May 29th 2009

WAKE UP, ISRAEL!

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

I am departing from my usual analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict as I profoundly feel that these are neither ordinary times, nor ordinary circumstances. The challenges and opportunities that Israel faces today will undoubtedly lay the ground for its future coexistence both in the Middle East and as an ally to the West. With new US and Israeli leadership in office comes a renewed prospect to solve the old struggles, and to address once and for all the Palestinian question of statehood. Israel must wake up and heed the call of the international community, rise to the occasion and use the support it has now and its overwhelming power to make the necessary sacrifices for peace. Above all though, Israelis must look introspectively and ask themselves where they want to be in 10, 15 or 20 years from now. Do they want to live in peace with security and prosperity or do they wish to continue the struggle, which is becoming increasingly more threatening if not existential? I believe that Israel is approaching that fateful hour.

Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Washington raised many hopes-but then quelled just as many expectations. It appears he was neither ready to deal with the hard choices presented to him by President Obama, nor was he prepared to offer credible alternatives to deal with the simmering Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At this point in the process, coming to Washington to discuss Arab-Israeli peace without acknowledging the two-state solution only hurt Netanyahu's standing with the new American administration. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made it clear that there will be no peace without a Palestinian state, and there will be no Palestinian state with the continued expansion of the settlements. President Obama's demand that there will be a moratorium on settlement building and expansion is rooted in the simple logic that the settlements not only impede the viability of a Palestinian state, but they rob the Palestinians of any hope that they have a partner in peace who respects their claims to the land. The settlements, furthermore, tell twenty-two Arab states that Israel is not interested in their peace initiative. Continued expansion signals to the United States that Israel does not take seriously American strategic interest and friendship, and it tells the European Union to mind their own affairs. Most importantly, Israel's inability to control its settlers conveys to the majority of Israelis who are yearning for peace that they should expect nothing but more violence and bloodshed for decades to come.

The Obama administration has stressed that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the top of American national strategic interests, and that the US will provide the utmost security for Israel. Successive American administrations have committed themselves to Israel's national security and President Obama's commitment is as unshakable as any of his predecessors'. The difference today is that the President has inherited a region in turmoil with an alarming rise in Islamic extremism, terrorism and sectarian strife as well as a daunting Iranian nuclear threat capable of destabilizing the region in a fundamental way. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict only feeds into this frenzy, edging ever closer to the precipice. Caring about Israel's national security requires more than supporting Israel's policies and providing it with the military means to defend itself. Support for Israel will not come with a blank check and a blind eye. President Bush offered unmatched cooperation, but he failed miserably to deal effectively with Iran as it threatened Israel existentially time and again. Bush also neglected to pursue a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the majority of his two terms, and thereby undermined Israel's only prospect for peace and real security.

Israel has every right to thwart any potential Iranian nuclear threat, but it must first exhaust every peaceful option with its closest and most trusted ally the United States. President Obama has come to the conclusion that isolating Iran is not making Israel or the US any better off. He offered a direct dialogue with Tehran and established the end of 2009 as the time to determine whether or not Iran is willing to commit to negotiations on its nuclear program, leaving all military options on the table. But he has also committed to finding a solution to the Palestinian problem that has eluded all of his predecessors. The President knows as well as anyone that there is no issue that has helped Iran undermines Israel's national security concerns more than the Palestinian conflict. He appreciates Netanyahu's legitimate concerns about Iran, and thus reasons that dealing more effectively with Iran and weakening its resolve in the Mediterranean would in effect distance Iran's mischief from the Palestinian interests. Netanyahu must do better than dismantling a few illegal outposts, offering a lip service to a President who believes in Israel's destiny and is ready to commit time and treasure to insure it as a safe and thriving state.

Netanyahu is correct when he suggests that Israel and the Arab states share a common Iranian nuclear threat, and it would seem logical to invite the Arab states to join hands in dealing with Tehran's bellicose policies. What Netanyahu fails to understand is that while the Arab states-led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt-are gravely concerned about the Iranian nuclear program, they will not cooperate with Israel as long as the occupation persists and Palestinian plight continues to haunt them. Leaving the Palestinians at this stage to their own devices after sixty-two years of debilitating struggle would challenge the legitimacy of the Arab states' government. The Arab countries do not wish to see Iran in possession of nuclear weapons, but the prospect of provoking en-masse anti-government sentiments throughout the Arab world is deemed considerably worse. From their perspective, continued Israeli occupation has not only displaced the Palestinians but provides a constant reminder of Arab humiliation, and nothing reinforces that more than the building and the expansion of settlements. More so, if they were to see a moratorium on settlements while negotiations began, they are very likely to offer major concessions, such as state visits to Israel or the opening of economic trade talks.

The Arab states came full circle when their League passed the Arab Peace Initiative (first in March 2002 and again in March 2007) that offered Israel a comprehensive peace with all twenty two Arab countries in return for territories captured in 1967 and a fair settlement of the Palestinian problem. Regardless of the imperfections of this resolution (such how to deal with the refugees, which both sides know cannot be solved in their right to return to Israel proper) it represents nothing less than a historical transformation, especially when compared to the 1967 Arab League resolution which proclaimed no peace, no recognition and no negotiations. The Arab Peace Initiative should be a major triumph for Israel; after more than six decades of violent rejection the Arab nations are ready to embrace Israel as a member Middle Eastern state to live with its neighbours in peace and security. Israel must know by now the implication of making real peace with each and every Arab state, something that has eluded it for over sixty years. True, the Israelis have many reasons to be sceptical; decades of enmity and bloodshed have left an indelible mark etched in the memory of countless Israelis who suffered tragic losses. But now the Arab states, perhaps out of the desire for self-preservation, have come to accept the inevitable: Israel is here to stay and they must live with it in peace or continue a fruitless struggle that will only endanger the security of their own regimes.

In one form or another Israel must face the reality of the Palestinian people and commit to finding an equitable solution that can endure long-term. Like several of his predecessors came to understand, Netanyahu must realize that this is not a matter of blame or right versus wrong. No solution will be based on such a judgment. The Palestinians have been dispossessed, just as the Israelis have been denied the right to exist and had to assert their right. No party involved in the Palestinian plight is blameless: the Arab states, Israel and the Palestinians have all contributed to the tragic unfolding of events. Now it is time to put an end to this saga that has dehumanized both the occupied and the occupier. Each Palestinian has an inherent right to his homeland, and no one can understand this better that the Israelis who equally feel that deep attachment to the land of their forefathers. Now that the parameters of two-states have been repeatedly established and accepted by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians-as well as endorsed by the International community and the Arab states-the Israeli government is duty bound to move expeditiously to implement a negotiated agreement. And if Netanyahu's current right-wing coalition is not fit for the task at hand, he still has the option of forming a government with Tzipi Livni's Kadima party on the premise of a two-state solution.

Netanyahu can no longer use the Palestinian disunity or Hamas as an excuse for not negotiating a final status agreement. The Arab states through their Peace Initiative are committed to providing Israel with the security it seeks and can tame Hamas once the territories are evacuated. However legitimate Israel's national security concerns may be, the Israelis cannot live in fear with paralyzed leadership unable to act in the best interest of the country. The process of developing adequate security and confidence building measures will take few years to develop, and Israel will not be required to withdraw its forces from the West Bank before such measures are in place. But then again, Israel under no circumstance will relinquish its national security to any other agent and will remain militarily vigilant to deter any future enemy. That being said, the Israelis must face the inevitable and begin to build trust with their neighbours. But how they can engender trust by building more and more settlements, by impeding Palestinian movements with hundreds of road blocks, by incarcerating thousands of Palestinians, demolishing homes and above all by denying psychologically any future prospect of letting the Palestinians live as they see fit?

Every day, every month or year that passes will only add to the alienation and disdain toward Israel which has become ingrained in the Palestinian psyche. The zealot settlers have wrested the political agenda, and now Israel's leadership has allowed itself to become woefully misguided by a group endangering the very premise of why Israel was created in the first place. Israel was meant to provide a home, a refuge for the Jewish people, not to rule other people against their will. Why have there been no demonstrations in the street by Israelis demanding an end to the occupation? How can Israelis revel in the plenty of today and forget the scarcity endured by multitude of Palestinians? Imagine peace with fifty seven Arab and Muslim states and the renaissance that could usher into the region. Imagine Israel and its neighbours engaged in business, cultural and academic exchanges, imagine the power of Israeli and Arab resources put together and the incredible prospect of reaching a new high never known before between both peoples.

It is time for Israel to wake up; do not allow this historic chance for peace to slip away because of complacency or lack of courage. The US and international communities are offering an unprecedented opportunity that cannot afford to be squandered this time around. America has offered its utmost support and the Arab states are ready to assume their responsibility. If Israel is destined to bring light onto other nations, this is the moment.


If you wish to comment on this article, you can do so on-line.

Should you wish to publish your own article on the Facts & Arts website, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "The facts are clear: the wealthiest 0.54%, about 40 million people, are responsible for 14% of lifestyle-related greenhouse gas emissions, while the bottom 50% of income earners, almost 4 billion people, only emit around 10%. The world’s top 10% income earners are responsible for at least 25% and up to 43% of our environmental impact. Most people living in developed countries would fit into this category, meaning you don’t have to consider yourself rich in order to be globally affluent. Even many poorer people in wealthy countries have a disproportionately large and unsustainable resource footprint compared to the global average."
Jun 24th 2020
EXTRACT: "To be sure, the American Dream was always more aspiration than reality. Economic, social, and intergenerational mobility have always fallen short of what the myth of the self-made man or woman would lead one to expect. But with social mobility now declining as inequality rises, today’s young people are right to be angry."
Jun 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "There is only one way to repair America’s reputation, regain the trust of allies, and ensure that the US can act as an effective counterweight to China: address the root causes of the cracks that Trump’s disastrous presidency has exposed and widened. This is in line with the vision advanced in 2011 by two military strategists, Captain Wayne Porter and Colonel Mark Mykleby, using the pseudonym “Mr. Y.” Porter and Mykleby argued that national security depends not only on the capacity to respond to threats from foreign powers, but also – and perhaps more important – on the “application of credible influence and strength.” That influence, in turn, depends on America’s success in providing a “pathway of promise” for US citizens – and a model for the world."
Jun 14th 2020
EXTRACT: "The most critical question then is not how far Trump will go to promote his treasonous agenda, but for how long Republican leaders will silently accept and subserviently enable Trump to destroy the basic moral tenets and values on which this Union was founded, and which they swore to uphold and protect...............Of course, shame on us if we continue to be surprised by Republicans’ continuing silence, because as we all know, even when presented with overwhelming evidence that Trump committed crimes against the American people, Trump’s Republican stooges in the Senate exonerated him following impeachment almost unanimously...................The Republican leadership, to be sure, has made its bed. It has committed moral suicide. History will judge them harshly for their treason and betrayal of the nation, including all of those who have lived and died throughout our history to foster and protect our safety, integrity, and freedom."
Jun 9th 2020
EXTRACT: " Governments can do nothing about the quotidian offenses of living as a black person in America – the empty taxis that refuse to stop, being mistaken for employees in supermarkets, the myriad intentional and unintentional insults. Many now in the streets won’t be satisfied unless the result of this national spasm is improved schools, health care, and job opportunities for minorities – a fair shake for black people. What will happen when America once again falls short of honoring its professed values?."
Jun 8th 2020
EXTRACT: "It should be apparent to most observers of international relations that the Chinese government wants the world to play by its own set of rules. Beijing appears to believe that China’s rise and its assumption of global leadership positions are an inevitable extension of earlier periods in its history, when it was the world’s most powerful country. This is often at odds with the global norms that have been established – with China’s participation, it is worth adding – since the 1940s. While this is clearly the Chinese century, few outside of China would agree that Beijing’s global leadership is either inevitable or necessarily desired – certainly not on the Chinese government’s terms."
Jun 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "Many Americans are clearly horrified by their president’s crass and incendiary words. But will their disapproval be offset by anxiety about violent social unrest? Will age-old racial prejudices, often unspoken, or even acknowledged, still make them vote for the false security of a coarse white bully?  Much will depend on how hot this summer gets. If people think rationally in November, it is hard to imagine that enough of them would vote to keep this appalling administration in power for another four years. But fear is reason’s worst enemy."
Jun 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "For starters, many Americans have accepted that they live in a winner-takes-all society of deepening inequality. While the wealth and incomes of those at the very top continue to grow, tens of millions of Americans struggle to afford health care, childcare, and other basic goods. This story has been told many times over. But what often goes unremarked is that the responsibility for managing the social costs of this system has been offloaded onto the police."
May 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "Obamagate is the latest conspiracy theory to be pushed by US president, Donald Trump. It started on the morning of May 10, when Trump retweeted the word “OBAMAGATE!” By the next day, the Obamagate hashtag had accrued over two million tweets and another four million by the end of the week. Trump has repeatedly reused the slogan on his Twitter feed since and it has been promoted by right-wing influencers including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and many others....You are not alone if you’re confused by what Obamagate actually is or why Trump is tweeting about it."
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "Not all aspects of our near and medium-term future can be foreseen at this juncture of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we now know enough to make some hypotheses about what is likely to change, based on what has already changed. The future is sure to look very different than it did before this decade began, regardless of whether a vaccine is found. If a vaccine is found, it is unlikely to be tested, approved, manufactured, and efficiently distributed to the world’s population of nearly 8 billion people for years. Bearing in mind that there is no vaccine for any coronavirus, what is likelier is that the world will be living with Covid-19 as a part of our ecosystem for many years to come – possibly permanently. That means that our new normal is probably already here."
May 21st 2020
EXTRACT: "LONDON – The new Franco-German proposal for a €500 billion ($547 billion) European recovery fund could turn out to be the most important historic consequence of the coronavirus. It is even conceivable that the deal struck between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron might one day be remembered as the European Union’s “Hamiltonian moment,” comparable to the 1790 agreement between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson on public borrowing, which helped to turn the United States, a confederation with little central government, into a genuine political federation."
May 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "In April 2011, Donald Trump, then considering a run for the presidency the following year, said that he had sent investigators to Hawaii to check out rumors that President Barack Obama wasn’t born there, but in Kenya, which would disqualify him for the presidency. His investigators, Trump declared, “cannot believe what they’re finding.” I can find no record of Trump being challenged on this outlandish claim at the time. In the fall of 2016, Trump, now the Republican presidential nominee, was convinced by his staff that he had to abandon this “birther” nonsense. He did so reluctantly, charging – also with no evidence – that such rumors had actually been initiated by his opponent, Hillary Clinton. There, in a nutshell, is Trump’s modus operandi: he’s not just a liar but a fabulist, seemingly unconcerned with whether his fictions will be exposed. If they are, the world simply moves on as he invents fresh distractions."
May 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "Li, a doctor, was purportedly silenced and chastised by Chinese officials for warning on December 30, 2019, about a new virus in the Wuhan hospital where he worked. When it became evident that he was on to something serious – so serious, in fact, that it ultimately killed him – the Chinese government changed its tune and celebrated Li’s bravery. If only that had happened sooner, the argument goes, the world would have avoided this horrific pandemic.................... But that’s not what happened."
May 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "Jana Winter and Hunter Walker at Yahoo News broke the story that 11 Secret Service agents have tested positive for the coronavirus. Likely some of them served in the West Wing. This week it was revealed at that a US military valet who brought Trump food came down with the virus, sending Trump into a “lava level” rage. Two aides to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive. Some observers are afraid that the virus is circulating in the West Wing itself."
May 6th 2020
EXTRACT: "There has been much debate around the world about the source of the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from a laboratory to Wuhan’s seafood market to some other form of animal-to-human transmission. While there is no proof (yet) that the virus may have been inadvertently released from one of the two biological research laboratories located at Wuhan, there is evidence that viral release has occurred in the past, and a host of additional data that point to a laboratory connection. "
May 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "A better bet is that nothing will be the same. Wealth will be destroyed on a catastrophic scale, and policymakers will need to find a way to ensure that, at least in some cases, creditors take part of the hit, a process that will play out over years of negotiation and litigation. For bankruptcy lawyers and lobbyists, it will be a bonanza, part of which will come from pressing taxpayers to honor bailout guarantees. Such a scenario would be an unholy mess."
Apr 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "We need the twenty-first century’s two superpowers, America and China, to set the example, by burying their rivalry and uniting all of humankind around a collective response to the current crisis, and to those that await us. As COVID-19 has taught us, the old international system can no longer guarantee humankind’s safety and security. We cannot afford to be taught that lesson twice."
Apr 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "It should come as no surprise that Trump has abused his power in orchestrating the federal response to the pandemic. For example, he made sure that Colorado received 100 much-needed ventilators, and made sure that Colorado voters knew it, in order to help re-elect troubled incumbent Republican senator Cory Gardner.  More alarming, Trump effectively threatened to wage germ warfare against US Postal Service workers by denying them congressionally approved virus-mitigation aid unless the USPS quadrupled rates on packages. Trump’s actual target was Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post."
Apr 28th 2020
EXTRACT: "These ten risks, already looming large before COVID-19 struck, now threaten to fuel a perfect storm that sweeps the entire global economy into a decade of despair. By the 2030s, technology and more competent political leadership may be able to reduce, resolve, or minimize many of these problems, giving rise to a more inclusive, cooperative, and stable international order. But any happy ending assumes that we find a way to survive the coming Greater Depression."
Apr 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Federal Reserve will buy unlimited quantities of Treasury bonds, the Bank of England will purchase £200 billion ($250 billion) of gilts, and the European Central Bank up to €750 billion ($815 billion) of eurozone bonds. Almost certainly, central banks will end up providing monetary finance to fund fiscal deficits. The only question is whether they should make that explicit."