Monday, March 24, 2008
I can not fault the Bush administration for not trying harder to achieve peace in the Holy Land. Previous Democratic and Republican administrations did not do any better.
There seemed to be a chance after the meeting in Oslo between Palestinian and Israeli leaders, sponsored by the United States, that there would eventually be a peace agreement and a Palestinian government set up within specified borders. However, the Oslo process got off to a bad start. If the goal was to define a Palestinian State, it seems to me that the starting point should have been the establishment of the borders. With established and internationally recognized borders, Palestinian leaders could have shown their people that a country of their own was in the near future and would have been able to make the needed compromises with the Israelis to the end of establishing the new State of Palestine.
An internationally recognized border between the two future states exists. Everyone recognizes it except Israel. For more than twenty years, Israel has been supporting the establishment and growth of Jewish settlements on the Palestinian side of the border. It seems clear to me that Israel's policy has been to agree in principle to the creation of a Palestinian state while all the time creating facts on the ground (i.e., new settlements) that effectively move the border to constrict the Palestinian territory into an ever smaller area.
If President Bush is serious about establishing a two-state solution for the Holy Land, let him declare that the internationally recognized border is to be the boundary between Israel and Palestine. Any Jewish settlements on the Palestinian side of the border will be located in and belong to Palestine. It is up to the settlers to decide whether they want to stay or move out. If they decide to stay, they will have to prove to the Palestinian government that they have legitimate titles to the land occupied by their settlements.
The United States should recognize the Hamas government in Gaza as a legitimate government that is representative of the people of Gaza. The unification of Gaza with the rest of Palestine (i.e., the West Bank) will have to be managed by the Palestinians themselves. Israel and the United States (and the rest of the world) should not insist on a public statement by the Hamas leaders of Israel's "right to exist." Israel does exist and will continue to exist no matter what Hamas thinks or says. We must treat Hamas as a political movement with a few nutty ideas. We've dealt with such movements before without trying to isolate or demonize them.
How does one go about defining a "right" to exist? Some religious Jews insist that Jews have a divine right to reclaim the land of Israel described in the Bible or Torah. God gave them that land (after a battle with the previous inhabitants). Some religious Muslims insist that the Holy Land is WAQF, a word that means that once an area has converted to Islam it must not be allowed to revert. Neither land nor individuals can leave Islam once they accept it. I am neither Jewish nor Muslim. I give equal credence to each of the two conflicting claims for the Holy Land.
By the way, Osama bin Laden, being a very religious Muslim, claims that Spain and Portugal should be returned to Muslim occupation and rule.