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Wednesday, August 21, 2002

How Unitarian Universalists can help.

Paula R. cuts to the chase:

So here's the question: If peace is the ultimate goal, if we want Israeli children and Palestinian children (and Lebanese children, heck, all children) to have a fair shot at a future, what power do we have to make that happen?

Great question. I think the most helpful thing we can do is to tell our president and elected representatives that we want our government to remain involved until a real solution is in place.

President Bush has only reluctantly given his attention to the Middle East, even though it seems clear to everybody that both sides need the sustained involvement of the United States for negotiations to move toward real solutions. The U.S. doesn't need to draw up a full plan, since the real concessions have to come from Israel and from the Palestinians — but both sides need pressure from the U.S. to get some momentum going. So for us, the important thing is to continue to make a solution a high political priority in the United States, and to keep it at the top of the agenda, no matter what happens in Iraq.

Our own UU recommendations, however, are unlikely to make much difference in Israel and Palestine. The Middle East doesn't need us to dream up possible scenarios; it simply needs real commitment from the West to keep negotiations open. The truth is that Israel has almost all the cards: It's up to Israel to pull out of the territories, and that will only happen when Israel feels that it can and must do so to preserve its national integrity. (Either that, or the United States would have to invade and force them out. That won't happen.)

That's why I suggested in my first post to this list that the most important thing we can do in the West is to reassure Israel that we are genuinely committed to its existence and success — not because Israel is somehow "better" but simply from the pragmatic consideration that the Israeli left has been most successful when the most paranoid fringes of Israeli society can't point so easily to anti-Semitism in the larger world. When Israel feels relatively secure in the international community, it's willing to take some risks for peace — as it did under Rabin and tried to do under Barak.

The emerging Labor candidate Amram Mitzna, for instance, supports immediate negotiations with the Palestinians — and it looks like he has significant support in Israel. We need to ask ourselves what will help people like him succeed. When Israel feels attacked, the radical fringe finds a large following among people who fear that they have no real allies in a dangerous world. The Palestinians' worst miscalculation — or, if you're a partisan of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, their intention — was to alienate Israeli liberals and provoke the Israeli government with suicide bombing. That's why Sharon is in power, and why Netanyahu may follow him. The Boston Globe reported today that the Palestinians now consider this approach a disaster.

Most Palestinians and most Israelis would welcome a compromise that really would decrease violence and increase economic opportunity, and which shows real progress toward Palestinian statehood. The enemies of such a compromise are radical groups on both sides who would rather encourage violence, who feed off the panicked overreactions in the rest of the world, and who build political coalitions out of frightened people.

(Originally posted to UUsMiddleEast.)

Copyright © 2002 by Philocrites | Posted 21 August 2002 at 5:57 PM

Previous: Want to help the Palestinians?
Next: Tragic freedom.

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