Wednesday, March 01, 2017

What's the Big Deal?

From The Hill, 24 Feb 2017, by Einat Wilf, former member of the Knesset, and Adi Schwartz is, researcher and writer in Tel Aviv:

President Donald Trump, as expressed in the press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, now aspires in the Middle East to “a much bigger deal”, “a much more important deal”, one that “would take in many, many countries" and "​would cover a very large territory.” This kind of regional deal between the Arab world – and perhaps, the entire Muslim world​​ - and the Jewish State of Israel was always the only deal to be had: a very big deal to solve a very big problem.

True peace requires addressing the deep sources of the conflict. Those lay with the Arab and Muslim reaction to the return of the Jewish people to powerful sovereignty in their ancient homeland. As far as Muslim theology and Arab practice were concerned, the Jews were non-believers, only to be tolerated, never as equals. They should have never been allowed to undermine Muslim rule over the lands, which the Jews claimed as their homeland, but the Arabs viewed as exclusively theirs since conquering them in the seventh century.

The return of the Jewish people to restored sovereignty in their ancient homeland, required Arabs and Muslims to accept that a people, whom they have for centuries treated as inferiors, worthy of contempt, were now claiming equality and exercising power in their midst.

This historical “Chutzpah” is what drove the Arab League to violently reject any kind of plan that would grant the Jewish people equal sovereignty over any part of “Muslim land”​, free from their control. This unnatural historical development, in Arab eyes, led Arab governments to take revenge and forcefully expel hundreds of thousands of Jews, living in their midst, often in communities predating the birth of Islam, just after the establishment of the State of Israel. 

It is also the reason why Arab states kept the Arabs who were displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and their millions of descendants, ​ as perpetual “refugees” – to deprive the Jewish state of legitimacy and peace.  It is the reason that even after losing repeated military wars against the State of Israel, Arab countries have continued their diplomatic and economic war against it to this day. Even Jordan and Egypt, that have signed nominal peace agreements with Israel, have more of a ‘mutual non-attack’ agreements, rather than genuine peace. 



​The animosity to the concept of the Jewish sovereignty in the Arab Middle East is simply too big. This attitude towards the Jewish state is an Arab – and Muslim – issue, and not only a Palestinian one. The Palestinians have been at the forefront of this Arab and Muslim intolerance, but they are not its creators. They are the thin end of the wedge by which the Arab and Muslim world wages its war against a sovereign Jewish people.

If the word peace is ever to truly describe the situation between Israel and its neighbors, it requires the Arab and Muslim world to address the roots of their intolerance. It requires them to accept the Jews as their equals and as an indigenous people who have come home. This was always too large a task to be undertaken by the Palestinians. Only Arabs and Muslims together can legitimize a different theological interpretation of the Jewish presence in their midst: no longer inferiors and no longer foreigners. In doing so, they can enable and legitimize practical solutions in Jerusalem that accept the centrality of the city to the Jewish people, and to the manufactured problem of the “refugees”, by finally rehabilitating them and absorbing them as fellow Arabs.

This is a tall order, and therefore only a powerful nation, such as the United States, can create the conditions for such an agreement. This means continuing and even enhancing the American multi-layered support for Israel, so as to disavow any people or nation of the possibility of doing away with the State of Israel. But it also means finally addressing the Arab attitudes towards the Jewish state.

The problem is that for decades, the U.S. went along with Arab duplicity, and even enabled it. Washington treated several Arab governments as its allies, while allowing them to foster and spread anti-Israeli hatred. It is time for the new administration to put its money where its mouth is: if the U.S. is serious about achieving a “great deal”, it should start exacting a price on any Arab behavior contrary to that end.

There is a range of actions that the U.S. can take. In any statement regarding the conflict, the new administration must acknowledge that Arab animosity towards the sovereign Jewish state is the root cause of the conflict. 

The U.S. should put an end to its policy of providing Arab countries a carte blanch for not resettling the refugees for nearly seventy years, and cease financially underwriting this behavior through the American decades-long support of a special UN agency (UNRWA). The U.S. should also put a price tag on any Arab anti-Israeli activity in the UN and in international fora. The U.S. could also exact a financial price on the continued Arab and Muslim economic boycott of Israel as well as its boycott in a variety of fields from soccer to culture.

By doing so, the U.S. would send an unequivocal message to the Arab and Muslim world that their future is better served by accepting Israel and the Jewish people as sovereign and equal in their midst, rather than by continuing the useless war they have been waging against Israel, Zionism and the sovereign Jewish people.
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