Dialogue with an American friend on the status quo and Israel’s future
By Jonathan Feldstein
Following my articles taking to task President Obama and John Kerry and their stabbing Israel in the back I received many replies. The vast majority were supportive and expressed embarrassment by the Obama-Kerry tag teaming. Some apologized and made sure I knew their vindictive behavior did not reflect that of the American people.
One email led to a thoughtful discussion I would like to excerpt here. A friend wrote:
“I read your article with much interest. However, (I’m) a bit puzzled. While I believe (in) and support the Zionist dream.., I am deeply concerned about Israel's predicament: maintaining a Democratic Jewish state while divorcing herself from an indigenous Arab population…divorce is rarely simple, it can be highly contested with many casualties. While I don't…trivialize Israel's current situation with this comparison…how (do) you feel about these concerns? ….maintaining the "status quo" is as much of a cause of a new Intifada as your opinion regarding Obama's abstention.”
It was late at night in Israel when I replied. I was moved to do so right away, albeit abruptly.
“I have two quick answers…but a lot more can be said. First, it’s not the place of Obama, or anyone else, to set parameters that define Israel as they want it. There's no suggestion that a Palestinian state should be democratic, or Iran or Cuba or any of the others that the U.S. has no problem dealing with. There's not even a hint that "Palestine" can't be Judenrein. Kicking all the Jews out is fine, but Israel should remain 20 percent Arab?!
That holds Israel to a standard that, because we are Jews, more is to be expected. I reject that because Arabs should have the same expected of them. To do otherwise is double discrimination (against Arabs, and Jews).
As to demographics, few in any mainstream political party here today would (say)… that we actually have a partner willing to make and uphold peace. That doesn't exist, period. So putting the cart before the horse and laying out parameters of what a resolution should look like is absurd, and biased against Israel. There's not only not a partner with which to negotiate, but the Palestinian Authority (with whom we are expected to negotiate) doesn't even control Gaza. So if Obama and Kerry had their dream we'd give up territory today for the hope of peace, (creating) a "Palestine" in which the undemocratic government doesn't even control all the territory it's claiming as its state.
And what happens afterward when they have an internal war and Hamas takes over. This is not rhetoric, its probability. It's very complex. Few would deny there needs to be a resolution, but you can’t force peace if you don’t have (a partner)… Making concessions for the hope that it will bring (the Palestinians) to the table is faulty.
I don't know if we'll ever have peace. But I'm not prepared to give up land to create a new state that will add to the list of our enemies and not make peace any more likely.
There's a lot that can be done in the interim, and more should be done. But no matter how much Obama and Kerry pontificate about what's legal and what Israel has a legitimate claim to, and saying things that can only be one (their) way, they're just wrong.”
I woke up the next morning to the following reply: “Thank you for taking the time to respond. I get it and understand the situation and the dilemma. However, maintaining the status quo and not attempting to change the conditions on the ground only adds to the frustration and then anger which leads to intifada and armed conflict. Where are today's Sadats, Begins, Rabins?”
So before I had my second cup of coffee I wrote back: “I really mean to answer sincerely but I'm at my limit and Obama and Kerry have crossed all boundaries. I'm not holding back. (As for changing the status quo) I would love to see major economic investments in "settlement blocks" which benefit Jews and Arabs here. SodaStream was a good example but they got slammed by BDS and moved to the Negev. Who got hurt? Palestinian Arabs!
But I'd do more. I'd build economic facts, all kinds of industry. I'd look to investments from Arabs and Jews. Maybe one could connect private schools and day care for the employees attached to the industrial centers where Arabs could bring their kids for top education (that promotes coexistence).
It’ll take someone with audacity to stand up to BDS and the deceitful notion that building and doing business here is illegal. But even if such a plan were to be wildly successful and Arabs got good jobs with benefits, taking home a respectable salary, that would not mitigate the reality that incitement, hate, and violence are encouraged, nurtured, even celebrated. Unless and until that changes, we won’t have peace. And unless the Islamists are defeated, Palestinian Arabs will fear saying or encouraging things that are pro-peace and will be killed by their own.
We have no Begins or Sadats today. Netanyahu is the best of what's available but he's crippled by many internal and external factors. But even another Begin won’t make sacrifices if peace is not a real possibility. Today, and for the foreseeable future, it’s not. So we need to make the best of what there is, build infrastructure that makes Israel continue to succeed, that benefits Palestinian Arabs, and offers hope.”
Overall, my friend’s position, while not wrong, is ignorant. I don’t say that in a demeaning way or as a put down. It’s just that CNN and the NY Times and other media get it wrong and misrepresent the facts and nuance in Israel as the rule. This is true even if they don’t have a proclivity to be against Israel in a way that their bias is reflected in their news reporting. Even conservative and ideologically more pro-Israel media don’t get it right all the time, supporting an undertone of anti-Israel bias which they don’t intend, but about which they don’t know any better.
No, the status quo, leaving things as is, is not desirable. There’s a lot that can and should be done short of actual peace, if that will ever come. But making concessions as a precondition to bring the Palestinians to the table, or because Obama, Kerry or others demand it, without a true hope for peace and a plan that addresses all this, is less desirable. Maybe the status quo is the best we can hope for, for now.
What do you think? Please post/write respectfully and I’ll try to do the same.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. He has a three decade career in nonprofit fundraising and marketing and throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians. He writes regularly on major Christian web sites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He can be reached at FirstPersonIsrael@gmail.com.