Magazine article The Christian Century

Unilateral Proposal

Magazine article The Christian Century

Unilateral Proposal

Article excerpt

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER Ehud Olmert traveled to Washington in late May to tell President Bush about his plans for Israel's future. There is no indication that those plans offer a viable solution to the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories caused by the cutoff of funds to the Hamas government. Olmert blames Hamas for the crisis. Former president Jimmy Carter disagrees. In a column in the International Herald Tribune (May 7), Carter wrote:

      Innocent Palestinian people
   are being treated like animals,
   with the presumption that they are guilty of some
   crime. Because they voted for candidates who are
   members of Hamas, the United States government has
   become the driving force behind an apparently effective
   scheme of depriving the general [Palestinian] public
   of income, access to the outside world and the necessities
   of life.

A Hamas pledge against the use of violence against Israel civilians has been in place for more than 18 months, yet both Israel and the U.S. continue to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization and refuse to talk with Hamas until it accepts Israel's "right to exist"--a diplomatic demand that Virginia Tilley, professor of political science and international relations at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, finds less than compelling.

In the online newsletter Counterpunch (May 12), Tilley identifies a logical flaw in the "right to exist" demand that has led to the international isolation of Hamas. "Diplomatic recognition of a state routinely requires one bit of vital information: 'right to exist' where? Israel's borders are not set. Even its plans for those borders are not known; with impressive brashness, Mr. Olmert has announced that we will not know until 2010."

Hamas and the international community have a right, as well as an obligation to all the people affected, to demand specificity about the borders within which Israel plans to exist. "Otherwise," says Tilley, "recognizing Israel's 'right to exist' could be construed to mean that Israel has a 'right to exist' within whatever borders it chooses in coming years."

On May 15, President Carter harshly criticized Olmert's unilateral proposal in USA Today:

      The Olmert plan would leave the remnant of the
   Palestinian West Bank with the same unacceptable
   characteristics. Deep intrusions would effectively divide
   it into three portions. The prime minister has also
   announced that Israeli soldiers will likely remain in the
   Palestinian territory, which will be completely encapsulated
   by Israel's control of its eastern border in the Jordan
   River valley. … 
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