Peace talks are over, back to reality

Now that the negotiations have failed, it’s time to concentrate on really moving toward peace, among other things by integrating Israeli Palestinians into military service.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

Nine months wasted in intense negotiations that could not possibly lead anywhere. Everyone knew that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not represent the Palestinians and could not make peace on behalf of the Palestinians. Abbas himself knew it, and was not prepared to make any concessions or commitments. He was just treading water, and he let U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shuttle back and forth in a vain effort to arrive at an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty. When Kerry gave up on that he tried to reach an agreement on a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty, and at last in desperation he attempted to at least reach an agreement for the continuation of these useless talks. Until what was destined to end in failure, ended in failure. Anyone who thinks that as the result of the newly cobbled-up arrangement between the PA and Hamas, Abbas will now be prepared to make concessions that he refused to make until now has another guess coming. So now the time has come to concentrate on really moving toward peace between Jews and Palestinians.

First, and most important, is the normalization of the relations between Jews and Palestinians living in the State of Israel. We have come a long way since Israel’s War of Independence, 66 years ago, a war of life and death between Jews and Arabs. The Palestinians in Israel, who for the following 16 years were ruled by a military administration, have for many years now been full-fledged citizens with all the rights of Israel’s Jewish citizens. But most do not fulfill the most important duty of Israeli citizenship, namely sharing in the country’s defense, and as a result many of Israel’s economic opportunities are not open to them. In our desire to bring about a full integration of Israel’s Palestinians into Israeli society, to achieving equality of opportunities, it is important to realize that this can be achieved only by equalizing the obligations of citizenship of all Israel’s citizens.

Here too, important steps have already been taken. For many years now, Israel’s Druze citizens have served in Israel’s armed forces. Some Bedouin volunteer for military service, a Bedouin infantry battalion operates in the Negev and an increasing number of Israeli Christian Arabs volunteer for military service. But there is still much to be done before all of Israel’s citizens share the burden of defending the country.

The recent upsurge in the number of Christian Arabs volunteering for service in the Israel Defense Forces and the protests by some of Israel’s Arab politicians have drawn a clear line between those Israeli Palestinians who want to integrate into Israeli society and the politicians who want the Palestinians to exist as an isolated community in Israel. There are indications that the number of Palestinians, Christians and Muslims alike, who favor integration is on the rise. An active government policy to further integration in general and military service in particular of all citizens can be an important step toward real peace between Jews and Palestinians.

As for the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, there is a great deal that Israel can do to improve their situation. Every change for the better in the economy of the Palestinians there is a step toward peace between Jews and Palestinians and a step away from frustration and violence. Israeli enterprises located in the industrial zones in Judea and Samaria provide employment opportunities for tens of thousands of Palestinians and an infusion of capital into their economy. Additional incentives for the establishment of such enterprises by both Israelis and Palestinians could significantly increase the standard of living of the average Palestinian.

A source of serious inconvenience to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria are the many roadblocks that Palestinians traveling between towns and villages must pass through. Reducing the number of roadblocks and the time needed to pass through them must be considered. And the time has come to begin removing that ugly wall that runs through the length of the Land of Israel, angering Jews and Palestinians alike.

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