Everyone who is commenting on the new peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians seems to give the talks their blessing and hope for a successful outcome — everyone except the Islamic terrorists in Gaza and elsewhere and their sponsor, Iran.
Just about all the pundits say they basically know what the ultimate outcome will be. They predict that Israel will return to within its 1967 borders, except for about 3 percent of the West Bank, where about 250,000 Jews live. This territory will be annexed by Israel in exchange for land of equal value.
Israel, if it is to remain a Jewish state, will never accept the right of return of Palestinian Arabs who left in 1948 to become refugees in Arab countries, or their descendants. Also, since 1948, nearly 900,000 Jews fled or were expelled from Arab countries in the region, a larger number than the Arabs who left in 1948.
The city of Jerusalem, most observers believe, will accommodate both the Israeli capital and a capital for the new Arab state.
In the past I have given my advice on that issue. I suggest that the capital city itself function as two capitals, with East Jerusalem — where most Arabs in that city now live and where more than 200,000 Jews also live — being divided, with the current Jewish areas remaining as part of Israel and the Arab areas becoming part of the new Arab state.
Arab refugees now living primarily in Lebanon and Jordan but in other Arab states as well will be permitted to return to the new Palestinian state which will comprise the West Bank, Gaza and a section of Jerusalem and will be compensated for any property they left behind. Israel will, of course, claim an offset or compensation for the properties of the Jews driven out by the Arab regimes.
The borders of the new state are a major security concern to Israel. We know that Iran has already shipped rockets to both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Those rockets have in the past, and currently, been used in an effort to frighten the Israeli civilian population living in southern Israel.
I have a suggestion for the parties to consider: keep the city of Jerusalem undivided while both national capitals function in the city, and have the city divided into cantons or boroughs as we call them in New York City — Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island — all voting in one mayoral election for canton president in the area in which they live and also voting for one mayor to be in charge of the municipal affairs of the city.
Yes, were such an election held today, the mayor undoubtedly would be Jewish because of the city’s demographics. Currently, 64 percent of Jerusalem’s population is Jewish; 32 percent is Muslim and 2 percent is Christian.
Over the years, that could change. Tourists are more likely to come, in a divided city, to the Jewish area for safety reasons when, if it were one city, all groups, Jews, Muslims and Christians, would prosper from the tourism.
Israel’s security is paramount for the citizens of that nation, surrounded as it is by Arab states that, other than Egypt and Jordan, are still at war with Israel today, and look forward to its collapse and total destruction.
The most moderate of those states, probably the Arab Gulf states, look forward to a Jewish minority living in historic Palestine governed by an Arab majority.
A reminder: Bernard Lewis, the most knowledgeable of Western experts on Muslim core principles and the treatment of non-Muslims has stated: “The general rule of Islamic law is that Christians and Jews may continue in the practice of their religions, subject to certain conditions.
"They may not be compelled to embrace Islam. There have been occasions when extremist leaders or groups imposed forced conversions on Christians and Jews, but such action is condemned by the overwhelming weight of Muslim opinion.
"This tolerance is limited to monotheists and recipients of what Islam recognizes as a revelation. It does not apply in any circumstance to those who are seen as polytheists and idolaters. For them, the rule was indeed conversion or death, though the latter was rarely enforced and in the past was often commuted to enslavement.
"The Wahhabi demand, as far as I know, is not that Christians and Jews convert to Islam, but that they accept the supremacy of Islam and the rule of the Muslim state. On that condition, they may continue in the practice of their religion.”
As for Israeli security, I believe the best solution would be the formation among the four states, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the future Palestinian state, of an economic union, along the lines of the European Union with each state having a veto on any joint action of the four.
Further, for 10 or more years, sufficient to test sincerity, Egypt should have its police officers play a role in Gaza securing the Egypt-Gaza border to make certain there is no illegal buildup of arms, particularly missiles, by the terrorists remaining in Gaza after Palestinian President Abbas in a democratic election secures legitimacy and control for his government in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Jordan should play a similar role in the Jordan Valley and along the Palestinian state border with Jordan.
What could President Abbas do right now to reassure the Israelis?
He should make every effort to prosecute the murderers of the four Israelis recently killed on the West Bank, one a pregnant woman, all shot from a passing car, which then stopped and finished the four off.
Then, he could seek to find and free the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas in 2006.
Better still: He could do both.
He would become an Israeli hero if he achieved either goal.
If the economic union among the four states is successful and upgrades the economic condition of the citizens of all four states, other Arab states might desire to join them. That would be wonderful.
Of course, the 22 Arab states and four observer nations that comprise the Arab League would in these negotiations have to end their state of war with Israel and enter into regular commerce and diplomatic ties with Israel.
Sixty-two years have gone by since the state of Israel declared its independence under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion. Many efforts to achieve peace have failed.
This effort may succeed for several reasons. The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is a war hero and a man of the right.
President Nixon, also on the right, was capable of opening diplomatic relations with China; Similarly, President Charles de Gaulle was capable of ending France’s civil war and making peace in North Africa with its colonies.
So too, there are high hopes that Netanyahu can do the same.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have by dint of their characters established they too can do what Arafat could not because of his personal fears for the future: that he would be assassinated by fellow Palestinians.
The other and perhaps most important reason there is hope is that all of the Arab nations in the Mideast who are Sunni, along with Israel, threatened by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, feel they area in great danger if Iran, historically the enemy of the Arabs, achieves its goal of possessing a nuclear bomb.
This genuine common fear may bring them together. This could all come to be, or it could end up as wishful thinking, a fantasy. Personally, I think it will happen.
I am a believer.
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