One bi-product of taking a leave of absence from blogging is that the world continues piling up stories of conflict, abuse of power, sex scandals, political shenanigans, education turmoil, etc., all of which provide great fodder for not only print journalist and television talking heads, but also for those of us who are much less formally qualified but still have a passion to offer commentary on such issues. The problem is simply choosing one subject from this vast array of topics. However, one recent event in the news just screams for attention if for no other reason than its profound importance to the world. Specifically, I am referring to the seemingly endless Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
First, let me offer a little personal history on this subject. On March 13, 1956, while on a trip to the Middle East as part of a Mediterranean cruise with my grandmother, aunt and three cousins, we were on the way from Beirut to Damascus to visit the Holy Land by car when our caravan was stopped at the Syrian border for routine passport checks. When what should have been a simple brief event turned into a prolonged process, it became apparent that something was wrong. To make a long story short, my grandmother and I were informed that we would not be allowed to enter Syria because they thought we were Jewish and the tour operators could not guarantee our safety. The point being that this was my very first experience with the same discrimination that many Jews have long felt which some think caused many to flee their Arab neighbors for Europe, so I am not insensitive to their situation. In any event our entire family elected to abandon that segment of our trip and return to Beirut and accept the kind invitation of a Lebanese politico, whom we had met on board ship after one of his lectures on the Arab/Israeli conflict, to visit him at his home in Tripoli should we have time. Little did we know at the time that we would. This brings up the second point of this little sidebar - i.e. he was the very first person I can ever recall framing this problem in the historical context of having gone on for centuries, and that it may take centuries to solve it. History seems to be confirming his prophesy, which brings me back to the subject at hand.
Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 there have been 13 different Prime Ministers (four served subsequent second terms), most of whom have proclaimed "We want peace". My first personal memory of this position goes back to Golda Meir in 1969, followed in succession by Yitzhak Rabin (who was assassinated in 1995 for his support of the Oslo Peace Process), Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and now Mr. Netanyahu again. What's astounding to me is that several of these leaders also supported some form of land grant back to the Palestinians, most notably Ehud Olmert who actually proposed the very same pre-1967 War plan suggested by President Obama this week which caused the current prime minister to make such a big issue of something that had been discussed for years by parties to the on-going peace negotiations. And then for him to object to these borders just as a starting point stating that they are "indefensible because of certain changes on the ground" was somewhat disingenuous, as he actually was referring to the thousands of Jewish settlements which President Nixon first called "illegal" and President Reagan then termed "not constructive". But that did not stop Mr. Netanyahu from ordering while still here this week that 1,500 more be built.
Even George Mitchell, the venerable and highly respected former senator who has been working tirelessly to resolve this conflict until his announced resignation, confirmed the validity of the pre-1967 War borders as an accepted starting point just today on ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour. In his words there is "no major shift" in policy and that protecting Israel's interests "with agreed swaps" is "significant" because it addresses the settlement issue mentioned above. With the entire Middle East now in the throes of revolution and reform, it's quite possible that Israel might find itself odd man out if continued intransigence prevails, particularly if the Palestinians are successful in getting the United Nations to grant them statehood this fall. King Abdullah II of Jordan on the same ABC program got it right by suggesting that it's always easy "to find an excuse why not to do the right thing". To watch both and hear their exact statements go to (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/obamas-comments-israel-1967-borders-major-policy-shift/story?id=13658890.
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