It’s a fair question. Because nearly every time Israel is presented with a real opportunity, it seems to turn, instead, to violence.
Israel’s latest misadventure was soundly criticized this past Sunday by former Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski during an appearance on Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square. When asked if the Israeli invasion of Gaza was a wise move, he pulled no punches. “No,” he said, “When Hamas accepted the notion of participation in the Palestinian leadership, it, in effect, acknowledged the determination of that leadership to seek a peaceful solution with Israel. That was a real option. They should have persisted in that. Instead, Netanyahu launched a campaign of defammation against Hamas, seized on the killing of three Israeli kids to immediately charge Hamas with having done it without any evidence, and has used that to stir up public opinion in Israel in order to justify this attack in Gaza which is so lethal. I think he is isolating Israel. He is endangering its long-range future, and I think we ought to make it very clear that this is a course of action that we thoroughly disapprove, that we do not support, and which may compel us and the rest of the international community to take somes steps of legitimizing Palestinian aspirations, perhaps in the UN.”
In other words, instead of seeking peace with his neighbors through negotiation and conciliation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was looking for an excuse to militarily destroy his enemies. He claims that the military operation is limited with pinpoint strikes. If it is, then the Israelis have been targeting civilians and children since they represent the majority of the casualties. In doing so, Netanyahu is continuing the never-ending cycle of violence thereby ensuring that the conflict will continue for many more generations.
Not that violence in the territory is anything new. Jews, Arab Muslims and Christians have occupied and fought over the land for millenia with the Israelis being emboldened by their religious doctrine. They claim that they are the “chosen people” and that Jerusalem and the “Holy Land” was a gift from God…a claim that makes sharing the territory all but impossible. In fact, the modern State of Israel was a gift from the British Empire and the United Nations Partition Plan. Out of a sense of guilt following World War II, the UN drew up borders creating the Jewish State of Israel and the Arab State of Palestine.
However, re-drawing borders and relocating people has seldom led to a peaceful coexistence. Not in Israel. Not in Iraq. Not in Ukraine.
Israel’s military control of Gaza, by fencing its borders, blockading its ports and controlling everyone and everything that enters or leaves Gaza has turned it into what is, in effect, the world’s largest and most populous prison. It has not only created economic hardships for Palestinians. It has robbed them of hope. That’s a situation that simply cannot end well.
As for the notion that Israel will eventually agree to a two-state solution, one has to ask, which two states? Israel has already claimed all of Jerusalem for itself. It has accelerated settlements on the West Bank to the point that almost nothing is left for Palestinians. It continues to delay peace negotiations to allow the settlements to continue. It even called upon the US to block Palestine’s membership in the UN. All of this has been pushed by conservative Tea Party-like politicians who are even to the right of Netanyahu, powerful Jewish lobbying groups in the US and certain evangelical US churches who believe that the removal of Arabs from the “Holy Land” will hasten the coming of the new Messiah.
Fortunately, these groups don’t seem to represent the majority sentiment of the Israeli and American people. A number of Jewish organizations are dismayed by the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza. The Jewish Voice for Peace is calling for the US to stop funding the on-going massacre in Gaza. And the Jewish organization, J Street, has long called for moderation and a two-state solution. These groups seem to understand that peace cannot be achieved until each side recognizes the rights and circumstances of the other. Palestinians must recognize the historical claims of the Jews and Israel’s right to exist. Conversely, Israel must recognize the historical claims of the Arabs and the ongoing hardships for the Palestinian people.
But a recent article in the New Republic detailing Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to negotiate peace between the two sides reveals the depth of the problem.