Last week, President Barack Obama addressed members of the Department of State and discussed the issue of Israeli-Palestinian relations.
On Monday of this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel addressed the Congress of the United States.
While much has been made about the differences on their perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian issues, it is important that we also recognize the similarities in their remarks.
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
Prime Minister Netanyahu:
You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes. The Palestinians said no. In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli Prime Ministers, to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War.
They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.
Lest you think that President Obama came up with the two-nation deal on his own, we should remember that this was presented to him by Mahmoud Abbas back in 2009.
The problem with forming a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one has never been a problem for most people in the region. Are there clashes between the peoples now? Of course. With a century of animosity between them, is that hardly surprising? The problem has always been, and will continue to be, extremist groups and the fears they foster – on both sides.
If, as President Obama and PM Netanyahu said, the Palestinians will simply accept that the Jewish state has the right to exist then there is common ground to work things out. If the Israelis would accept that the Palestinians also have a right to freedom, self-expression and self-defense, then there might be common ground.
Of course, if is a big word for only having two letters. On principal, I can understand both sides of the situation.
In a way, I think the best solution might be the one they found in Don’t Mess with the Zohan (a particularly awful movie with little to commend it). Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler), a former Israeli Mossad operative, and Fatoush “The Phantom” Hakbarah (John Turturro), a Palestinian operative. Through Zohan’s relationship with the Phantom’s sister Dalia (Emmanuelle Chiqrui), Zohan and Fatoush set aside their differences to fight a common enemy. (The scene ends in a combined Hebrew and Arabic “Sound” that I will spare you from because it is truly awful.)
While the film itself was terrible, it still communicates something worth thinking about.
Perhaps if Jews and Palestinians spent more time working together against common enemies (greed, corruption, hatred, violence) and less time trying to prove that the other group was the enemy, we would have a more stable and peaceful region. Sometimes I think there are forces that foment the violence between Jews and Palestinians to keep the world in chaos.