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Thursday, 22 September 2011

Vote Yes to Palestine state - to save Israel

The next few days are vital for global politics. Either it works or it doesn't. If it does, the Palestinian people will have a state recognised by the United Nations by this time next week and Israel will have its status and security reinforced hugely. If it doesn't, I feel that Israel's security will be put at great risk from a people who have found that the diplomatic, democratic route to achieving their aims doesn't work, leaving them with little other option.

I've not commented on this blog before about the Middle East peace process because I feel I'm compromised by my identity and my past. I love Israel and have spent a lot of time there - including my entire gap year. I come from a line of committed jews, my brother is a Rabbi and my father a (almost) rabid supporter of Israel. 20 years ago, when I returned from my gap year in Israel, I was similar to many passionate teenagers - blinded to the other side of the story and willing to die to protect that beautiful country. So I felt that I shouldn't comment on this without pointing out my connection to one side.

Since then, as I have read more and more about the history and the current situation in the Middle East. I'm still a Zionist, but I believe Zionism has a limit. As things have developed, I have become increasingly uncomfortable about the behaviour of those who run the country. Yes, it is the only true democracy in the region, and its system of proportional representation gives an exact link between votes and seats which would be positive in many situations. The truth is though that I have recently begun to accept that criticism of Israel's behaviour isn't fuelled by anti-semitism, but anti-semitism is being fuelled by Israel's behaviour. My father believes that if jews don't support Israel, no-one will - but he is a child of the second world war, which showed what can happen when the Jewish people wait for anyone else to protect them. I'm not, and the global political reality has changed.

Looking at the constant broken promises about settlement building (which I believe to be illegitimate), I'm not surprised it has come to this. Being told, as they are by Barack Obama (I'll come back to him in a while) that they must allow the peace process to run its course, must feel to Mahmoud Abbas - the Palestinian President in the West Bank, like being told to wait until a sponge is nailed to a wall.

Also, the Arab Spring has motivated all of those who do not have sovereignty over their country to want to attempt to achieve some. Now is the time for the Palestinians. The 'unity agreement' between Hamas and Fatah shows that they might take this opportunity seriously.

Israel's issue is its security. Let us not forget they are surrounded by countries who do not believe it should exist and have plotted its destruction since it was created (by the UN, remember) in 1948. Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, still has in it's constitution the aim to destroy the Zionist State. Let's also not forget that the pre - 1967 borders, which are those Barack Obama has stated should be reinstated, will make Israel only 9 miles accross in places, which is very hard to defend should they be attacked.

The Palestinians also claim that refugees and their descendents removed from Israel in 1948 should be allowed a "right of return" to Israeli land, which of course would result in them forming an electoral majority that could overwhelm Israel's existence as a state politically.

But when Palestinians take their quest for UN membership to the Security Council, the council should vote 'Yes'. For three reasons.

1) The official recognition of a Palestinian State as part of a two - state solution is a reinforcement of the existence of the State of Israel. The UN cannot do one without the other. That is important, as it reinforces the political security of Israel.

2) Once the UN has recognised the Palestinian State, it commits itself to defend and protect Israel should any attack on it come from the Palestinians. It didn't have to do so before, as they were an occupied territory and theoretically it was an uprising. But if there is a Palestinian state, a UN state cannot attack another UN state and the UN has to intervene if it does. That is also important, as it reinforces the military security of Israel. Do you seriously think the UN, and in particular the US, would stand by in this age of global media coverage if Israel was actually attacked?

3) The Palestinian people need to see there is a diplomatic and democratic route to achieving their aims. If they don't then it becomes more understandable if they feel no option but to use more violent means. That is not a threat either, it's just that membership of the UN effectively enfranchises the Palestinians in the global political process. If they remain disenfranchised, then they may resort to other means, and it will point to a peaceful attempt to achieve their aims that was turned down.

Looking at a map of  Israel and the West Bank today, you can see that a return to 1967 borders would involve the dismantling of the settlements. Or, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu calls them - the "facts on the ground". Well, the settlements, in my view, shouldn't be there. They are an obstacle to peace. So if they need to be dismantled, so be it.

And this is where the USA come in. The USA has a veto on the Security Council, and says it will use it. Why? Well, there are numerous political pressures on Barack Obama, not least from the extremely powerful Israel lobby in the USA, which is far less capable of brooking criticism of Israel's behaviour than similar organisations in the UK. Worse, and more importantly, is that the settlements' main source of funding is from the Christian evangelical right (because they believe in the literal nature of every word of the bible and the occupation of the West Bank is apparently justified by words in the bible). Sarah Palin is a huge supporter of Israel. So is Michele Bachman. So are all of the Republican Presidential candidates. Should Obama risk such a vote loser a year before the next Presidential election?

Well, yes, he should. Barack Hussein Obama should have been the best hope the Arab world had of anyone to feel they are being treated fairly. It takes a lot for the Arab world to ever feel they are being treated fairly, but what I know is that if the Palestinians don't get a state under Obama's Presidency, then will they ever? President Perry? No way!

So Obama has the choice of doing the right thing for the world, or the right thing for his chances of winning the US election. Given he is able to choose whether or not to veto at the Security Council without the need for that to be approved by Congress or the Senate....this is his chance to do what is right. Why not use his power instead to demand the Palestinians get their state only if they drop the "right of return" demand?

I love Israel. I want Israel to thrive. It won't thrive until the Palestinians have a viable state.

So let's do it.


  1. just because his middle names'hussein dosent mean hes arabic. Hes from hawaii!

  2. Although I can see why you think I'm suggesting that, I'm not. I used his full name in this case to remind the reader that he is more sympathetic to global issues, and in his case to the Arab world, than have been previous US presidents