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    Israel and Palestine: Beyond the Proclamations

    By Dr. Yosef Gotlieb

    It now appears that the Palestinian Authority will request recognition as a non-voting member state of the United Nations this Thursday.

    I think that a Palestinian state coexisting peaceably side by side with Israel would be much to the good of both Israelis and Palestinians. In my opinion though, it would be far better if the admission of the Palestinian state to the community of nations was the product of a graduated process born of confidence building, the deepening of concrete ties, and a civic dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

    No less important than political standing is healing the wounds that remain from the many years of conflict between Arabs and Jews. The upcoming vote is unlikely to serve this latter goal.

    Given the electoral arithmetic of the United Nations General Assembly, it is quite likely that the Palestinian Authority’s request will be granted on November 29th, which is a date replete with symbolism: On that date, in 1947 the United Nations General Assembly accepted the Partition Plan, by which historic Israel/Palestine was to be divided into two states.

    The governing council of the Zionist movement, the government-in-making of what would become the State of Israel, accepted the Plan, albeit with reluctance. The Arab ruling elite violently rejected it.

    There is in the imminent Palestinian initiative, then, an irony that should not be lost: Sixty-five years later to the day, it is they who now seek to remedy the situation by belatedly seeking recognition of what the Partition Plan had mandated then.

    But in the irony there is also hope: The recognition that Israelis and Palestinians can best serve their futures living as neighbors in distinct if truncated national homes rather than vying for who will control the whole pie.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recognized a two state solution – while doing all in its power to prevent it. He, his government and its supporters are betting that time will eventually render the occupation of the West Bank and its continuing control by Israel a fait accompli.

    The extremists on the Palestinian side, notably Hamas and its allies (whom are not an insignificant sector of that population – and a deadly one), also eschew two states for two peoples: They are banking that terror, demographics and other factors will converge to doom the Jewish national home.

    Israel, now 64 years old and with a population approaching eight million and a vibrant society with durable institutions has not only a de facto right to exist but a de jure one. The latter must be accepted by anyone who truly wishes to end the conflict.

    And while Israel is not going away, neither are the Palestinians, nor their national aspirations and their need for self-determination.

    Accordingly, beyond the posturing and proclamations, the back room deals and the back channels, Israelis and Palestinians must find away to coexist.

    That coexistence will have to take place on the ground, through civil engagement, dialogue, joint planning and resource sharing. Political verbiage is airborne and transient; realities created by neighbors endure.

    So while the representatives of the Netanyahu government along with American officials work to mollify the language of the resolution that will almost surely pass in some form at the UN this Thursday, Israelis and Palestinians with an eye toward the future rather than seeking to forestall it must get on with bridge-building.

    Educating for peace, humanizing the other in the media and in civic discourse within their respective societies, and seeking opportunities for meaningful engagement form a surer path to a benevolent future for the two beleaguered peoples than flag-waving, fiery speeches, and lofty resolutions.


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