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The Iron Fist is Not the Answer

Reader comment on item: Does Israel Need a [Peace] Plan?

Submitted by Ralph Winstanley (United States), Feb 2, 2003 at 14:07


What you are proposing has been the policy of the State of Israel from its inception -- the iron fist, two eyes for an eye. It should be obvious by now that it will not work, short of the liquidation of the Palestinian population.

It won't work because the Palestinians, and behind them the Arabs, cannot be defeated in the way Germany was in W.W. II. The U.S. was defeated in Vietnam, true. But we could pull out, lick our wounds, and leave it behind us. Our existence as a people and a culture was not threatened. Similarly, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Palestinians cannot leave Israel behind. The consequences of their defeat will be to accept a position as hewers of wood and drawers of water under foreign occupation. Perhaps that is a position that could be achieved if there were no hinterland. But, like it or not, Israel is an island in an Arab and Muslim sea. Even a policy of forcible relocation, repugnant as it is, would not guaranty peace.

Further, there is no evidence whatsoever that Israel would be a generous victor. Its policies have typically been hard-nosed,uncompromising, and unsentimental. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't lead one to suppose that Palestinian surrender would be richly rewarded.

Certainly the most effective policy for the Palestinians to pursue would be a non-violent campaign of liberation, on the model of the Indian campaign for independence or the U.S. civil rights movement. By seizing the moral high ground, the Palestinians would not only gain international political leverage, they would also engage the high moral character of Israeli society. It is evident, however, that this option will not be pursued, at least for the moment.

It seems to me that the deepest danger to Israel is the deterioration of national morale or, perhaps to put it more strongly, the degradation of that high moral character of Israeli society, that the continued violence and oppression of another people will bring in its wake. The increasing popularity of calls for the removal of the Palestinian population are perhaps evidence of this strain. What would there be uniquely to admire in Israel after the conclusion of such an operation? Apparently, it is no longer unthinkable.

I think in the long, long run, there will have to be some thinking along the lines of a one state, two communities solution with a strong international guaranty of the state's sovereignty and the rights of the two communities. This is now, I suppose, unthinkable, and perhaps unworkable. But if nothing is workable, then the outcome for both communities will be tragedy.

That's why the peacemakers have to keep at work trying to find something that will work in the short run to tide us over to the long run. Just giving the Government Israel carte blanche will not get us anywhere.

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