Two peoples share the goal of having Palestine as a homeland: the Israelis and the Palestinians. Both peoples have a history of living and reigning in the territory that lies between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
At present the Israeli Government in Jerusalem has a dominant position in the competition to govern Palestine — the Israelis have economic/security control in Israel (obviously), the West Bank, and controls Gaza, a territory with a large Palestinian population.
From the Palestinian perspective, they are resentfully being forced into acceptance of the facts on the ground: Israeli power and money to control commerce and day-to-day travel and jobs and having to accept regular use of Israeli authority to take over more land and water rights.
Central to the Palestinian anger is the use of the settlement program in the Occupied West Bank to dislodge Palestinians from their homes using funds from overseas to encourage Palestinians to sell out. In Gaza, Israeli control of the Mediterranean Sea makes it possible to control trade and interfere with fishing which Gazans see as interference with their basic economic rights.
Nations in the areas around Palestine — Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan — have appealed regularly for a settlement of the Palestinian "problem" using direct negotiations toward pre-agreed goals. So far these efforts have not been successful.
The recent explosion of violence from Gaza — responded to in kind by the Israelis — is a warning to all of us on all sides of this issue. Fortunately, Egypt, the U.S. and the Gulf States were able to craft a cease-fire. But it was clear that both Israel and the Gazans have access to sophisticated weapons and the next crisis may not end without wider use of rockets and perhaps nuclear explosives.
The U.S. has had difficulty addressing this dangerous situation. Mainly the perception in the Near East — and internationally — is that the U.S. Government supports Israel without condition due to media support in the U.S. and the large bloc of pro-Israeli voters and organizations in America.
On the other hand, recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan may have made Americans more wary of being involved in regional conflicts, especially as weapons of mass destruction are more available to nations and groups who oppose what might be seen as U.S. clients violating the interests of oil-producing countries (for example).
In view of the danger of continuing present policies, it is time for the new administration to make a major effort to foster consultation among our friends and partners in the Near East/South Asian region (including Israel) to create a new blueprint for Palestine which is inclusive rather than one-sided. The dangers in not finding a new way seem obvious.
About the author: R.T. (Ted) Curran is a retired foreign service officer who now lives in Frankfort. Curran served in offices in the State Department dealing with the Near East and was posted to Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Morocco from 1959 to 1984.
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