Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process: Israel; "There to Stay" or "Just a Matter of Time"?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process: Israel; "There to Stay" or "Just a Matter of Time"?

Article excerpt

The Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process: Israel; "There to Stay" Or "Just a Matter of Time"?

"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

-- The Balfour Declaration, Nov. 2, 1917

"To the German Kaiser I shall say -- Let us go. We are aliens; they do not let us dissolve into the population, nor are we able to do so."

-- Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State

"But there are Arabs in Palestine! I did not know."

-- Max Nordau, 1897, quoted in The Israelis: Founders and Sons, by Amos Elon

We were old and intimate friends, but the arguments about Vietnam were so emotional that our very relationships were threatened. The time was 1970-1972. We were State Department desk officers carpooling to and from our homes to the Department in downtown Washington.

Four out of five of us were Middle East specialists. One held that we had to defeat North Vietnam and the Viet Cong no matter what the cost. Another argued that we had to maintain such pressure that eventually a negotiated solution would be possible. My friends blew away with ridicule my original argument that the United States should withdraw from Vietnam because the war was immoral.

Eventually I argued that we had no real national interests there. As the costs of the war continued to rise the American people would reject the politicians who wanted to persevere. Something like that happened.

Twenty-five years later, the passions have cooled. The other carpoolers and I remain friends. Vietnam divided us and the country bitterly, but the years have softened the pain and Washington's strangely powerful Vietnam war memorial has worked its magic of reconciliation.

The Vietnam war may now mainly concern the historians, but history still is being written in bloody deeds in the Middle East as the Arab-Israel dispute hurtles along its tragic course. Forged in its victorious 19481949 war against the Arabs, Israel today seems at the height of its power. Militarily dominant over the Arabs, its per capita income is now higher than that of many European countries, while its hold on the American political system assures it of unlimited financial and military support from the world's only remaining superpower. Thus Israel and its supporters say confidently and with fierce determination, "Israel is there to stay!"

Israel today seems at the height of its power.

The Palestinians were the big losers from Britain's 1917 Balfour Declaration, which kept its promise to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, but broke its pledge to do nothing to "prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." Today the Palestinians number nearly seven million. Half of them live in exile outside Palestine. The other half live in Israel proper (about 1.1 million), the Israeli-occupied West Bank (1.4 million) and the Gaza Strip (about 1 million).

Lacking the all-important Jewish nationality, Palestinian Israelis are second-class citizens. Those living in the occupied West Bank have no rights at all.

The Arab states no longer provide much help to the Palestinians. Egypt, the biggest Arab country with a population in excess of 60 million, receives $2 billion a year as a reward from the U.S. for making a cool peace with Israel in 1978. The oil-rich countries of the Arabian Gulf hold back most of their millions from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat because of his egregiously stupid policy of supporting Saddam Hussain's 1990 aggression against Kuwait.

Thus the Palestinians and Arabs seem helpless as Israel's fascist bully, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wrecks the peace process and displays ill-concealed contempt for President Bill Clinton, who heads the most Zionist of all U. …

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