Israel: Time For Soul Searching

Throughout this summer’s Israel-Hezbollah war, certain opinion-makers in Israel argued that it was absolutely crucial that Hezbollah be crushed or the consequences would be very dire. Some claimed that Israel’s very existence was threatened. Today, there is little doubt that the Israelis themselves see their army’s failure to destroy Hezbollah as a major setback.

For decades, Israel has sought to provide its citizens with Security by ruthlessly crushing any efforts the Palestinians might make to resist Israel’s absolute power. It’s an approach that is supposed to work in theory by eventually convincing the Palestinians (and their Muslim supporters) that RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. The perception of futility is supposed to be followed by resignation and then sullen acceptance of Israel’s demands. With an Israeli gun pointed at their heads, the Palestinians will supposedly—-eventually—-accept the demands that Israel has been making of them and then peace will finally be achieved.

For a number of years, it actually seemed as though Israel might be able to succeed with this approach. At the end of the last decade, many people were hoping that Yasser Arafat might settle for Peace With Dishonor at Bill Clinton’s urging, but then he ultimately backed off of the idea. Now, in the aftermath of Hezbollah’s impressive “victory” against the mighty Israeli army, everything has changed. Palestinian militants have been given a booster shot of hope and inspiration. But that’s not all; Hezbollah’s victory has also boosted the confidence of Iran’s passionate leaders, who can now be expected to respond to any threats George Bush might make with a smirky, “Bring it on…

So what now, Israel? What kind of future do you have to look forward to? The Wall is not going to protect you from long-range missile attacks. Some day, the enemies you have made will obtain nuclear weapons. What happens to your security then? Do you want peace with your neighbors, Israel, or do you not? Maybe, just maybe, this little wake-up call will prompt Israel’s opinion-makers to begin reflecting at length on the virtues of a fresh, new approach to peace negotiations with the Palestinians. After all, they’ve spent fifty-eight years relying on their Tough Guy approach and it hasn’t worked.

Perhaps it would help if they began by re-examining the most fundamental aspects of their situation. Forget about the immediate threats that you perceive at the moment, Israel, and ask yourselves what kind of peace would you ideally like to experience in the future? Do you want to arrive at a point where you are actually able to live without fear? Do you want to some day see smiles on the faces of your Palestinian neighbors? Do you want to feel a warmth of Good Will radiating from their hearts? If that’s what you want, then you are going to have to try a much different approach from the one you’ve been embracing.

EXTREME GENEROSITY

In order for the Palestinian people to ‘let go’ of all the bitterness and resentment they feel now and start having positive feelings of friendliness for the Israelis, it is absolutely essential that they be able to walk away from the negotiations table feeling as though they had won a tremendous victory. They need to end up with a settlement that is so incredibly generous, and so filled with face-saving Israeli [and American] concessions, they won’t be able to contain their joy at their good fortune. They need to feel as though they have won a great victory and their Muslim sympathizers around the world need to see that the Palestinians are delighted with their good fortune.

What the Israeli people need to understand is that this is the kind of Peace Settlement they are going to want the Palestinians to end up with because it is the only kind of settlement that is going to give them the Lasting Peace—-the freedom from fear—-that they truly want. They need to change the hearts of the Palestinians with something dramatic. The Israelis will know that they have finally achieved true peace when they start seeing smiles on the faces of the Palestinian people, smiles that reflect authentic feelings of gratitude and friendliness toward them.

It’s your choice, Israel. Endless war, with the likelihood of nuclear devastation in the future, or a true and lasting peace with your neighbors. What will the Israeli people get for the high price they might ultimately have to pay? Only their “Right to Exist” from the only people who can legitimately grant them that right, the people who used to own the land before Israel’s founding fathers took it from them at gunpoint. Yes, the Palestinians will be willing to grant the Israelis the right to inhabit and rule the land they once owned, but only if they feel as though they have been handsomely compensated for it.

All of the hatred that half the world currently feels toward Israel would come to an end. The Israeli people may feel as though their founding fathers achieved a great thing when they resurrected the state of Israel from the dustbin of history, but they really haven’t achieved a thing, yet. How about impressing the world with a dramatic and historically unprecedented move to change the deeply resentful feelings that your current enemies have toward you? How about giving the children of Israel a future that is cleansed of their fear of annihilation?

Do you want all of these things, Israel? If you do, then you’re going to have to do something like this:

Agree to a compensation package that overwhelms the Palestinians with its generosity. Give them [virtually] everything they’ve been demanding for the past forty years plus a little bit more. Pre-1967 borders. Jerusalem becomes either an international city, or a multi-capital city. If it becomes supremely important to Israeli negotiators to turn some of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank into Israeli land, then the Palestinians must be given twice as much pre-1967 Israeli land in compensation. The way to win the good will of the Palestinian people is by shocking them with your ‘new leaf’ commitment to astounding generosity.

The Israelis need to get over the urge to get best deal they can, by bargaining “tough” with the Palestinians and threatening them with more pain if they don’t give the Israelis the things that they want. Instead, they need to stun the world with an amazing display of good will and a generous spirit. On top of all the territorial concessions, throw in a huge amount of cash at the Palestinians. Make them feel as though they had all just “won the lottery.” Would $30,000 per family be enough? $50,000? Pour an equally generous amount of money into the construction of new businesses, industries, and modern infrastructure in the new Palestine.

Where would all the money for this come from? Well, if we were to take all the money that Israel and the United States are now spending on their Wars on Terror and then solicit big contributions from Europe, Japan, China, and the rich Arab states, it should not be difficult to put together a pot of around $500 billion, which should be more than enough to overwhelm the Palestinian people and instill within them a feeling of great pride and satisfaction. They would finally have Peace With Honor.

AN APOLOGY

There is one more thing we could give them that would guarantee the success of the Extreme Generosity approach. It is actually something that Israel cannot give them, but the United States can. It is also something that would not cost the American taxpayers a cent. What might this magical ‘something’ be? A formal admission by the United States government that we had been wrong all along in getting ourselves involved in the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Why would we do such a thing? Because it is the simple truth.

Mistakes made by American leaders in decades past are ultimately to blame for the fear that Americans currently have of one day suffering a nuclear terrorist attack. It was good old Harry S. Truman who first got us involved in the Arab-Israeli dispute and it was his decision in 1948 that put us on the side of the Israelis. At the time, the American people were feeling a lot of sympathy for the Jewish people after the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed, so it was easy for them to consent to a plan to ‘give them a homeland’ where they would be free of persecution.

Unfortunately, everyone in the press conveniently ignored the fact that the land the U.N. decided to give to the Jews happened to belong to someone else. To understand how the Palestinians (and some Jews ) see the creation of the state of Israel, imagine a similar thing happening here, in America. What if the Indians who lived in New Jersey 300 years ago fled by boat to Europe instead of becoming assimilated into the developing American culture?

What if, over the years, those Indians educated themselves and kept their sense of ‘nationhood’ alive and maintained a dream of some day returning to their homeland? What if they started emigrating back to New Jersey in big numbers maybe 60 years ago and made it clear that they intended to get their land back? What if the majority of European nations supported their cause and sent them military hardware and financial support? How do you think the modern inhabitants of New Jersey would feel about the claim that the land really belonged to the Indians because they had once lived there 300 years ago?

I’m pretty sure I know how most property owners in New Jersey would respond. Outraged? You bet. Militant? You can count on it, especially if the seizure took place at gunpoint, as it did in Israel in 1948. The truth is that it is impossible for the United States to justify its support for Israel while declaring loudly to the world that it is outrageous and immoral for one country to invade and annex another. It’s theft at gunpoint, any way you look at it. This is why the Palestinians and their Muslim sympathizers are so crazy angry at the United States, because they see the incredible hypocrisy of our political leaders and are outraged that we do not see the injustice and sympathize with their plight.

Yes, it’s true. Our sympathy for the Jews—-a good thing—-is what ultimately led us to make an incredibly stupid decision to approve an illegal and immoral act. Maybe we weren’t guilty of malevolence, but we are nevertheless paying the price now for the moral/intellectual lapse we had back then. Since Nine Eleven, we have been spending hundreds of billions of dollars on Homeland Security and on the Iraq & Afghanistan wars and we will be spending trillions more in the future if we cannot get ourselves on the right side of history. Does this mean that we are supposed to start hating the Israeli Jews now? Of course not. But no longer can we play favorites.

WISE PARENTS

Americans have become accustomed to seeing the Israelis as their friends. I’m not recommending that we just toss that aside. When a parent sees his child being chased by some angry adults who live at the far end of the neighborhood, he will naturally assume that his child is being victimized and will threaten the pursuers if they do not cease chasing his child. But if he listens to the adults and finds out that his child stole something from them and damaged their property, he will not abandon the child, but will reprimand him and insist that he do the right thing to make amends.

If he is a Wise Parent, he will feel a little embarrassed, but he will not hesitate to scold his child. He will recognize that an opportunity exists for his child to learn some important lessons about life through acts of atonement. But if he is a Foolish Parent, he will ignore all evidence that is presented to him of his child’s guilt and will accuse the angry adults of ‘just hating’ his child for no good reason. He will focus, instead, on being loyal to his family members and trying to defend them from all outsiders, no matter what they might have done to earn the antipathy of strangers.

For 60 years, America has been a Foolish Parent re: the Arab-Israeli dispute. Because our ‘child’ has always been in the wrong, we now have a lot of people around the world hating us for our moral hypocrisy, who see us as an arrogant enemy of Justice. We can bring an end to the Arab-Israeli Feud if we would stop being foolish and start being Wise Parents, instead. We have a moral responsibility to try to talk the Israelis into doing the one thing that is going to bring true peace to their land.

For Israel, it is actually quite simple. They are not going to get True Peace without Happy Palestinians and they are not going to get Happy Palestinians unless the Palestinians are able to achieve a negotiations settlement that is ‘unbelievable’ in its magnitude. Israel can give them that and still keep at least 90% of what they had in 1966. They will have to give up a little, but they will have won the biggest prize of them all, the one that has eluded them for sixty plus years: the acceptance of their “right to exist” by the Palestinians.

When the Palestinians grant them this right, then the rest of the Muslim world will grant it also if face is saved with the gifts of extreme generosity and the United States apologizes to the Muslims of the world for mis-reading their grievance. If/when the United States does this, there won’t be a dry eye in all of Islam. The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ will be over. Peace will have finally arrived.

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