernadotte in '47 could be a start, because then both need to compromise. Jerusalem is no problem then as it becomes an open city under joint equal rule. Add a constitution like the original Lebanese where for each of the major groups (religious and or ethnic) a number of seats is lined out in the Knesseth but where voting and other rights are tied to paying taxes and participation in society and the Haredim will be out of their bunkers in 10 seconds flat.
On the Palestinian side there is more pain because they have to iron out the transition to democracy first, before they can have a working system, but King Hussein showed it is a road that can lead to acceptable results.
With that in place a further reconciliation might be reached if the infrastructure of both countries can be tied up and interlinked. For example by building an extension of the Israeli railnet to Amman through Jericho or Nablus and there linking with a new net for local use or by building a broadband infrastructure that spans from the Sea to the Jordan.
Yes there is a lot of "I will bomb your house because of your grandfather who did this to my grandfather", but once we are forced to accept that there is more to the other than than the deadly postcards we leave for eachother, peace might be closer than we hoped for during the last forty years.

pondering jew said...

DId you see Greg Mashberg's letter to the NY times about this Segev piece?
He parries questions with more questions, ie:

Here are some additional “what ifs” that deserve equal consideration:

What if the Arabs had accepted the United Nations partition plan of 1947, dividing the remainder of mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state? What if in the aftermath of Israel’s 1948 war of independence the Arab states had assimilated the refugees into their societies, rather than leave them to fester in refugee camps for generations?

What if the Arabs had created a Palestinian state in the West Bank between 1948 and 1967, when it was held by Jordan? What if Jordan had heeded Israel’s pleas at the outbreak of the Six-Day War and not joined the attack?

What if the Palestinians had accepted the “Clinton parameters” in late 2000, calling for the creation of a Palestinian state on more than 90 percent of the West Bank, all of Gaza and with East Jerusalem as its capital? What if in the wake of Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005 the Palestinians had sought to create a viable society rather than a launching pad for rockets aimed at Israel?

And what if the Saudi peace proposal was not premised on the “right of return” of Palestinians into pre-1967 Israel?

Rather than young Israelis questioning why their parents didn’t turn back in 1967, young Palestinians should be asking why, at every opportunity, their parents have chosen conflict over compromise.

Izzy said...

Pondering Jew nice to parrot someone, but what does it really say? It shows us the pundits, the know alls that hope they know a way out, as ignorant of reality and history.
The partition of '48 didn't leave a Palestinian state but a Jordanian province and a bit of Egypt. Which of the many plans of '47 you mean and where was space for statehood in them? Remember history on your side: the Israel we know now wasn't on any map in '47 and without Rabin it would have been a lot different to be an Israeli, Sabra or otherwise.
The Clinton Parameters were set to be too high to be accepted and were seen as a future not as a real now. King Hussain may have done a lot and Clinton might have put a sad face on it, but read them and it becomes very clear why they were unacceptable. Oslo was already a miracle.
Further, nice to point a finger at the Palestinians, must give you a safe feeling, but what about Gush Emonim, Shas and Baruch Goldstein?
Brother let me tell you this, the way to peace, lasting Shalom with His Blessing on it and Hessed in it isn't as simple as your black and white views.
We claim this to be the Promised Land and the Palestinians call it the Stolen Land. We will have to find a way out. Not our neighbours In Syria and Jordan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia; not our benefactors in Washington, Manchester, Amsterdam Berlin or Moscow and certainly not our corrupt politicians. We the citizens of the Land of Milk and Honey, where every stone has a history, need to find a way to live together and worship the G.d of Abraham that lead His Children out of the bondage of Egypt so we will no longer be enemies, but can eat fruit from the same tree and sometimes even the same table.
That is hard and complex and never black and white or simplistic. The outline I gave earlier might sound easy, but it will be harder to do than anything we have undertaken so far. There is not one of the men of '48 left to lead us and those of '67 are mostly dead as well. We will have to do it, despite corrupt politicians and despite the pain we suffer for it. If we don't there will be no rest for our children and no hope for our grandchildren.