January 2009


The War in Gaza dominates the news. Wounds that have festered for almost a century are open and bleeding once again. The history of this epic confrontation is too tortured to engrave in these few lines of print but there seems now a consensus that  a peaceful resolution requires a second state in that little area, Israel the one and Palestine the other side by side. But how to get there?  Hatred seethes in the bitter divisions of these Semitic neighbors and currently Israel, trying to fend off small but continuing barrages of rockets that threaten its central airport has put a tourniquet around the jugular veins of the benighted city of Gaza while the army is draining its blood.  .  


After World War 1 the League of Nations awarded Britain a mandate over the land of Palestine with the intention of creating a home for the Jewish people. The British ruled until the end of World War 2, when the United Nations decided to partition Palestine and nominally create two states, one for the Palestinians and the other for the Jews. In 1948 Israel became a state after a bloody confrontation with the Palestinians and neighboring Arab countries. Resentful Palestinians formed the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) headed by Yasser Arafat and his political party Al Fatah. After his death and more blood shed, Arafat’s party, Al Fatah continued to rule. However. Democratic elections for parliament in 2005 awarded a majority of seats to Hamas, a splinter group dedicated to the eradication of Israel. Because the Gazan occupation proved to be a thorn Israel pulled out 2005 and turned Gaza over to the Palestinians. Hamas purged Al Fatah from the region and started lobbing rockets into Israel. Israel then launched the current attack hoping to once and for all to destroy Hamas.


Negotiations between the miniature titans have been on and off since the State of Israel was formed. The Palestinians never had a State of their own, but led by the wily Yasser Arafat were able to cobble together a semblance of government that recently became divided between Arafat’s Al Fatah and Hamas, the group that in 2005 won a Parliamentary majority    in elections that as far as anyone could tell, were democratically managed.  


Because it refuses to recognize the legitimate existence of Israel and vowed to destroy the small country Hamas is deemed outlaw and a terrorist organization by the international community. Ever since Hamas in an armed coup purged Fatah from its Gaza territory  the  the West Bank, hoping to become the State of Palestine is itself divided.


The Israeli population is comprised of  secular Jews, ultra religious Orthodox Jews and Arabs both Muslim and Christian.  Fanatic Orthodox Jews believe that the Jews own all of Palestine including Judea and Samaria, (now known as the West Bank) because God transferred Title to them many years ago, a case that cannot be dealt with in a court of law.


Years ago, unable to come to terms with Yasser Arafat, Ariel Sharon, war hero and former Prime Minister of Israel heeding the pressures of fanatic God driven religious groups and for strategic regions, built settlements on the West Bank that encroached on territory the Palestinians considered their own. The Settlements for the most part were populated by the ultra orthodox. The Settlements constitute a mini-occupation of Palestinian property.  


Of course all efforts aimed at making peace between Israel and the Palestinians have been thwarted and the best that could be achieved were periodic detents. Only in the recent past have the Israeli succumbed to the reality that a “two state” solution would be inevitable. After the Intifada of 1999 and numerous suicide bombings by Arabs inside Israel, Ehud Barak (currently Israeli Minister of Defense) built a wall around Israel that has effectively thwarted suicide bombers, but done little to stop rockets from flying into that little country.


Bob Simon, a well known commentator on the TV show 20/20 (Sundays at 7 pm) was interviewed by Charlie Rose. He was duly pessimistic, and saw three possibilities: status quo forever; a two state solution, remotely possible; and apartheid, a condition in which the Palestinian would be second class inhabitants of land they believed to be theirs.


The major sticking point to a 2 State Solution is the Settlements that co-opt Palestinian land,  and the ultra-orthodox Jewish Settlers who can be violent and who may be armed. Former Prime Minister Menachem Beigen long ago predicted that removing the Settlements would invite civil war in Israel. When Israel vacated Gaza in 2005 its army had a terrible time extracting the Settlers.


As things stand a 2 State Solution is the only decent and viable choice, but what to do about the Settlers?  I have as usual a simplistic prescription. Were I Prime Minister of Israel faced with this problem I would do the following. First explain to the Settlers that Israeli policy is for a 2 state solution;  that a 2 State solution cannot be achieved with Israelis occupying parts of the West Bank; and lastly, I would ask the Settlers to vacate the Settlements peacefully and come home to Israel.  If they refused to do so, they would lose their Israeli Citizenship. After that their fate would be decided between themselves and West Bank Palestinian Authorities. Were they to refuse to vacate the Settlements one of several outcomes might be predicated.


Shunned by both sides the Settlers become a third State in the region, at war perennially with the Palestinians for control of Judea and Samaria; the Settlers could become citizens of Palestine; the Settlers could join Hamas and Hezbollah to get rid of the secular State ofIsrael.


Goodness, it seems I haven’t solved anything whatsoever.