By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
I’ve come to realize why the political parties, especially those that hoped to be in the next government, didn’t have much to say about the peace process during the election campaign. They may have realized that every proposed solution is bound to be too difficult for the voters to swallow. The majority of the Israeli public may want peace but I doubt whether a sufficient number has considered the real cost of peace.
Though, in anticipation of President Obama’s visit, Prime Minister Netanyahu has again spoken of two states for two peoples, the establishment of a fully fledged Palestinian state with some 360 thousand Jewish settlers in the region (with another probably 200 thousand Jews in East Jerusalem) – not to speak of the prospect of a divided Jerusalem – may create an almost impossible situation for both sides.
Apart from the economic and logistic problems, the ideological turmoil around the attempt to evacuate the settlers from the West Bank might lead to, yes – civil war. All those years later, the relatively few settlers removed from Gaza still cause integration problems in Israel. And they had no ideological claims the way Jews who live in Judea and Samaria that’s considered to be ancestral Jewish lands would have!
If, as has also been suggested, the settlers stay put, remain Israeli citizens and perhaps even claim Israeli military protection in a Palestinian state, this would be very difficult for the Palestinians, especially now when some settlers have taken to vandalizing Palestinian property and worse. They may be seen as a fifth column in Palestine.
Perhaps I had known much of this in the abstract, but it came home to me this week when my wife and I spent a day in the northern part of the West Bank where we saw that, unlike from our Jerusalem perspective, the settlements aren’t not just situated along the old Green Line and thus could be integrated into Israel in a peace deal that compensated the Palestinians with Israeli lands elsewhere. They seem to be strewn right across Samaria and, therefore, if not all, then at least many, would have to go.
As things are at present, the Palestinians are subject to many hardships created by the many restrictions on their movements. What Israel may wish to describe as necessary security measures, the Palestinians perceive as wanton harassment due to the occupation. Both sides seem to be right, yet neither is in a position to yield.
The host of our tour was Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch, an organization consisting of between 300 and 500 Israeli women who monitor the checkpoints and report Israeli excesses. They insist that their work has eased the situation in countless ways. They’ve also come to be viewed by locals as among the humane Jewish faces.
They want others to do what’s happening and what they’re doing which is why they organize periodic tours. Among the perhaps 30 participants in our group there were Israelis, tourists and a few members of a foreign embassy. In the course of the day we were also addressed by several Palestinian peace activists.
Not unexpectedly, there was, of course, some preaching by those who spoke to us, but we were also given opportunities to see for ourselves. Also not unexpectedly, my own impressions tended to reinforce my bleak view of the situation as suggested above.
If there’s a ray of hope, it may still come from President Obama’s visit and the pressure he’ll hopefully put on both sides to settle for much less than they’d like.