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Perspective: Granting homeland to Palestinians would be win-win strategy

Israel’s former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, remarked, “The decision to build thousands of housing units as punishment to the Palestinians only punishes Israel (and) only isolates Israel further.”

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: Duluth News Tribune
By M. Imran Hayee | December 30, 2012

Despite vehement opposition from the U.S. and Israel, on Nov. 29, the United Nations approved the Palestine Authority’s status as “nonmember observer state.” In protest, Israel announced a brand new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, the putative capitol of a future Palestine state.

Many presumed the UN move to be merely symbolic except that the Palestine Authority now officially can raise its voice against controversial Jewish settlements.

Opposing the UN move, Ron Prosor, Israel’s UN ambassador, remarked, “The move largely ignores the specifics of longstanding issues, such as settlements in disputed lands.”

A peek into history can reveal these longstanding issues.

The Jewish population in Palestine was only 25,000 until 1882 when the first Jewish mass immigration to Palestine began. It continued until 1903, doubling the Jewish population to almost 50,000, about 10 percent of the Arab population.

The next three decades saw three important developments.

The first was World War I, after which the Palestine Mandate was given to Britain, which earlier had pledged to establish a Jewish homeland. It did so via the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

Second, due to the persecution of Jews throughout Europe and Russia, Jewish immigrants continued to pour in. They bought land from Arabs and established settlements throughout Palestine.

Third, the rapid growth of Jewish settlements, combined with the Balfour Declaration, threatened Arabs who feared their homeland would be taken over. Skirmishes began. Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organization initially founded in 1920 to defend Jewish settlements from Arab attacks, grew bigger and stronger.

In the 1930s, with the rise of German Nazism, Jewish immigration further escalated — and so did the Arabs’ fear. A massive violent Arab revolt during 1936-39 forced the British to rescind the Balfour Declaration. In its place, in a 1939 White Paper, the British recommended establishing an independent Palestine jointly governed by Arabs and Jews, according to their population proportion, imposing significant restrictions on future Jewish immigration.

Jewish settlers, eyeing a homeland, fought back.

While Haganah played tactfully, its two split groups, Irgun and Lehi, reverted to terrorism in the name of freedom. During 1945-46, Haganah allied with Lehi and Irgun to stage coordinated attacks on the British, forcing them to bring the matter to the U.N.

On Nov. 29, 1947, the U.N. approved a convoluted division of British Mandate Palestine, proposing separate Arab and Jewish states in an economic union while keeping Jerusalem under U.N. control. Now was the Arabs’ turn to reject a U.N. proposal. A civil war ensued, which continued until May 15, 1948, when the British Mandate ended and Jews proclaimed the state of Israel.

The next day, armies from five Arab countries invaded Israel but were defeated. Armistices established the borders of Israel, which kept most of the earlier British Mandate Palestine. Egypt kept Gaza, while Jordan annexed East Jerusalem and West Bank.

In 1967, Israel captured these areas back by war. Since then, Israel has built more than 100 settlements on these lands where an estimated 500,000 Jews live. These settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes it, creating a negotiation deadlock. Palestine Authority insists that the building of Jewish settlements on occupied land must stop before resuming direct peace talks. Israel says this cannot be a precondition.

In the absence of any peace negotiations, Israel continues to bombard and bulldoze Gaza to punish terrorist Hamas and continues to expand Jewish settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem to punish the Palestine Authority’s peaceful moves, such as its latest U.N. bid.

Among all this, Palestinians remain without a state and Israel without peace and security.

Israel’s former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, remarked, “The decision to build thousands of housing units as punishment to the Palestinians only punishes Israel (and) only isolates Israel further.”

True. Even the U.S., which claims to be a staunch supporter, has left Israel alone on settlement’s issue. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested an opposite strategy. “It was in Israel’s interest to make generous steps toward Palestinians in the West Bank as a bulwark for Israeli security,” she said.

Perhaps it is time for Israel to try “generosity” as a tactic by revoking its decision on the newly approved Jewish settlement followed by clearing space in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to make room for a viable Palestine homeland.

Granting homeland to longtime stateless Palestinians not only will win the hearts of many Arabs, it also could eliminate motives for terrorist groups like Hamas to recruit for throwing rockets on innocent Israeli civilians. A win-win strategy, indeed!

M. Imran Hayee is a professor and director of graduate studies in the electrical engineering department at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Read original post here: Granting homeland to Palestinians would be win-win strategy

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