Sorting Out the Israeli Situation

The State of Israel was born the same year I was: 1947. My strongest impressions of that painful birth (Israel’s, not mine) come from the 1960 Otto Preminger film, based on the Leon Uris best-seller “Exodus.” As I recall that blockbuster epic movie, it accurately depicts the fact that the Jewish Haganah, especially an offshoot called “The Stern Gang,” used terrorist tactics to persuade the Brits to abandon their Mandate. For 60 years the Israelis have lived with and adjusted to Palestinian terrorism. Some might see some irony in that.
If turn about is fair play, then a second irony is contained in the struggle being played out now between Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian factions, in the Gaza Strip. Readers may recall that Hamas, which our government deems to be a terrorist organization, won Palestinian elections last year. The more moderate Fatah brought this on itself because of its corruption. Up until two weeks ago the two factions were sharing power. Then, just about the time I returned from my Israel trip as a Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Hamas turned its terror-tactics on Fatah and took complete control of Gaza. Hamas also has been firing nasty little home-made rockets, called qassams, into southern Israel.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, power is shared by Fatah with the Israeli army, which still maintains a powerful presence there. The Fatah leadership in the city of Ramala say they are through talking with Hamas. If the two factions cannot reconcile, then what was once considered a two-state solution — the two states being Israel and Palestine — may become a three-state solution: Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank all being independent entities. This could work where the West Bank is concerned. It’s hard to imagine Gaza as a separate state.
True, some states as small or smaller do exit, including Luxembourg, Monaco, and some independent South Pacific island nations. But right now Gaza’s 1.5 million people are surviving on U.N. and NGO aid shipments. Besides being an economic black hole, a Gaza ruled by Hamas, which continues to deny Israel’s right to exist, will never be acceptable to the Jewish state.
Ten days in Israel don’t make me an expert on the current situation, anymore than seeing Paul Newman strut his stuff as a Haganah operative in “Exodus” made me an expert on Israel’s birth. The intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle of the past six decades is in many respects as baffling to me as the centuries-old struggle between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. The hardest things for me — and maybe for you — to sort out are the political issues from the emotional elements: how much is either situation sustained by the grievances, hatreds and vendettas accumulated year after year?
The second hardest question to answer may be: Why are we involved? The same query is being posed, principally by the Democrats in Congress, with regard to Iraq.
One answer — in a word — is OIL. A quick statistic: During the first quarter of this year, I’m told, we Yanks bought some 75,000 or so hybrid cars. During the same period, Ford Motor Company alone sold around four times that number of pick-up trucks and SUVs. If we want to keep driving our gas-guzzlers, even at $3.00 a gallon, we need a reliable source of oil. The Middle East is where most of that oil is.
Second, if Islamic radicalism is going to be supplanted by democracy and capitalism, then Uncle Sam is stuck in the Mid-East for the foreseeable future, and he had better stand by the only genuine democracy/reliable ally he has in the region.
Some say that striving for a democratic Middle East is a fool’s game. They may be right. All I can say is that in the 60 years since Israel and I were birthed, we’ve witnessed a peaceful end to both the Cold War and South African Apartheid. If we flawed humans could bring down the Berlin Wall without a nuclear holocaust and end Apartheid without a bloodbath, then anything is possible.

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One Response to “Sorting Out the Israeli Situation”

  1. […] Sorting out the Israeli situation […]

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