Monday, July 21, 2014

Plan B offers a glimpse, maybe, of Palestinian future

Roey Gilad, Israel's consul general in Chicago
     Yes, there is a connection between the downing Thursday of a Malaysian Airlines 777 jet over eastern Ukraine and the Israeli invasion of Gaza the same day.
     And no, it isn’t the inevitable conspiracy theory, the if-it-helps-you-then-you-must-have-caused-it delusion that the Israelis shot down the Malaysian plane in order to divert world attention from their military action, though that is exactly how the situation coincidentally unfolded.
     To be honest, a preliminary check of the lunatic fringes found not a whisper of this, which surprises me. It must be on the way.
     The Israeli/Palestinian standoff is not an area where rational thought is much rewarded.  The Israelis seem content to play jailer to a restive, belligerent and growing population of 4.5 million Palestinians jammed into the West Bank and Gaza. It is a failure of empathy on Israel’s part, which I’d fault them for more except it is enlightened benevolence compared to the Palestinians, nearly a third of whom elected a terror group, Hamas, to lead them, which makes their cries of injustice ring hollow. If Israel is locked in the outdated land-equals-security calculus, Palestinians keep returning to the same tattered 1947 game plan — we fight you and win everything someday — that has been losing consistently for the past 67 years.
     Meanwhile the world, which doesn’t give a fig about much, doesn’t give a fig about this, except for those who hate Israel on a good day and really, really hate Israel now that it’s drawing blood, for reasons they vehemently insist have nothing at all to do with it being Jewish. Reading their emails and fielding their phone calls has left me with one thought: You don’t have to be anti-Semitic to condemn Israel, but it sure helps.
     So while Israel is dismantling Hamas tunnels and accidentally killing civilians — something Hamas is frantically trying to do intentionally — there will be a next month and a next year. Just because there is no hope now, this moment, doesn’t mean nothing will ever happen and this standoff will continue forever. So let’s ask my favorite question, one I like to bring up only because no one else does: How does this end?
     Everyone has a plan.
     The Palestinians and their sympathizers expect the Israelis to hand the country over and magically vanish, back to Poland perhaps (funny; the same people demanding Israel welcome back descendants of those it displaced in 1948 would recoil in horror if you suggested descendants of the Jews annihilated in 1945 return to claim their ancestral lands. Why is that?) The right wing in Israel is hardly much better; they would like to squeeze the Palestinians into ever-smaller knots of misery as they nibble at the land they feel God Himself gave to them.
     Myself, since Israel is supposedly the adult in the room, I believe it should come up with a plan. Announce that Gaza and the West Bank will be an independent Palestinian nation on such and such a date, its borders will be here. It isn’t ideal, Israel will say, but it’s what we’re giving you — a start — and we’ll be happy to discuss specifics later after you’ve shown you are a peaceful neighbor. If China and Taiwan can do it, so can we.
     That would never work, on one level, because Hamas would reject it. Great. Let them. On another, it would change everything. I was glad to hear Roey Gilad, Chicago’s consul general from Israel, bring up that very idea last week, calling it “Plan B.”
     “Israel would like to separate,” he said. “Israel is seriously considering Plan B: unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank.” Support is “stronger than ever.” About time.
     The downside is where the Malaysian airliner comes in. Killing others is so easy. Gilad didn’t mention it, but the problem with quitting the territories is the first thing they always do, as their first baby step toward nationhood, is to attack the powerful Israeli military machine. Not the first step I would take, but there you go.
     The Israelis know, from hard experience, that they’ll have to go charging back in, as they are doing now, to destroy the military capability being flung at them. They have to. Sneak in a few of those Russian missile launchers and economic life would stop.
     But eventually Palestine would get the message, the way Egypt, Jordan et al have. They could move on to the next problems.
     When you puff away the fog of confusion, either that happens, or Israel becomes South Africa. Two choices. I’d pick Plan B.
     Yes, Israel would have to go charging back. But if you look at today’s headlines, they’re doing that anyway. Israel is good at defeating aggressive neighbors. Not so good at keeping them captive. End the latest carnage. Take a breath. Then implement Plan B. Give Palestinians their country whether they want it or not. It’s worth a try.


  1. Agreed. Give the Palestinians a stake, and you can expect them to be reasonable. While they are treated as interlopers (albeit violent, unreasonable interlopers), there is no incentive to be reasonable. I also like that your plan talks aftermath - Israel must not only give up territory but then prepare to defend their borden against an enemy they just put nearer. The only reason it isn't insane is - as you point out - they are already fighting this fight, with no end in sight.

    BTW, I'm of Irish descent, and watching the Free Scotland movement, because the mideast is not the only site of tribal wars.

    Nice post, thanks.

  2. I've no problem with Plan B (though I'd rather it come from a U.S.-led international source and not unilaterally via Israel). But I want to take issue with something else Neil wrote, which unintentionally approaches something the anti-semites (sorry, anti-Zionists) push:

    When he writes the Arabs/Palestinian supporters "expect the Israelis to hand the country over and magically vanish, back to Poland perhaps" - this echoes the argument "Hey, we aren't saying you Jews don't have the right to a homeland - let the Europeans who killed you in the Holocaust, expelled you from Spain, held pogroms in Russia, etc. provide it, but don't take it from us!" The Sephardic experience is always invisible in these discussions. Jews in the Middle East lived **at best** under Jim Crow like regimes, and at worse outright persecution. (Same for Christians - if you were something "not of the book" like Hindu or B'haih or Kurds (who are Muslim but viewed as a heretical strain by many), Heaven help you). Their experience alone would justify a Jewish homeland somewhere in their ancestral territory, and it's a testiment to how bad life under Muslim rule that most of them endangered their children's lives by fleeing to Israel at a time when its continued existence was very much in doubt. President Obama made the same mistake in focusing on European Jews and the Holocaust in his speech to Egyptian college students - Zionism predates the Holocaust by, what, a century?

    By the way, in Israel I'd be a criminal - I boycott goods made in the Occupied Territories because I think the settlement (not occupation, settlement) of the OT's violates the Fourth Geneva Convention. But I also do my best to boycott goods from China because of the Tibet Occupation and support of other human rights abuses. Ask some of these "anti-Zionists" about why they aren't brave enough to BDS China at their campuses, etc. and they'll get indignant that you are asking them to ignore the Palestinians. Ask them why they can't walk and chew gum at the same time and chances are they'll say the same thing because they can't think of an answer. Ask them about why it was ok to have a violent partition of India/Pakistan for religious regions with millions driven from their ancestral lands and whether, for example, Sindhi Hindus should get the same respect for their history as the Palestinians and they'll say "whah?"

  3. Are you sure? Because then Israel gets to just kill everybody and take the land and not worry. Had they done that in 1967, we'd have forgiven them long ago--by 1987 the Germans were our good pals. I would rethink that suggestion, were I you.

  4. Neil,

    Sorry to be off-topic, but would it be that much bother to caption the swell photos that adorn the top o' the blog? I like today's a lot, but it might as well be a Saturday "where IS this?" game, since I have no idea what it is. (If the sign makes it self-explanatory, I can't read it, BTW.)

    1. Sorry Jakash, I used to do that, then fell out of practice: Village Hall, Northbrook. I'll add it.

    2. No wonder it's so leafy and looks kinda like paradise, especially with nobody parked there. : ) Thanks!


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