[Paleopsych] In the Mideast, ask the right question

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In the Mideast, ask the right question
The International Herald Tribune, 5.5.5. 

    Henry Siegman International Herald Tribune

    PARIS The window of opportunity widely believed to have been opened
    by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to withdraw Israeli
    settlements from Gaza, and by the election of Mahmoud Abbas as head of
    the Palestinian Authority, has prompted a debate in U.S. policy
    circles. The question is whether President George W. Bush is moving
    quickly enough to prevent the spreading Israeli settlement enterprise
    in the West Bank from foreclosing the possibility of the emergence of
    a Palestinian state.

    Politically speaking, whether a viable Palestinian state is still
    possible is the wrong question, if only because by now it should be
    clear that Bush will not take the political risks entailed in ensuring
    the creation of such a state in the face of Sharon's determination to
    prevent it. The right question - the answer to which perhaps may yet
    invest the peace process with the energy and direction it now lacks -
    is whether there is still hope for the survival of Israel as a Jewish

    For it is the Jewish state, far more so than a state for the
    Palestinian people, that is now threatened and in doubt. Whatever
    uncertainties exist about a Palestinian state, what is certain, even
    after Israel's disengagement from Gaza, is that it is only a matter of
    time before Arabs will constitute a majority of the population between
    the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. When this happens, Israel
    will cease to be a Jewish state, both formally and in fact - unless it
    herds the majority Arab population into enclosed bantustans, and turns
    into an apartheid state.

    It is a supreme irony that only a Palestinian state can assure the
    survival of Israel as a Jewish state. However as Sharon's settlement
    project continues and intensifies in the West Bank - not despite but
    because of the Gaza disengagement - and relentlessly diminishes and
    fragments the West Bank, Palestinians will sooner or later abandon a
    two-state solution and pursue the political logic of their own
    demography instead.

    Palestinians will not settle for less than a state that is fully
    within the pre-1967 borders. Having already yielded to Israel half the
    territory acknowledged by the United Nations in its partition
    resolution of 1947 as their legitimate patrimony, Palestinians will
    not consent to additional Israeli annexations of the remaining 22
    percent of Palestine, except in swaps for comparable territory on
    Israel's side of the border.

    The capital of this Palestinian state, moreover, will have to be
    located in East Jerusalem. The chances of a Palestinian leader signing
    a peace accord that shuts Palestinians out of any part of Jerusalem
    are about as great as an Israeli leader signing a peace agreement that
    grants Palestinian refugees a "right of return" to Israel. Indeed,
    Palestinian agreement to a formula that redirects the refugees' right
    of return from Israel to a Palestinian state is entirely dependent on
    compromises in Israel's present position on territory and Jerusalem.

    These difficult concessions by an Israeli government are conceivable
    only if it finally tells its citizens the truth - that only if a
    viable and successful Palestinian state comes into being alongside
    Israel can its Jews avoid being turned into a minority in their own

    Those in Israel who believe that the world - including Israel's great
    friend and ally, the United States - will abide a Jewish apartheid
    regime that permanently disenfranchises and dominates by force of arms
    an Arab majority, or allow Israel to ethnically cleanse much of the
    West Bank through repressive economic and "security" measures, are
    deluding themselves. Unfortunately, some political parties in Israel
    call for such thinly disguised ethnic cleansing, and yet are seen by
    most Israelis as acceptable partners in their governments.

    Indeed, Natan Sharansky, a former minister in Sharon's government, has
    been agitating to declare the private property of Arabs who live just
    outside the municipal borders of Jerusalem, but whose adjoining
    properties are located within those borders, as "abandoned." Such a
    designation would allow the government to confiscate these Arab
    properties without compensation or right of appeal. This from the man
    who has convinced Bush that Palestinians must be kept under Israeli
    occupation until Israel is ready to certify they have been transformed
    into democrats!

    Inexorable demographic "facts on the ground" will be far more
    determining of Israel's future than the settlements and the so-called
    security fence that Israel is building largely on stolen Palestinian
    land. When this realization begins to break through the illusions that
    beset the peace process, Israel's supporters may finally understand
    that the question is not whether the window of opportunity is closing
    on a Palestinian state, but whether it is closing on a Jewish state.

    Unfortunately, given the all too clever manipulations of Sharon and
    his advisor, Dov Weissglas, who believe (as Weissglas boasted recently
    in a Haaretz interview) that they have persuaded the United States to
    let the road map and the peace process remain in "formaldehyde," this
    realization is likely to come about only after that proverbial window
    will have slammed shut.

    (Henry Siegman is a senior fellow on the Middle East at the Council on
    Foreign Relations and a former executive head of the American Jewish
    Congress. These views are his own.)

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