I found myself getting more and more upset as I read Peter Beinhart’s article in the Ha’Aretz earlier this year. The same distress came over me when I heard J-Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami being interviewed on Israeli television a few night ago. Both these men – directly and indirectly – accused Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu of being responsible for the break down of the recent round of talks. Please understand that I am not a supporter of the Prime Minister. I have been against the occupation for over 40 years. However, I do not understand the Jewish Left in America (especially those who call themselves “Zionist”). Why do they always think it is our fault? Maybe the problem is the Palestinians’ perpetual refusal to compromise. What compromises have the Palestinians agreed to make since Oslo? Who has consistently made more compromises? Yes, we continue to build in the settlements of the West Bank – which is simply stupid and self-defeating. Yet, it is not the essence of the conflict.
Several days ago I heard Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi participate in a discussion on TV redefining who is a Palestinian “refugee”. Listening to MK Tibi, a well spoken and seeming moderate, I realized there was no sign in his words of accepting the idea that Palestinian refugees would be settled anywhere but back in Israel. Somehow the world has created a unique situation. At the end of World War II there were 50 million refugees. When the Indian sub-continent was partitioned into India and Pakistan 100 million refugees were created. Today, it is only the Palestinians who under a special UN mandate maintain their status as refugees after 66 years. Throughout history, and across the globe, it is only the Palestinians (who are culturally and religiously similar to their neighbors in the Arab world) who refuse to give up their dreams of returning to a land that has long since moved on.
There are approximately 30,000 Palestinian refugees from 1948 who are still alive. However, the United Nations counts 7 million “Palestinian refugees” on its register. If the Palestinians had accepted the U.N. Partition Plan in 1947, there would be no refugees. We also would have avoided nearly 70 years of war.
So to Peter Barnhart and Jeremy Ben Ami, I say: I agree with you about Prime Minister Netanyahu. I vote against him every time there are elections. From time to time I even attend demonstrations against the government. That being said, it is not always about Netanyahu. He is not always responsible for the failure of peace negotiations. If you care about Israel and care about our future here – like you claim – you will turn some of your criticism in a different direction. You will try attempt to put pressure on the Palestinians to accept the idea that if there is to be a “two-state solution” it means that Palestinians will be going to Ramallah and Sh’chem (and maybe to some new cities in the West Bank) and not back to villages in the Israel. It is time to pressure them to stop teaching their children about a future in places they will never live, and start talking about partition as an end of this conflict. Until that happens, it makes no difference which government is in power here (except in terms of public relations). We will not be able to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians until they agree that a partition is final, and the only reparation for the refugees is monetary compensation.