Commentary Magazine


Topic: Moshe Ya

Why No Jews in a Palestinian State?

One of the orthodoxies of Middle East peace advocacy is that Jewish settlements in the West Bank (which by now has come to include Jewish neighborhoods in the city of Jerusalem) are a terrible obstacle to peace. You see, so long as Jews are building homes in these places, the Palestinians and their supporters can’t believe in peace. So those who claim to be peace advocates insist that the number of houses and Jews in these towns and villages must be absolutely frozen as prerequisite for peace. And we are assured that, once a peace agreement is signed, this will mean without doubt that all of these settlements, including every single house and every single Jew living in the houses, must be removed. That is, we are assured, the definition of peace for Palestinians.

But a member of Israel’s Cabinet has now asked a very pertinent question. Moshe Ya’alon, a former Israel Defense Forces general who now serves as Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategic affairs minister, posed the following query in an interview published in the Jerusalem Post: “If we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the [Palestinian] insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein? Don’t Arabs live here, in the Negev and the Galilee? Why isn’t that part of our public discussion? Why doesn’t that scream to the heavens?” Ya’alon believes that previous withdrawals, such as the evacuation from Gaza, only encouraged Hamas and Hezbollah to raise the ante in terms of violence.

These are excellent questions. If what Israel is being asked to negotiate with the Palestinians is mutual recognition and legitimacy in the context of a cessation of violence, why can’t Jews stay in the areas designated as part of a Palestinian state, just as Arabs live in Israel with full rights as citizens? Indeed, what kind of a crazy peace would create a state alongside Israel in which Jews are forbidden to live and where Arabs face the death sentence for selling property to Jews, as is currently the case in both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority?

Critics of the settlements might answer that the settlers are too extreme and too violent to be allowed to stay behind because some might attempt to sabotage the peace. Others might also point out that without the protection of the IDF, no Jew surrounded by hostile Arabs would be safe. As to the charge that violent settlers would seek to destroy the peace, that might be true of a small minority, but the overwhelming majority of settlers are law-abiding. But the fact that some Israeli Arabs were hostile to Jews didn’t mean that all Arabs couldn’t live in Israel. If there was a commitment to peaceful coexistence from a Palestinian government, there’s no reason why most of the Jews living in outlying settlements on land closely associated with Jewish history and faith couldn’t stay on. As for the threat to the safety of Jews remaining in a putative state of Palestine, that’s a different question that goes to the heart of the problem.

The reason why Palestinians insist that all Jews must leave their future state is because they do not recognize the legitimacy of Israel or the Jewish presence anywhere in the land. And Palestinian political culture is so steeped in violence and hatred of Jews and Israel that it is literally impossible to believe that Jews, even if they behaved like Quakers, could live in a Palestinian state.

Moreover, Ya’alon’s point about the example of Gaza is telling. Removing every Jew from Gaza didn’t satisfy the Palestinians there. Not only did the Palestinians burn the synagogue buildings and the tomato greenhouses left behind by the Israelis for them to use, they immediately began to use that land for launching terrorist missile attacks inside of Israel. So long as the Arabs still view the conflict as zero-sum game in which the goal is to remove or kill every Jew, territorial withdrawals won’t bring peace. If the Palestinian vision of peace — even the vision articulated by so-called moderates like Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas — is predicated on ridding the land of Jews rather than embracing coexistence, then there will be no peace.

One of the orthodoxies of Middle East peace advocacy is that Jewish settlements in the West Bank (which by now has come to include Jewish neighborhoods in the city of Jerusalem) are a terrible obstacle to peace. You see, so long as Jews are building homes in these places, the Palestinians and their supporters can’t believe in peace. So those who claim to be peace advocates insist that the number of houses and Jews in these towns and villages must be absolutely frozen as prerequisite for peace. And we are assured that, once a peace agreement is signed, this will mean without doubt that all of these settlements, including every single house and every single Jew living in the houses, must be removed. That is, we are assured, the definition of peace for Palestinians.

But a member of Israel’s Cabinet has now asked a very pertinent question. Moshe Ya’alon, a former Israel Defense Forces general who now serves as Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategic affairs minister, posed the following query in an interview published in the Jerusalem Post: “If we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the [Palestinian] insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein? Don’t Arabs live here, in the Negev and the Galilee? Why isn’t that part of our public discussion? Why doesn’t that scream to the heavens?” Ya’alon believes that previous withdrawals, such as the evacuation from Gaza, only encouraged Hamas and Hezbollah to raise the ante in terms of violence.

These are excellent questions. If what Israel is being asked to negotiate with the Palestinians is mutual recognition and legitimacy in the context of a cessation of violence, why can’t Jews stay in the areas designated as part of a Palestinian state, just as Arabs live in Israel with full rights as citizens? Indeed, what kind of a crazy peace would create a state alongside Israel in which Jews are forbidden to live and where Arabs face the death sentence for selling property to Jews, as is currently the case in both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority?

Critics of the settlements might answer that the settlers are too extreme and too violent to be allowed to stay behind because some might attempt to sabotage the peace. Others might also point out that without the protection of the IDF, no Jew surrounded by hostile Arabs would be safe. As to the charge that violent settlers would seek to destroy the peace, that might be true of a small minority, but the overwhelming majority of settlers are law-abiding. But the fact that some Israeli Arabs were hostile to Jews didn’t mean that all Arabs couldn’t live in Israel. If there was a commitment to peaceful coexistence from a Palestinian government, there’s no reason why most of the Jews living in outlying settlements on land closely associated with Jewish history and faith couldn’t stay on. As for the threat to the safety of Jews remaining in a putative state of Palestine, that’s a different question that goes to the heart of the problem.

The reason why Palestinians insist that all Jews must leave their future state is because they do not recognize the legitimacy of Israel or the Jewish presence anywhere in the land. And Palestinian political culture is so steeped in violence and hatred of Jews and Israel that it is literally impossible to believe that Jews, even if they behaved like Quakers, could live in a Palestinian state.

Moreover, Ya’alon’s point about the example of Gaza is telling. Removing every Jew from Gaza didn’t satisfy the Palestinians there. Not only did the Palestinians burn the synagogue buildings and the tomato greenhouses left behind by the Israelis for them to use, they immediately began to use that land for launching terrorist missile attacks inside of Israel. So long as the Arabs still view the conflict as zero-sum game in which the goal is to remove or kill every Jew, territorial withdrawals won’t bring peace. If the Palestinian vision of peace — even the vision articulated by so-called moderates like Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas — is predicated on ridding the land of Jews rather than embracing coexistence, then there will be no peace.

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A Lesson for London

Meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem this morning, British Attorney General Baroness Scotland reiterated her government’s pledge to amend the “universal jurisdiction” law under which British courts have repeatedly issued arrest warrants against Israeli officers and politicians. That pledge, first made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month, outraged the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused the government of being “partisan” and “compliant to [Israeli] demands.”

But if Britain keeps its word, the pro-Palestinian activists who keep seeking, and getting, those warrants will have only themselves to blame. After all, British courts have issued such warrants for years without the British government batting an eye, despite vociferous Israeli protests, and could probably have continued doing so had activists only picked their targets a little more carefully. The British couldn’t care less if Israeli army officers canceled planned visits for fear of being arrested, as yet another group did last week. Ditto for right-of-center politicians such as Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who aborted a planned trip in November: Britain would rather not hear from Israelis who think peace with the Palestinians is currently impossible.

But the activists overreached last month by securing a warrant against former foreign minister and current opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Livni is the Great White Hope of peace-processors worldwide, the Israeli deemed most likely to sign a deal with the Palestinians. She won praise from her Palestinian interlocutors during a year of final-status negotiations in 2008; she publicly declares that any Israeli premier’s primary responsibility, far above such trivialities as preventing Iran from getting the bomb, is to create a Palestinian state. And, not coincidentally, she is the most left-wing Israeli who could conceivably become prime minister. If even Livni can’t travel to Britain, London would be left with no Israelis to talk to at all.

And for the pro-Palestinian radicals who seek these warrants, that’s precisely the point. In their view, there are no “good” Israelis; all Israelis (except those who favor abolishing their own country) are evil and deserve to be in jail. There’s no difference between Livni, passionately committed to Palestinian statehood, and a right-wing extremist, because Livni and the extremist are equally guilty of the cardinal sins: both believe Israel should continue to exist as a Jewish state, and both are willing to fight to defend it.

In truth, Britain ought to amend the law for its own sake: while Israelis can live without visiting London, a country whose soldiers are in combat from Iraq to Afghanistan has much to lose from encouraging universal jurisdiction, which allows any country to try any other country’s nationals for “war crimes” committed anywhere in the world, even if neither crime nor criminal has any connection to the indicting country. Hence if the Livni warrant does finally spur London to action, Britain will benefit no less than Israel does.

But it would be even more useful if the case finally prompted Britons to recognize the pro-Palestinian radicals’ true goal: not “peace,” but the end of Israel.

Meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem this morning, British Attorney General Baroness Scotland reiterated her government’s pledge to amend the “universal jurisdiction” law under which British courts have repeatedly issued arrest warrants against Israeli officers and politicians. That pledge, first made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month, outraged the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused the government of being “partisan” and “compliant to [Israeli] demands.”

But if Britain keeps its word, the pro-Palestinian activists who keep seeking, and getting, those warrants will have only themselves to blame. After all, British courts have issued such warrants for years without the British government batting an eye, despite vociferous Israeli protests, and could probably have continued doing so had activists only picked their targets a little more carefully. The British couldn’t care less if Israeli army officers canceled planned visits for fear of being arrested, as yet another group did last week. Ditto for right-of-center politicians such as Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who aborted a planned trip in November: Britain would rather not hear from Israelis who think peace with the Palestinians is currently impossible.

But the activists overreached last month by securing a warrant against former foreign minister and current opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Livni is the Great White Hope of peace-processors worldwide, the Israeli deemed most likely to sign a deal with the Palestinians. She won praise from her Palestinian interlocutors during a year of final-status negotiations in 2008; she publicly declares that any Israeli premier’s primary responsibility, far above such trivialities as preventing Iran from getting the bomb, is to create a Palestinian state. And, not coincidentally, she is the most left-wing Israeli who could conceivably become prime minister. If even Livni can’t travel to Britain, London would be left with no Israelis to talk to at all.

And for the pro-Palestinian radicals who seek these warrants, that’s precisely the point. In their view, there are no “good” Israelis; all Israelis (except those who favor abolishing their own country) are evil and deserve to be in jail. There’s no difference between Livni, passionately committed to Palestinian statehood, and a right-wing extremist, because Livni and the extremist are equally guilty of the cardinal sins: both believe Israel should continue to exist as a Jewish state, and both are willing to fight to defend it.

In truth, Britain ought to amend the law for its own sake: while Israelis can live without visiting London, a country whose soldiers are in combat from Iraq to Afghanistan has much to lose from encouraging universal jurisdiction, which allows any country to try any other country’s nationals for “war crimes” committed anywhere in the world, even if neither crime nor criminal has any connection to the indicting country. Hence if the Livni warrant does finally spur London to action, Britain will benefit no less than Israel does.

But it would be even more useful if the case finally prompted Britons to recognize the pro-Palestinian radicals’ true goal: not “peace,” but the end of Israel.

Read Less




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