Will Israel at 70 see the wisdom of a two-state solution to Palestinian conflict?
At 70, Israel has every reason to celebrate its remarkable achievements, including the unbelievable redemption of the Jews and the country’s rise to be a global power. However, Israel remains marred by the continuing conflicts with the Palestinians. It has forgotten its own history as a people driven from their homes, facing discrimination, expulsion and death, as it is still haunted by the conflict on its border.
As the Israelis celebrated the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, the festivities were marred by the deaths of over 60 Palestinians in Gaza. They came to demonstrate along the border with Israel not as much because of the opening of the embassy, but because of the subhuman conditions under which they have been living for the past 11 years.
Gaza is an open prison, the lack of electricity, drinking water, scare resources, and joblessness fills the air with despair and despondency. Many came to the border ready to die, for they have little left to lose. In the West Bank, their freedom of movement is restricted, night raids are common, unemployment is rampant, and expulsion, incarceration, and demolition of homes is commonplace.
For these horrifying conditions to exist 70 years later is a tragedy of historical proportions. But the Palestinians are not blameless. They have missed repeated opportunities to resolve the conflict. Resorting to violent resistance and threatening Israel’s existence have seen them play into the hands of right-wing Israelis.
Every Israeli must remember that a two-state solution is not a gift to the Palestinians. It is the only way by which Israel can preserve its independence, democracy, and the Jewish national character of the state. The current state of affairs in Israel defies the vision of its founding fathers – a vision of a Jewish home living in peace with itself and its neighbours.
Dr Alon Ben-Meir, professor, Centre for Global Affairs, NYU