This morning I’ve listened to President Obama’s speech before the United Nations. I have to say the President is a very good orator. I like to listen to him and I want to believe him and be on his side. And what could be more reasonable than to say that there is no shortcut to a Palestinian state without negotiations? But the historic fact is that the State of Israel was created without negotiations with the Palestinians, by a vote of the UN.
Nothing could be more reasonable than to say that Israel deserves to live side by side an independent Palestinian state. But the facts on the ground, which Israel continues to create, set up a different reality. Israel continues inexorably annexing more and more Palestinian land and dispassionately pushing the people off homelands and into impoverished little cantons while severing the geographic connections between them. Palestinians fear that by the time negotiations work, there will be nothing left for them to base a viable state on. It’s pretty hard to argue with the geographic realities; Israel is everywhere in the West Bank, herding Palestinians off the land into regional cities, controlling movement by both military and bureaucracy, using up the natural resources for their own benefit.
It’s true that the Jewish people are a people who have suffered much in history. We visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, with an Israeli tour guide today; it’s a tragic and moving place. But it is offensive to play the Holocaust card as an excuse for Israel to abuse its neighbor. Reasonably speaking, negotiation in good faith can only take place between equals. It’s pretty hard to negotiate when the other party’s foot is on one’s neck.