I have an idea for breaking the current deadlock in the Middle East peace process. The centerpiece of this proposal is an immediate “rolling back” of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Here is the reasoning behind it.
To begin, the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip go against the underlying logic of the peace process. Recalling the recent peace efforts by Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, these settlements deny the Palestinians what they have been promised – a homeland in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As an American I would not accept it if Mexicans or Canadians set up numerous heavily fortified enclaves throughout the country and then decided they wanted to reside there indefinitely. Settlements deny the Palestinians what is rightfully their land and are a total affront to their self-dignity.
For the Israelis the settlements are a proven liability. Several thousand regular troops and reservists are diverted from more meaningful tasks in Israel proper so that they can baby-sit a bunch of cowboys in the center of Bethlehem. Just as it makes no sense for a few hundred Jewish settlers to live amongst 1.2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, it makes no sense that any Israeli soldier should die protecting these misplaced settlers. Additionally, the settlements continue to prejudice Israel’s reputation abroad and its strong moral foundation. It is not fitting for Israel, a vibrant democracy principled on justice and the rule of law, to inhabit and develop areas to which it makes no legal claim.
Once Israel ends the settlements, the political climate will be significantly altered. Because the Palestinians have formally accepted Israel’s right to exist and Israel will have virtually no presence in the territories, the violence should come to a near halt as should this second intifada. Groups such as Hamas would expectedly continue attacks and it is not fair to hold this against all Palestinians. It follows, however, that the Palestinian Authority will have to defeat Hamas and other extremist groups. The Palestinians must take responsibility for acts of terrorism perpetrated from within their lands; this is the responsibility that statehood entails. Under this scenario of limited violence and mutual commitment to peace the negotiations can continue.
While discussing sensitive matters such as refugees, water and especially Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority must continue to maintain a positive atmosphere. They must not resort to intifada and they must eliminate terrorists operating from within their borders. If they feel the Israelis are not being fair with them, they should appeal to the United States, the international community and the Israelis that want peace. There can be no more violence or threat of it. Also several Palestinian leaders recently publicly stated that the second intifada had lost much and accomplished nothing. These words of wisdom must be heeded.
The United States should take a more pro-active role in two ways. First it should be made clear to Israel that if they do not begin to immediately roll back the settlements, then the billions they receive in aid may come to an end. American aid dollars and military technology should not support the imperialism of adventuring Israeli frontiersmen. Additionally, the United States. must double its efforts to get both sides to compromise for peace. Finally, the United States should warn the Palestinians that if they again resort to violence we will support Israel’s choice for unilateral separation and we will help them complete a wall that fully separates Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.