Looking squarely at the challenges facing the state of Israel today — Iran; the Arab Spring/Winter and its continuing evolution in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon; its faltering relations with Turkey; its growing number of detractors in the United Nations; its ongoing conflicts with Hamas and other extremist organizations in the Gaza Strip and with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank; and internal issues such as the large-scale popular upheaval over housing costs and increasing debate over the role, rights and power of religion — is it realistic to speak rationally about the possibility of peace and two states with security and freedom for all?
To characterize the challenges as enormous would be a gross understatement. Accordingly, a wall that separates two peoples, a security agreement with the PA that largely enforces order in the West Bank and a government-sponsored policy equivalent to “Price Tag” vis-à-vis Hamas and its associates in Gaza together have effectively suppressed not only the second intifada but the body count of terror and the travails of the Israeli public — minus the growing range of the Grad missiles fired repeatedly from Gaza, the expanding collection of weapons amassed by Hezbollah in Lebanon and the increasing unease of a Palestinian population that agrees with most Israelis that peace is no longer possible.
It is in this environment that one recognizes in the absence of a viable peace process that other less salutary outcomes are emerging: There was an unsuccessful unilateral bid by Palestinians for statehood through the UN, a largely unsuccessful ongoing effort to boycott Israeli products from either the settlements or all of Israel, and a much more general international weariness of accepting the status quo of the Middle East conflict and the nature of a 21st century Zionism that appears to be trapped in the role of malevolent occupier.
All of these outcomes have been minimized by a smart Israeli political machine that has been fashioned and utilized aggressively by the leadership of its current government. But in the absence of a belief in peace by either people or access to it, it becomes increasingly likely that angry words will be replaced with angry actions and that the Palestinians who have demonstrated peaceably or with stones at demonstrations across the West Bank will give up non-violence, see the futility of their own government and resort to violence even as they replace the formal notion of two states (whether or not they were ever ready to move formally toward its achievement) with calls for democracy and one state/a confederation that grants the rights that no Palestinian has today in Ramallah, let alone Nablus or Rafah or the camps within its borders or those in Lebanon, and Syria.
I believe peace is necessary because its absence promotes the likelihood of violence on an ever increasing scale whether it begins as a people’s violence (a Palestinian version of the Arab Spring), violence driven by a non-state actor such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad or al Qaeda, or that which devolves into violence supported by one or more nations.
Security is driven by the careful weighing of tangible risks. Accordingly the Netanyahu government has taken action against a potential Iranian nuclear threat. It continues to disrupt the evolution of the Palestinian people, their economy, infrastructure and future in an attempt that goes beyond any other government’s bid to control the land, water and air throughout Greater Israel in a way that largely precludes the establishment of a Palestinian state.
While it is crystal clear that the terms of such a state have been identified and discarded over time by successive Palestinian leaders, it is becoming the belief of more nations that the asymmetrical advantages of the state of Israel and its forceful control of the occupied territories is unacceptable and thus unsustainable. It is the results of this security calculation that should worry the prime minister, the defense minister and their security cabinet enough to recognize it as a tangible threat to the future of Israel and to encourage them to find a way to put out a fire that will only grow in intensity to engulf Israel, the Middle East and, ultimately, the entire world.
Peace is the way.
The words here represent the beliefs of the author and should not be construed as the policy of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace.