POLITICAL observations & opinions

* Robert K. Lifton … why it is difficult for both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make the hard decisions … political and personal suicide is never an attractive alternative

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 3, 2011

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Israel showing Gaza & the West Bank

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Robert K. Lifton writes in the Huffington Post …

  • everyone involved knows the issues and even the ultimate outline of the deal … What most people don’t realize is that two elements of the deal involve not only difficult but possibly life threatening decisions by the two leaders.
  • There are three basic issues to be resolved by the parties.
    • The first issue is the question of borders –where are the borders of Israel and the Palestinian state and how are they secured.
    • The second issue requires a determination as to the status of Jerusalem, with the Palestinians seeking jurisdiction over East Jerusalem and the Israelis seeking to control an undivided Jerusalem as their capital.
    • The third issue relates to the Palestinian insistence on a “right of return” by Palestinians to the properties in Israel inhabited by their families before the 1948 war between Israel and the Arab states that attacked it.
  • (then) Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert summarized his proposed (2008) deal with Abbas as follows:
    • According to my offer, the territorial dispute would be solved by establishing a Palestinian state on territory equivalent in size to the pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza Strip with mutually agreed-upon land swaps that take into account the new realities on the ground.
    • The city of Jerusalem would be shared. Its Jewish areas would be the capital of Israel and its Arab neighborhoods would become the Palestinian capital. Neither side would declare sovereignty over the city’s holy places; they would be administered jointly with the assistance of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
    • The Palestinian refugee problem would be addressed within the framework of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. The new Palestinian state would become the home of all the Palestinian refugees just as the state of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. Israel would, however, be prepared to absorb a small number of refugees on humanitarian grounds.
  • In that context, it is important to understand the truly difficult decisions for the respective leaders.
  •  Let’s start with Mr. Netanyahu. There are now approximately 370,000 settlers in settlements located beyond the original 1967 borders, excluding Jerusalem.  Any deal with the Palestinians would require Netanyahu to convince his coalition to support a forced displacement of (at least some substantial number of these) settlers.
  •  On the other side, is Prime Minister Abbas who would have the burden of signing an agreement that would for all time relinquish the dream of millions of Diaspora and other Palestinians of the right to return to their claimed lands in Israel -a dream that has passed from father to son to grandson and been at the center of some of those families’ hopes for years.
  • (for both leaders) the threat is not only to his political life, but to the safety of his person.
  •  There is nothing in the history of the two leaders that would indicate that they have the fortitude that will enable them to achieve a resolution of the conflict.
  •  Still, as we have seen in the case of Ireland, history is sometimes made by leaders who surprise us by overcoming their fears and prejudices. We can only hope that such is the case with this conflict.
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