“Dead end” for a political solution to the Palestinian problem? Is there an alternative?

I’VE BEEN READING an intriguing proposal by an Israeli MK for a solution to the biggest little problem in the world.

It still astounds me that the attention of the world is riveted on the conflict between the ancient people of Israel and a relatively small number of Arabs who mistakenly think that somehow the Jews ‘stole’ their land. How we got to such a gross misunderstanding has been clearly laid out in many places. Here is one I find helpful, but there are many others. To me, why we find such a tiny part of the world so very important to us so far away is another question. I presented some of my thoughts on this matter here in an earlier post.

But whether or not it makes any sense that the “Palestinian problem” exists, there is undeniably a problem, and the best political, diplomatic, and military minds of this century are looking for an answer.

So along comes Member of Knesset Benny Elon, National Union Party, with the suggestion that attempts to find a political solution have come to a dead end, and perhaps we should try an humanitarian solution instead. In a succinctly laid out proposal which he calls The Israeli Initiative, he sets forth a plan which could turn the entire conflict on its head, if we could make it work. It is not my intention here to truly present the plan, but I do suggest you go check it out, if only to see for yourself that there are alternatives .

I don’t pretend to have sufficient background in Middle Eastern affairs or international diplomacy to give a thorough evaluation of the plan, but we all owe it to ourselves to take a look at anything that has a fighting chance of succeeding. We’ve seen too much of the other.

Having thus said that I don’t feel qualified to thoroughly present the initiative, there are nonetheless a few points that caught my attention.

Here is MK Elon’s brief statement of what’s so different about his plan:

The attempt to solve "the Palestinian problem" by means of a political solution, or in other words, by the establishment of a Palestinian national entity, has lead to a dead end. Such a solution is not feasible, since realization of Palestinian nationalism plainly means the elimination of the State of Israel.

The problem of the Palestinian refugees is not a political, but a humanitarian one. The establishment of the State of Israel did not take away their state from the Palestinians, since such a state had never existed. However, in many cases it did take away their homes and their dignity. There is a way to give the refugees back their dignity, provide them with a home and a starting point for a new life. It is possible to replace their status as poverty-stricken refugees with a reality of welfare, prosperity and hope.

He further points out that the “peace process” has had years to work, but in spite of all efforts to reconcile opposing parties in the West Bank and Gaza, so far

…thousands of Israelis have been murdered, tens of thousands injured, and life in Israel returned to normal only with the adoption of strict security measures, the construction of fences, and the return of the IDF to intensive activities in Shechem, Jenin, and Tul Karem.

Palestinians have likewise received no benefits from the peace process. No refugee has been rehabilitated, the standard of living has dropped, and tens of thousands have fled from the territories under Palestine Authority control. Instead of allocating the tremendous sums of money contributed by the international community for the construction of an advanced economy for the welfare of Palestinian residents, the Palestine Authority has allocated massive sums for the personal benefit of its leadership, as well as for terrorist activities against Israeli citizens.

And I don’t know why the world has had to wait for someone to point out that:

The choice of the leaders of Palestinian terrorism as "partners" for peace was a mistake. Peace must be made with entities that desire stability and peace, not with the leaders of terrorist organizations.

Or why do we see the Mideast situation as primarily a battle of Arab against Jew? I have to admit that from my comfy seat in the USA it has looked that way, but Mr. Elon also points out that:

The Iranian threat, the rise of Al Qaeda, the strengthening of Hezbollah and the victory of Hamas in Gaza are causes of anxiety today in both the Western and Arab worlds. Dangerous Islamic extremism has become a major force in the world.

Most Arab countries, which regard themselves as secular but have a significant Sunni population, are liable to collapse like dominos in the face of the Islamic offensive that will create an empire starting in the Teheran of Ahmadinejad, in Baghdad that is slipping away from the Americans and in pro-Iranian Damascus.  The next step may well be total control over Amman, Beirut, Ankara, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. The appearance of this threat is a dramatic development that changes all the rules of the game in the region.

He wrote the following before the recent tirades of the European Union against Israel:

In order to guarantee the stability of the region in the presence of this threat, an alliance of countries that will halt Islamic hegemony must be set up with American and European backing.

I wonder if Europe would be willing to shoot itself in the foot – make that blow its own legs off – by clinging to a hatred of Israel even it means its own demise at the hands of an empire-seeking regime such as Iran?

And why haven’t we ever before discussed what a serious threat a radicalized “Palestinian” (read that, Hamas) regime would pose to Jordan’s west flank ?

The current regime in Jordan is friendly to Israel and basically pro-Western, but its stability is endangered, and it is threatened by the chaos existing in Iraq to the East, and by Palestinian nationalism from the West. If a Palestinian State were to be established in the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, it would threaten Jordan. Such a state is liable to form a starting point for "Greater Palestine" that would swallow up Jordan, overthrow the royal house, and turn the whole of Eretz Israel into a single Palestinian-Islamic state, free of Jews and heretics.

According to Mr. Elon’s plan, there would actually be the possibility of a normal, prosperous life for the millions of Palestinians now held – not by Israel, but by the Palestinian political leadership with the full cooperation of the UN –  in enforced refugee status:

The 1948 Israeli War of Independence created hundreds of thousands of refugees throughout the Middle East. Sixty years have gone by, and now their number has been increased by the second and third generations to millions. Since 1948 tens of other "refugee problems" have been created, and millions have become refugees in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Although their problem began later than that of the Palestinians, these people are no longer considered refugees. They have been aided by the UN in host countries or through their own personal initiative and have become regular citizens. Over the same period, not a single Palestinian refugee has been removed from the tally of refugees and become a citizen of one of the countries of the world. On the contrary, the number of refugees has only increased from year to year, while introducing fresh generations into the circle of poverty, despair, and hate.

The major reason for the failure to rehabilitate the refugees over this entire period is that their wretched status serves the purposes of Palestinian terrorist organizations. The PLO and the Palestinian Authority feed on this problem and as a result, the entire Arab world has regarded the preservation of the status of the Palestinians as refugees as a means of attacking the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Fearing that mention of the problem would raise once again the question of "the right of return," Israel has also preferred to ignore the problem rather than attempt to solve it.

The treatment of refugees in the world is divided between two UN agencies: a general agency, UNHCR, whose mandate is to deal with all the refugees in the world, and UNRWA, a special agency designated to assist Palestinian refugees from 1948. The difference between these two agencies is very simple: the first, "regular" agency strives towards the rehabilitation of the refugees it is handling, and to facilitate their integration as citizens in the countries in which they are staying or that are prepared to accept them. In contrast, UNRWA is forbidden to rehabilitate the refugees in its care and turn them into citizens having equal rights in any country. Its role is confined to "maintenance" of the refugees from 1948, while preserving their status.

UNRWA is also mainly responsible for the maintenance of the refugee camps. The very existence of these camps, sixty years after the war that generated them, is both a source of shame to humanity and a grave threat to security and peace in the Middle East. These camps constitute a breeding ground for terrorism, where the motivation for terrorism originates, units are formed, and terrorists find refuge.

There’s more – for instance, the Israeli Initiative lays out means by which the millions of refugees can achieve the elusive dream of national citizenship, not to mention normal productive lives – but the key element cited by MK Elon is cooperation. Ah – there’s the rub, isn’t it? This plan has been out there for a while now, and we’re not hearing much about it, are we? There may indeed be components that just won’t work – again, I don’t pretend to be the expert here – but what’s wrong with at least giving it an honest look? And, OK, if we give it an honest look & decide it just won’t fly, then at least we’ve pulled our heads out of the desert sands, haven’t we?

Y’all let me know what you think – OK?

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