Archive for the ‘Israel’ Tag

What If….?

This is a real Yom Kippur story. And my memory serves me well. Rehavia, I said, around this time of year, at the Montifiori Club where he had invited me, you as a former ranking Israeli air-force officer know much more than naive, little me, but why does Israel prefer to deal with 5 direct enemies… instead of 1?

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it seems to me that by tolerating a Palestinian state, you get the other 4 off your back straight away. Isn’t it a lot easier to control daily murder and mayhem by holding a country that has everything to lose, accountable? I think the problem is that right now Palestinians feel they couldn’t have less, that they have nothing to lose and because of this gain all that Arab solidarity. ”

“Anthony, there are things you don’t know!”

“I mean, two recent wars won and nothing to show for!”

“What do you mean, nothing to show for?”

“Well generally speaking, winning a war means winning the peace and that my friend has proven to be extremely elusive. You guys are in deeper than ever before…!”

“Maybe from your perspective…”

“Not just my perspective: for all the world to see. I mean, why win those wars and lose the big battle? Take the issue of the Golan Heights, with modern-day missiles what’s the point of keeping them? Permanently annexing them for ‘security’ reasons, to many nothing but calculated expansionism. Why not negotiate their own penalty with the Syrians, forcing them to take some responsibility for having attacked you and keeping a punitive slice of land with their reluctant agreement. Like with the Alsace or Lorraine, now French, once reparation for Germany’s aggression, and only then giving Damascus back any of the rest, but nominally at least, one enemy less. Let’s be honest, what security would you really have compromised? Isn’t gained the better word? You guys are smart… it worked very well with Egypt and the Negev, didn’t it?

“Anthony, you don’t understand. There are things I don’t even know or understand! Besides, Syrians are no Egyptians. ”

“Pretend they are, for heaven’s sake! Stop out-guessing yourselves!!”

All right, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the way my discussion went more than twenty years ago. Of course my friend was insinuating severe internal divisions in Israel, already then, before Rabin’s assassination. But this conversation really took place, sometime in the early eighties. With a high El Al official who I had befriended and it occurred after yet another serious crisis in his homeland, I honestly don’t remember which. Now 2 decades later it has finally become formal Israeli policy to acquiesce in the formation of a Palestinian state, where to draw the borders still up in the air as a lot of living and growing and developing has been going on during 60 years, at least on its side. So as it turns out, in my innocence, but as a free-thinking world-citizen, I wasn’t all that far off the mark at the time. And it also means that ordinary folks can voice an opinion, especially as those involved in a serious conflict sometimes no longer see the trees for the woods.

So now this for more innocence that hopefully will get proven right, not later than 20 years from now: what if instead of obstinate confrontation with an impossibly irrational adversary, Israel created not a Marshall Plan but say a ‘Moses’ or a ‘Moshe’ Plan for a former Ottoman Empire back-water, whose only taste of modernity let alone statehood comes from a very brief period of League of Nations’ mandated British rule? America did it for Germany, why not Israel for Palestine? A state ready to move into, like a beautiful, pre-fab house. The idea whereby one rewards nominal rule of rights and the establishment of new guiding institutions, a territory but not full territorial control, to a population kept from violence and frustration with something they’ve never EVER had: a constitution, a final political entity and… WEALTH.

Stick and lot’s of carrot, in this case in order to safeguard Israel’s own internationally sponsored existence, in what will otherwise surely become a hopelessly hostile environment. And nothing like a Palestinian resettlement reeking of ‘Please go away, we’re back here now!’, not even anything like ‘Here’s a cheque, kindly go live somewhere else!’ but a ‘We were given a rebirth and we’re making damn sure that you’re having one, too!’.

In other words Israel’s greatest victory the one over itself, at the same time making the Palestinian ‘right-to-return’ argument a wholly academic one. Through a nominal state created for an adversary against its own will perhaps, there out in the open, with precise borders, but so effective, so alluring, including security, the framework of vital institutions, modern buildings and a civil service taught rigorously that pervasive graft guarantees pervasive poverty, hence adequate schools and schooling, medical services, roads & public transport, start up industries, JOBS and SALARIES, plus the prospect that if it behaved maturely and responsibly in a couple of generations it would be the finest, wealthiest truly independent Arab trading nation on the Mediterranean, barring Lebanon.

One can see the yachts and cruise ships stopping over at Gaza, the only threat with which to blind its neighbors the one of wealth perhaps i.e. its style of living, its competing exports, its creativity, its subsequent miracles with desert and coast. To all intents a house ready to move into doing the trick. The trick of peace, real peace. A political turn-key operation if ever there was one. A place where Palestinian mothers would not have to worry where their sons hung out all of their useless days and nights, still resentful of the intruders, those new Jews, not caring to know why they came back, elbowing them out, yet look, look, moving them, those displaced Palestinians into Gaza and large surrounding desert, yes, yes… but wait… that’s not all… slowly turning that very place into a large near-paradise. Out of a profound understanding that hatred and jealousy lead to lasting grief, and altruism even though more practical than sincere perhaps, the ONLY way ahead. Investing a good slice of the billions upon billions received to develop and defend itself, in such a way that it would hardly have to defend itself at all. And money to spare to get its own social house in order with the constant arrival of unqualified and often backward immigrants.

Of course, there would still be strife, and hot, shallow heads trying to prevail. But in the long run nobody would doubt this ultimate accommodation, the ultimate wisdom of making it so and ….of accepting it so. Practical wisdom of the highest order on both sides of the divide: no self-righteousness, no humiliations, no programmed suicides, in fact all contrary misery and cruelty becoming completely…. stupid and unthinkable.

Too bad it didn’t happen that way.

Not yet.

(Written in April 2006)

(Please scroll back and read my closely related Sept. 20 posting, called Sacred Blues)

Sacred Blues

My mother always told me never to criticize, without offering a solution.

As far back as 1948 a doctrine of creating Tourism not one of Terrorism should have been foreseen. Never mind the holiness of it all, this earth still great enough to offer access and exclusive use to each other’s shrines, and much more concretely… only a doctrine of shared local wealth ultimately creating lasting peace.

There’s no reason Jerusalem couldn’t be two Vatican-type states-in-one, sovereign yet fully integrated with the two ‘solitudes’ surrounding them.

The Vatican never threatened the land God gave the Italians. What’s lacking in this part of the world is imagination, though not apparently tragic intransigence. What’s lacking here is generosity.

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