In a recent op-ed piece, our editor David Horovitz criticized remarks of John Kerry, the out-going American Secretary of State, referring to him as Jeremiah, our ancient Hebrew prophet of doom.
Kerry’s remarks regarding the dying Israel-Palestinian peace talks were frankly absurd. .But despite them there was an element of a truth. Since our Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948, we stated that we extend a hand of friendship to our Arab neighbors and expressed our desire to work together for peace.
Our olive branch was met with rifles, bullets and bombs. Our Arab neighbors showed no interest in any agreements with a state that they did not recognize. It took decades before formal peace treaties were signed first with Egypt and then with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Those peace treaties did not lead to warm, loving embraces but they did lead to the cessation of hostilities and to the beginning of recognition and cooperation. Not so with our Palestinian neighbors.
We Israelis say that settlements are not the obstacle to peace since there were hostilities for many years prior to the establishment of the first settlement which followed our victory in 1967. But to the Palestinians, the creation and extension of Jewish settlements, considered illegal by the rest of the world, encroaching settlements often on privately-owned Palestinian land, are seen as the obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state.
And while we Israelis allow Palestinians to live in our country, they on the other hand have sworn that not a single Jew will be allowed to live within the future borders of their proposed state.
Settlements are a source of security to us. They protect us from Arab attacks on our cities and international airport, all within striking range of their acquired weapons. For many of us, but not all, settlements are the fulfillment of the ancient dream of a Greater Israel on its biblical territory.
Our present government publicly and constantly declares its desire for “peace” with the Palestinians but we are not prepared to meet their terms: return of the 1948 refugees, East Jerusalem separated from Jewish Jerusalem as it was from 1948 to 1967 to be the capital of a Palestinian state, and the abolishment of Jewish settlements on former Palestinian land.
We are talking in earnest about “peace” with the Palestinians but under their terms there can never be peace. They still refuse to recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people. Until they do so, peace will remain elusive.
So we continue to live with the Status Quo. Is anything really wrong with it? Except that John Kerry and his American “peace”-makers insist that we surrender and abolish our settlements while we, to the contrary, make very clear to one and all that we will not surrender our present settlements. We are, however, willing to make certain adjustments and exchange of land in return for full Palestinian recognition and genuine signs of a desire for a real peace, not a fictitious verbal “peace”.
Until then, que sera, sera.