Friday, June 5, 2009

How to Achieve Peace Between Israel and the Palestinians in One Hour or Less

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: In 1977, the late Premier Menachem Begin annexed East Jerusalem. As a result, those Arab residents of the city who asked for it could receive Israeli citizenship (the Blue Document, as the Israeli ID card is known).

At the time, most of those Palestinian Arabs preferred to retain their Jordanian citizenship and snubbed the Israeli offer. However, in 1992-93, when it became clear that Israel was serious about handing over the West Bank and Gaza to Arafat’s Palestinian Authority, the lines outside the building of Israel’s Ministry of the Interior stretched around the block. Having lost their Jordanian allegiance in 1988, when King Hussein relinquished his claim on Jerusalem, choosing between Arafat’s tyranny and Israel’s democracy was no contest. I mean, they knew what Arafat had in store for his people…

Like Arafat’s successors in the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza are basically gangs of loosely organized local thugs leeching off the civilian Palestinian population. Both criminal enterprises, one with open US support and one with only tacit approval, have a clear vested interest in maintaining a state of lukewarm hostility with Israel, because as soon as a longer period of calm ensues, Palestinians will return to their work place inside Israel and the thugs would lose control over their two societies.

To achieve a lasting peace, Israel must find a way of reaching above the heads of these thugs—which she, in numerous ways, has helped create—to embrace the rank and file Palestinian civilians. Those are the most industrious and the most highly educated among the Arab nations. Give them half a chance, give them breathing room, and they’ll become the middle lass without which real peace cannot be maintained.

Give them the Blue Card. Make the following announcement: Any Palestinian wishing to become an Israeli citizen is welcome to apply in the nearest office the Ministry of the Interior. Trust me, they’ll form lines long enough to rival any major concert anywhere in the world. Sure, the security services would have to vet those applications, but, believe me, the average Palestinian Joe would make a fantastic—and highly productive—Israeli citizen.

And don’t worry about the “demographic bomb.” King David and his son, King Solomon, ruled very comfortably without being the ethnic majority. The state can very well retain its legal charter of a homeland for the Jews, while remaining hospitable to its loyal non-Jewish citizens. The legislator can decide that a few key positions—Premier, Defense, and Chief of Staff—are reserved to Jews. Not a problem. Lebanon did very nicely from 1948 to 1976 with exactly this kind of ethnic-specific government system.

Unfortunately, despite popular opinion, the biggest hurdle for peace between Jews and Palestinians are not the latter. The hurdle has always been, since 1948, Israeli politicians who persist without fail to act softly when the hard approach is needed, and vice versa, and to be chincy when generosity was called for—and vice versa. Abba Eban coined the immortal quote: The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity; but substituting “Israeli governments” for “Arabs” would keep the quote just as true. All of which suggests that my idea has a snowball’s chance you know where of even being considered. But, hey, you never know…

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