Surprise & No Surprise
By Richard Friedman,
BJF Executive Director
Two events occurred recently in connection with the United Nations. One was surprising, the other not at all.
Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, was elected to a high-ranking UN slot. This was surprising, given the UN’s longstanding and anti-Semitic hostility toward the Jewish state.
What was not surprising was Palestinian official Hanan Ashwari’s negative “blame Israel for our woes” reaction. The Palestinians, who ever since Israel’s rebirth as a modern state in 1948 have rejected Israel’s efforts at accommodation and reconciliation, continue to prefer conflict and denial of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state over their best interests.
Among other things, Ashwari, according to a Times Of Israel report, blasted Israel for “its system of apartheid and colonialism.” Presumably she is referring to Israel’s presence in the disputed West Bank, also known by its biblical name Judea and Samara, and Israel’s presence there since 1967.
Fifty years ago during the June 1967 Six Day War, after being warned by the Israelis not to attack, Jordan, which controlled the West Bank, ignored the warning and chose to attack. The Jordanians lost, Israel gained control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Jordan also controlled. Israel, hoping to finally reach a peace agreement with Jordan (which it has attained since then) and the other Arab states, offered to enter into negotiations, an offer that was rejected.
With the door to negotiation and reconciliation slammed in its face, Israel began building Jewish communities in these areas. Among Israel’s goals were to enhance security, enlarge its tiny sliver of a country to protect against future aggression, and, for many, to fulfill the dream of Jews living in all parts of the biblical Jewish homeland. Since then, as the Palestinians have rejected a series of compromises put forth by the Israelis, the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria has grown.
As I heard clearly on a day long visit other Jewish Federation representatives and I made to the West Bank recently to meet with some Palestinian leaders and young people, they too have adopted the bullet points that Ashwari used — claims that Israel practices “colonialism” and “apartheid.” The reality is that these are flimsy, debunkable claims that have gotten the Palestinians nothing other than some international sympathy that has had no effect on Israel (witness Israel’s shift to the right politically).
Good for Israel that a deserving door may have opened at the UN. Moreover, these past 50 years have seen Israel grow and prosper in ways that none of us or even its adversaries could have imagined. Yes, Israel’s current arrangement in the West Bank is not ideal and it does cause discomfort among some Israelis and friends of Israel as well. Yet, any change in the status quo and a partial or full Israeli withdrawal would have to be weighed against Israel’s ongoing and legitimate security concerns.
The 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, commemorated this week, also is a time to weep for the Palestinians. The failure of their leaders to compromise, choosing instead to opt for a strategy toward Israel based on violence, rejection and incitement, has frittered away the well-being of their people. And be dubious of leaders such as Hanan Ashwari, who for decades has been one of the Palestinians’ most prominent finger-pointers.