A small group of pro-Palestinian activists from across the globe made it onto airplanes destined for the Ben Gurion airport and a promotion sponsored in the city of Bethlehem by its Mayor and about twenty local organizations. “Welcome to Palestine,” boasted that thousands would come to join the festivities, build a school and protest against the occupation of the West Bank and Bethlehem itself.
Of course there is a website; http://welcometopalestine.info/ and a You Tube video; http://welcometopalestine.info/index.php/videos?task=play&id=15 and plenty of activity in response by the Israel government to foreclose the arrival of many and prepare for the arrival of those who manage to get through. The government produced a letter challenging the assumptions of the activists that were handed out to those found and taken into custody at the airport before they were deported:
We appreciate your choosing to make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns. We know there were many other worthy choices.” It continues by identifying the Syrian regime, the Iranian regime and Hamas as possible choices for protest and goes on to enunciate that the activists instead choose Israel; “The Middle East’s sole democracy”. Then it adds;
“We therefore suggest that you first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience.
Have a nice flight.”
Israel has a long history of immigration and an economy that has benefited greatly from tourism. In his famous June 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu held out the carrot of tourism as one incentive for Palestinians to make peace:
“Together we can develop industrial zones, we can create thousands of jobs, and foster tourism that will draw millions, people who want to walk in the footsteps of history, in Nazareth and Bethlehem, in the heights of Jericho and on the walls of Jerusalem, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and at the baptismal site of the Jordan. There is a huge potential for the development of tourism potential here. If you only agree to work together.”
Part of any agreement will include the resolution of the refugee issue and for Israel to become truly democratic will mean that peace will enable it to end its occupation of Judea and Samaria/the West Bank irrespective of which settlement blocks it retains in exchange for an equal amount of land granted to a newly independent State of Palestine while resolving the thorny issues of security, East Jerusalem, Hebron and access to water.
In the same speech Benjamin Netanyahu said:
“Friends, in order to achieve peace, we need courage and integrity on the part of the leaders of both sides. I am speaking today with courage and honesty. We need courage and sincerity not only on the Israeli side: we need the Palestinian leadership to rise and say, simply “We have had enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish People to a state of its own in this Land. We will live side by side in true peace.” “I am looking forward to this moment.
We want them to say the simplest things, to our people and to their people. This will then open the door to solving other problems, no matter how difficult. The fundamental condition for ending the conflict is the public, binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People.”
I agree with the Prime Minister and believe that what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander. It will take courage and integrity for the people of Israel and its government in turn to say;
“We have had enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Palestinian People to a state of its own in this Land. We will live side by side in true peace.”
Welcome to Palestine.
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.