Two-state solution the only viable one for Israel and Palestine
Once again, the letters page of the Irish Examiner has hosted the parochial and one-dimensional views of individuals who have decided that their view of Israel (Desmond Fitzgerald, September 24), or of the plight of Palestinians living in Gaza or the West Bank (Edward Horgan, September 22), is the only moral interpretation.
This absolutist dichotomy excludes any centrist argument of co-existence and feeds the polemical agenda of extremists who reject a possible, and moral, two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine tragedy.
This all-or-nothing position reinforces a global perception that this is no longer a viable option, a stance that has increasingly unleashed the hawks in both camps, who now argue for a greater Israel that annexes Gaza and the West Bank, or for a Palestinian state from the river to the sea, which incorporates present-day Israel into its borders.
Polemicists who support this absolutist worldview conveniently ignore that, in the recent past, leaders on both sides of the divide have, on numerous occasions, supported a two-state solution as the best option.
Mahmoud Abbas, who is demonised for rejecting all peaceful overtures from Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, clearly expressed this by declaring “we want an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital...a state that lives in peace with all of its neighbors, including Israel” — press conference with Finnish president, Tarja Halonen, Ramallah, October 15, 2010.
This willingness to co-operate was reciprocated in 2005 by the then Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who expressed support for a Palestinian state, provided it guaranteed the existence of Israel to live in peace and security.
“The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land. The Palestinians will always be our neighbours. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own. I am among those who believe that it is possible to reach a fair compromise, and co-existence in good, neighbourly relations, between Jews and Arabs” — Sharon speech at the UN general assembly, September 15, 2005.
The willingness of Sharon and Abbas has been sidelined, as extremists from both sides have created a political vortex in which there can only be one winner. This is a morally reprehensible stance, as well as being completely unobtainable, as any practitioners of real politik will understand.
If Israel faces an existential threat, all internal divisions will disappear, as the citizenry unites behind the core tenet that has underpinned Israel since its foundation in 1948: ‘Never Again’.
Surely, therefore, those of us who take the middle road, and believe that two states is the only viable long-term solution to the Israel-Palestine issue, need to challenge the simplistic, absolutist visions of either a greater Israel or a Palestinian state from the river to the sea which excludes all Jews.
700km wall will be a barrier to peace
Karl Martin (Irish Examiner, September 24) takes me to task for my comments on the Israeli separation barrier in the occupied Palestinian territories, and compares the wall to the peace walls in Belfast, and tries to minimise its significance. The barrier consists of a mixture of concrete, fences, ditches, razor wire, electronic monitoring systems, patrol roads, and a buffer zone. It’s length will be 700km, and it is almost 70% complete.
In rural areas, the barrier includes a two-metre-high, electrified, barbed-wire fence with vehicle-barrier trenches and a 60-metre-wide exclusion zone on the Palestinian side. In urban areas, including Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the concrete wall is eight metres high. The International Court of Justice found the barrier to be a violation of international law.
In response to the comments of Desmond Fitzgerald, (Irish Examiner, September 24), I refer to Jewish communities living in occupied Palestinian areas as “Jewish settlements”, because I consider that to be the legally correct terminology.
In January, 2015, the Israeli interior ministry gave figures of 389,250 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, a further 375,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem, and 20,000 in the Syrian Golan Heights. The International Court of Justice ruled, in 2004, that all these settlements are illegal.
Mr Fitzgerald makes the incredible statement that: “Before 1967, there were no Palestinian lands anywhere”, in spite of the reality that Palestinian people have occupied, and owned, the vast majority of the lands in what was known as Palestine up until 1948, and have owned these lands for many centuries.
The British Mandate population figures for Palestine in 1923 were 590,890 Palestinians, 83,794 Jews, and 82,498 Christians and others, yet Mr Fitzgerald seems to suggest that these 590,890 Palestinians did not exist in 1923, or, if they did, they did not own any land.
He also attempts to belittle the Palestinian people by stating that “Palestinians would prefer to see land go to waste” and “certain Palestinians saw a means to steal from their own people to enrich themselves”. If a person made statements like that about Jewish people, they would be labelled anti-Semitic.
Mr Fitzgerald denies the just cause of the Palestinian people. “There was no such cause anywhere before 1967. The fantasy of a Palestinian homeland was dreamt up after 1967”. The fact that the Palestinian people were betrayed by their neighbouring Arab states, who annexed Gaza and the West Bank after the 1948 Arab/Israeli war, in no way justifies Israeli efforts to annex East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Syrian Golan Heights.
He also chooses to ignore the expulsion of large numbers of Palestinian people from their lands during the 1948 war, the destruction of many Palestinian villages, and the “settlement” of these Palestinian lands by Jewish people, many of whom migrated from Europe. The Holocaust of almost six million Jewish people was the worst act of genocide ever committed, but it was committed by Europeans and not by Arabs or Palestinians.
There will be no lasting peace between the Jewish and Palestinian people in the Middle East, unless all involved prioritise matters of justice, human rights, and international laws.
Palestinian identity a propaganda tool
Clive Hyman (Irish Examiner, September 26) may well be “loath to accuse Dr Edward Horgan of bias”, but his own letter is also not entirely free of errors.
It is simply untrue that “Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) were... accepted internationally as being part of, and governed by, Jordan”.
Only two countries accepted it — the UK and Pakistan. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, these territories, “sequestered following the unsuccessful attempt to wipe out the fledgling state of Israel in 1948”, were merely under its de facto control.
Mr Hyman is, however, correct that “the whole concept of the Palestinians as a separate national group did not emerge until the early 1960s. Prior to that, the Arab population considered itself to be part of the greater Arab umma [people] of the Levant and vehemently objected to being viewed as a distinct entity. In fact, the term ‘Palestinian’, during the British Mandate, always referred specifically to the Jewish population.
The invention of a separate Palestinian Arab identity was designed as a propaganda tool to undermine Israel’s existence. It has clearly hoodwinked Dr Horgan, and others like him.
Leo should show leadership chops
Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, has become a serious contender for the leadership of Fine Gael.
Varadkar was quoted last June as stating that President Michael D Higgins would have broad “cross-party support”, if he wants a second term, but he also stated that “it is too early to say whether another candidate might emerge to seek the role”.
Of course, Higgins does not require any political party support to contest the next presidential election, as his constitutional right to do so is automatic. He merely needs sufficient resources, and a competent campaign team, to win the necessary votes that would be the only basis of true legitimacy for a second term.
Why would a politician ambitious to win the leadership of a large political party not identify a range of compelling candidates for the role of President, with the promise of changing the status quo?
Surely, it would be a mark of Varadkar’s credibility that he has the vision and characteristics necessary to enhance the reputation and international influence of the State into the middle of the next decade.