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Destined to Live Together: Israelis and Palestinians

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January 31st, 2015
  

The following article on the Israelis and Palestinians living together appeared first in the Times of Israel. It has been edited for the purposes of this publication. You can find the original piece here: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/destined-to-live-together/

Israelis and Palestinians Living Together

The West has not learned much from the mistakes it made in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. When you remove dictators before building a proper democratic infrastructure, you create a vacuum. Radicals are usually the first ones to take charge.

The only thing preventing Judea and Samaria from becoming Gaza is the Jewish Settlements. Unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state is like signing a death warrant of Palestinians in the West Bank.

These are not my words. Rather, they are statements of a Christian Palestinian from Bethlehem, who for the sake of protecting her life, we will call “Mary”.

Voice of a Local

Mary appeared in several Palestinian human rights academic symposiums last week in Paris universities. They were initiated by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice. Mary fled from Bethlehem to London and received political asylum a few years ago.

She told the story of the execution of her Christian uncle in Bethlehem. He refused to continue making “protection payments” to PLO militants in the West Bank. Mary was forced to flee from Bethlehem after receiving death threats. That’s because she dared to publicly criticize the Palestinian Authority after the murder of her uncle.

With a heavy heart, Mary explained that within the past month, another 250 Christian families received visas to the USA. They are in the process of abandoning their homes in Bethlehem to find more freedom overseas.

The Christian population in Bethlehem has decreased from approximately 80% in 1948 to around 9% today. Hence, the West Bank is becoming more Islamic and more radical.

Who Cares about Human Rights?

Most of the participants in our symposium were the future journalists and politicians of France. They were students in the area of communications, journalism and political science.

The future thought leaders of France did hot have a lot of empathy for Mary and her story. Some even vehemently argued that Mary does not have the right to represent the Palestinians. And that she does not really understand what the Palestinians need.

Indeed, in their opinions, they saw only one viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is, the immediate establishment of a Jew-free Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

I have to admit that I choked up a bit, even though I usually keep my emotional cool under such circumstances. I felt as though the human rights of Palestinians are no longer an issue driving the public agenda. Instead, it is anti-Semitic sentiments, which demand the establishment of “Judenrein” as quickly as possible in the heartland of Israel.

Who Wants a Palestinian State?

We presented in France findings based on research conducted by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice. They stated that the vast majority of Palestinians living in the disputed territories, would prefer to be citizens of Israel. They do not receive a salary from the Palestinian Authority and are not interested the proposed state of Palestine.

The Palestinian people no longer believe in two states for two peoples. Over the past twenty years, the Palestinian Authority received approximately 26 billion dollars from the international community. The money was intended for building the infrastructure of a future state.

Tragically, it decided to invest these precious resources on other goals. Particularly the personal enrichment of corrupt leaders, as well as military armament for the destruction of Israel.

Reality Check

Most of the Israeli public understood something after the latest war in Gaza removed all doubt. That the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank will mean a bombardment of rockets and terror tunnels in the center of the country.

So why do leaders in the international community continue to march down a dead-end street? Why is nation after nation in Europe deciding to unilaterally recognize a fictitious state? One that does not have proper administration, borders, an independent economy and many other necessary requirements of statehood?

I believe that the main answer to these questions is that the government of Israel ceased some time ago to put forth any other creative solutions. And the lack of solutions creates a lack of hope. No one wants to reach that point.

There is Hope for Israelis and Palestinians

President Reuven Rivlin has recently presented a refreshing perspective on these issues. It appears as though President Rivlin is one of the few Israeli politicians, who understands that the best way to extinguish the fires of intifada is to warmly embrace our Arab citizens.

Yes, embracing, rather than threatening and renouncing.

The President has proven that it is possible to revive the spirit of Jabotinsky and leaders who once believed in hope. The hope that states, one could be a staunch Zionist and still honor the human rights of our non-Jewish residents.

I wonder what would happen if the government of Israel took a courageous step and offered permanent residency to all Arabs living in the disputed territories. Unite Israelis and Palestinians under one banner.

Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem

We have already learned that only 10% of those in East Jerusalem, who received permanent residency in 1967, have gone on to request citizenship. Surprisingly, even if the vast majority of Arabs living in the West Bank would request citizenship, it would not create a demographic disaster.

There are currently 6 million Jews and 3 million Arabs living in Israel, Judea and Samaria. A step like this would create a proper social and administrative framework for Palestinians in the West Bank.

In addition, it could breathe new life into the peace process, create hope at the international level. It would show the willingness of Israel to uphold human rights and prevent the catastrophe that persons like Mary are warning us is already underway.

In the words of President Rivlin,

“We, the sons of Abraham, must live with the understanding that we have not been doomed to live together. But have rather been destined to live together.”

Calev Myers
Calev Myers is the founder of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ), a human rights group in Israel. He finished a degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and joined the Israel Bar Association as a licensed lawyer after having immigrated to Israel from the United States in 1992. He founded JIJ in 2004 as non-profit organization that takes on cases of religious persecution, and advances freedom of conscience and civil justice in Israel.
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