I’ve been having a running discussion in the comments section of another blog with David Sokal, someone who is passionately devoted to peace between Israelis and Palestinians (but he and I differ significantly about how best to achieve this). He posted a longish comment on an old post in this blog, and rather than responding where nobody will see it, I decided to present his comment here (indented) together with my responses:
1) Yes, obviously dialog is preferred to endless violence or the crushing of one side by the other without mercy. I think that should be clear to anyone who has seen the results of war and bloodshed first hand or even second hand.
I can’t disagree. But the implication is that dialog which would lead to peace is possible. What if dialog — combined with attrition by terrorism and pressure from external powers — is employed by one side as a tool to weaken the other, in order to make a violent ‘solution’ possible? In that case dialog leads to war, not peace.
2) It is up to the Palestinians to create a state of their own, but they might need a little help from Israel. At a minimum Israel must remove its soldiers from the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. Furthermore, Israel will need to cooperate with Palestine on establishing a transportation route between the two segments of Palestine (Gaza and the West Bank). And finally, it would also be helpful if Israel removed all settlements from occupied territories, all of which are illegal under international law and many of which were stolen from the rightful Palestinian owners.
We already have a clear demonstration of what happens when Israel removes its soldiers from Palestinian-occupied territory: Gaza. So it would be helpful, too, if the various terrorist militias operated by Hamas and the PA were disarmed first. Maybe you are putting the cart before the horse?
The statement that “settlements are illegal under international law” is commonly made, often by those who have no understanding of what ‘international law’ actually is. Here is an argument that the settlements are legal. If you want to dispute it, go ahead.
Here are some questions for you and your readers:
1) Should the Palestinian State be built while it is under occupation?
The Israeli state was. All of the institutions necessary for a state — an educational system, health care, commerce and labor institutions, banks, etc. were in place long before the British occupiers were finally kicked out. Sure, Israel had the help of international Jewry, but no people in history has received more aid per capita than the Palestinians, and so far they’ve built very little (Hamas has built a lot of bunkers and tunnels).
2) Under what conditions should the IDF leave the West Bank?
When Israelis could be secure if the IDF were not in the West Bank.
3) Since there hasn’t been an attack for quite some time from the West Bank, why shouldn’t Israel reciprocate by, at a minimum, freezing the settlements?
Can’t you see the injustice involved in freezing the settlements? You are telling Jews that they can’t build a house on land within the boundaries of a settlement, land that they most likely have clear title to. Arab settlements inside Israel aren’t frozen, so why should Jewish ones in the West Bank be?
Also I must point out the main reason that the West Bank has been relatively quiet: the presence of the IDF.
4) What steps do you imagine still need to be taken before Israel and the PA can sit down and talk about creating a secure, viable and economically vital Palestinian state next to a secure, viable and economically vital Jewish state?
The PA has to stop the continuous flow of antisemitic incitement in their schools, mosques, television, radio, newspapers, summer camps, etc. Terrorist organizations must be disarmed. Palestinians must agree that Israel is a legitimate state of the Jewish people, and that the nakba will not be reversed. The Palestinians need to get a leadership that won’t spend the huge amounts of aid they get on weapons, explosives and distributions to members of their clans and rather invest in economic infrastructure.
5) What will the Palestinian state look like in your view? Will it be totally independent, semi-autonomous or merely a province of Israel with it’s own local authorities under the authority of the Israeli government?
It is entirely up to the Palestinians. If they continue to insist on “not one centimeter less” than pre-67 borders including all of East Jerusalem and ‘return’ of ‘refugees’ then there will never be a sovereign state. If they would honestly say “OK, the conflict is over, no more terrorism, we accept the idea of a Jewish state somewhere between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, we’ll compromise on East Jerusalem, etc.” then there could be a state.
6) If Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and continues to blockade Gaza, what does this mean for democracy in Israel? Can it rule over 4 million people, building walls and fences around and on their property, controlling their movement with armed soldiers at checkpoints dispersed throughout their land, dictating who they can and cannot elect as their leaders, building settlements the inhabitants of which claim citizenship and loyalty to another nation, arresting and imprisoning Palestinians without cause, destroying Palestinian homes as punishment or simply to replace them with settlers … can it do all this and still call itself a democracy?
There is more than some question as to whether your description of what Israel is doing is accurate! But leaving that aside, do you think that Israelis enjoy being yanked away from their lives for reserve duty at said checkpoints? Why do you think they built the security barrier, just to piss off the Palestinians? And speaking of “claim[ing] citizenship and loyalty to another nation”, many Israeli Arabs are now calling themselves “Palestinians” and demanding that Israel grant them equal political power with the Jewish majority, change its flag and national anthem, etc. If the Jewish settlers don’t belong in the West Bank, should these Arabs live in Israel?
7) Finally, since you do not feel that all conflicts can be resolved through non-violent means, and apparently you include the conflict between Israel and Palestine in that category, what is the end game for Israel?
Israel needs to stay strong enough to repel terrorist attacks from Hamas and the various gangs associated with Fatah, and external threats, such as Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. Israel must make the cost of these Arab and Iranian military adventures so high that they will stop trying to destroy Israel by force.
Ultimately either the Palestinians will get a leadership that understands that it’s more important to help Arabs than to kill Jews, and peace can be pursued, or… not.