The dead and wounded from attempted breaches of the Israeli borders with Lebanon and Syrian borders on Al Nakba Day, on Sunday May 15th were all about extinguishing the Jewish State of Israel. Look at the picture of Palestinian children carrying keys. Keys to unlock the doors of mythic homes lost when the Arab Muslim population fled at the behest of the Arab Higher Authority leaders including the late infamous Haj Amin al Husseini to live in a squalid eyesore-the UNWRA refugee camps in surrounding Arab ‘neighbors’ of Israel and in the Palestinian territories on the West Bank and in Gaza. An eyesore that the US and other feckless international donors have bankrolled in the billions for over 60 years. An eyesore that the Arab League and the wind of the so-called Arab Awakening are trying to build into a tsunami of Jihad to overwhelm Israel.
President Obama and his National security advisors have tried to impose a possible settlement of the languishing and intractable Israeli –Palestinian peace process; however, that has clearly failed as witnessed by the resignation of Special Envoy former US Senator George Mitchell. The peace process has come to a dead stop for all intents and purposes and the Obama outreach to the Muslim ummah in Cairo in June 2009 and purposeful isolation of Israel have been major contributing factors. Because of this the Obama initiatives in the region has emboldened Arab Muslim Jihadists to rise up, as they consider the US a weak force incapable of bringing about a ‘just peace’ –code word for elimination of the Jewish State of Israel. As a result, the al Nakba day display has riveted the minds of Israelis about the existential threat and thrown out the tattered playbook of Obama’s diplomatic and security advisers of isolating Israel and trashed the banal comments of the weak leftist opposition in its parliament, the Knesset. Israel now stands alone. That is the conclusion that can be drawn from remarks of PM Netanyahu and several commentaries by P. David Hornik in Pajamas media, Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal and Walter Russell Mears Meade in The American Interest .
This al Nakba day as PM Netanyahu told the Knesset yesterday was all about extinguishing Israel and not making peace. Witness his comments in this New York Times report:
“A government, half of whose members declare daily their intention to destroy the State of Israel, is not a partner for peace,” he said, speaking at the opening session of Parliament.
[. . .]
“We must stop beating ourselves up and blaming ourselves,” he said. “The reason there is no peace is that the Palestinians refuse to recognize the State of Israel as the Jewish people’s nation-state.”
[. . .]
“As for those who orchestrated these riots, 63 years of our independence has not changed a thing. They yelled that they want to return to Jaffa, to the Galilee. And the head of Hamas in Gaza yelled that they want to see the end of the Zionist enterprise, repeating the words voiced by his Iranian patron.”
Note this banal retort by opposition Kadima party leader, former Tzipi Livni:
“If you do not initiate, decisions will be made for Israel,” Ms. Livni said. “You have missed your opportunity to provide Israel with a vision. You are going to the United States without initiatives for peace.”
Hornik in his Pajamas Media article, “Nakba’ Concentrates Israeli Minds”made these comments with respect to the Israeli left, in particular Yediot Aharanot commentator Nahum Barnea and Knesset opposition leader, Tzipi Livni;
. . . there is a side to Nahum Barnea and Israelis like him that is still connected to reality. As he also wrote in his Nakba Day column:
The truth about the right of return should be told not only to the Palestinians, but to the Israelis as well. Revoking the possibility of returning to Israel is the red line that Israelis who endorse the two-state solution won’t cross….
…those who wish to live in the sovereign, Zionist and democratic State of Israel have no other option but to keep telling our cousins: With all due respect, what’s in the past is in the past. We are destined to share: We shall return our settlers to our country; you will absorb your refugees in your country. You will not be returning to Israel.
In other words: “But if you’re really serious about that ‘right of return’ stuff, I will unite with my right-wing brethren –‘settlers’ and all — in resisting it.”
“Nakba,” then, concentrates Israeli minds wonderfully. The moderate left — journalists like Barnea, politicians like opposition leader Tzipi Livni — will continue to speak nonsense, sometimes harmful nonsense, out of one side of their mouth. But Israel as a whole senses the threat and is already coalescing.
But just as the West has consistently misunderstood the Muslim problem, so too has it failed to grasp the Palestinian one. And what it has failed to grasp above all is the centrality of Palestinian refugees to the conflict.
The fiction that is typically offered about the refugees by devotees of the peace process is that Palestinian leaders see them as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with Israel, perhaps in exchange for the re-division of Jerusalem. But listen in on the internal dialogue of Palestinians and you will hear that the "right of return" is an inviolable, inalienable and individual right of every refugee. In other words, a right that can never (and never safely) be bargained away by Palestinian leaders for the sake of a settlement with Israel.
In this belief the Palestinians are sustained by many things.
One is the mythology of 1948, which is long on tales of what Jews did to Arabs but short on what Arabs did to Jews—or to themselves. Another is the text of U.N. resolution 194, written in 1948, which plainly states that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date." A third is UNRWA, the U.N. agency that has perpetuated the Palestinian refugee problem for generations when most other refugees have been successfully repatriated. A fourth is their ill treatment at the hands of their Arab hosts, which has caused them to yearn for the fantasy of a homeland—orchards and all—that modern-day Israel succeeds in looking very much like. A fifth is the incessant drone of Palestinian propaganda whose idea of Palestinian statehood traces the map of Israel itself.
Other things could be mentioned. But the roots of the problem are beside the point. The real point is that a grievance that has been nursed for 63 years and that can move people to acts like those witnessed on Sunday is never going to allow a political accommodation with Israel and would never be satisfied by one anyway.
There will be no peace in the Middle East until a workable solution is found for the human problems of the Palestinian people. Part of this involves an independent Palestinian state including the West Bank and Gaza; part of it includes compensation for Palestinian refugees (and for Jews forced out of their homes throughout the Arab world by mob violence and government decree after 1948); part of it includes the resettlement of Gazans and stateless Palestinian refugees from countries like Lebanon, Syria and beyond where even today Palestinians lack passports and full legal rights. Part of it will involve the increasing isolation and marginalization of the shrinking minority of Palestinians who reject terms that the rest of the world (including more and more Muslims) recognizes as reasonably just. Part of it will come from pressure on governments (Syria and Iran for example) who consciously try to block peace: too many foreign powers and political groups feed on Palestinian misery and anger.
None of this means turning on Israel. The refugee problem in the Middle East is not solely or even primarily Israel’s fault, and Israel can’t solve it. No amount of pressure on Israel can solve the Palestinian refugee problem; Israel cannot and will not take them back and this has been clear for sixty years.
If anybody is to blame for the refugee mess, it is the United Nations and the ‘world community’. When the British gave up their League of Nations mandate over Palestine and returned it to UN jurisdiction, the UN failed in its duty to protect both Arabs and Jews. The war that broke out between Palestinians and Israelis and that created the refugee problem was a consequence of the UN’s failure to ensure an orderly implementation of the partition plan it approved. Had the Arabs won the war there would have been a massive Jewish refugee problem as desperate Jews fled from or were expelled by advancing Arab armies; when the Israelis won the war it was the Arabs who fled and/or were expelled.
We cannot have peace in the Middle East without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. It may be that the refugees (and their descendants: it has been more than 60 years since the Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes) will not accept any settlement that the world is willing or able to make. If they don’t, however, the conflict will not come to an end.
So far, there is no sign that the Obama administration is ready to face this painful truth. Israel is 63 years old; for two thirds of that time (since Henry Kissinger initiated ‘shuttle diplomacy’ after the 1973 war) the US has been trying to make peace without coming to grips with the refugee issue. After forty years of failure, perhaps it is time to try something new.
As Bret Stephens said at the conclusion of his WSJ commentary:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due in the U.S. soon to deliver what is being billed as a major policy address. What should he say? I would counsel the same wisdom that sailors of yore used to tattoo to their knuckles as a reminder of what not to forget on the yardarms of tall ships in stormy seas. Eight easy letters:
This message by Netanyahu will hopefully be conveyed in Washington in talks with President Obama and in speeches before the AIPAC Policy Conference and a joint session of Congress.