By Geoffrey Cook, TMO
San Francisco–July 28th–Before your narrator begins his tale, he would like to unequivocally state that he supports the now overwhelmingly Islamic Palestinian (sub-) nationality within their seized State. Your reporter like the grand majority of the people there and most of us support a two-State solution, but time is ticking, and the ball is in Tel Avivâ€™ court. The issue has gained an increasing pungency with the bid of the Palestinians for recognition of their statehood status at the United Nation (U.N.â€™s) headquarters in New York City this coming September.
J Street, who invited your scribe to this event, is pro-Israel with a progressive vision, but at the same time is strongly in favor of a two-State solution. (Of course, our reasoning is different their â€œwhysâ€ rom ours, but they are not so far away from our aspirations that we could not negotiate with them towards a middle ground.) J Street was the sponsor of this evening as part of their national (U.S.)tours targeted at their Jewish-American constituency of (retired) political officials, diplomats, and (that even included four) military generals, who disapprove of their current governmentâ€™s out-of-hand rejection of the (U.S.) Obamaâ€™s Administration proposals to base future negotiations between the two contentious sides over the pre-1967 borders with agreed swaps. In the sponsorâ€™s words: â€œâ€¦increased tensions in the region [which is] undergoing rapid transformation [i.e., the â€˜Arab Springâ€™]â€¦is a critical timeâ€ for Israel, too.
I am urging my colleague in the Southland (thatâ€™s what we call Southern California from the North to balance my reporting with hers dedicated to the Palestinian perspective) whose cause she has so fervently espoused!
The (former) Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Ilan Baruch, resigned from his nationâ€™s Foreign Service early from his post as the Ambassador there. (Formerly, he was Tel Avivâ€™ representative in Manila.) His action was prompted because of his inability to argue his nationâ€™s policies to an international audience with whom his homeland was becoming ever more isolated and looked down upon as a pariah entity.
Ambassador Baruch served in the Israeli Foreign Ministry for more than thirty years. Besides his exalted duties as Israelâ€™s (former) Ambassador to the Philippines and South Africa, he worked in their embassies in London, Copenhagen and Singapore. He, also, led the Bureau for Middle Eastern Economic Affairs and was the Deputy Head of the Peace Process within the Middle East Department and founded and served as first Director of the Palestinian Autonomy Division within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which position he became acquainted and worked with the (now) President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. They bounded as life-long friends. They make regular personal contact over the phone, and Ilan recently visited him at his home (fifteen minutes away!). Such integral relationships are central to resolution of the enmeshed friction between these two neighbors.
Baruck is one of most conspicuous of the high-ranking former members within previous Israeli Administrations who have come forward in opposition to the Netanyahu regimeâ€™s policies â€“ especially in regards to the peace process.
His Excellencyâ€™s presentation, which was largely fielding questions, took part at a Synagogue within this Pacific-rim City.
J Streetsâ€™ Northwestâ€™s Regional Director, Gordon Gladstone, began by stating that 57% of American Jews support the two-State resolution. Strategic opinion holds to Obamaâ€™s proposals to negotiate along the lines of the pre-1967 boundaries with agreed land swaps are defensible (counter to their Prime Minister [PMâ€™s] protests).
Baruch noted that to be an Ambassador did not allow you to express your own opinion within hearing: It is â€œâ€¦a total projectâ€ in and of itself. His rather dramatic public resignation was made as a matter of principle. Therefore, he emphasized that his words at the end of last month in no way represented the positions of his PMâ€™s government. His views are from the opposing side of the Israeli Establishment and their Society, but they represent a good deal of Civil Societyâ€™s unvoiced body political there opining.
The contemporary Hebrew State is more complex than is apparent to its observers in the West.
Baruch unequivocally uttered that â€œI am not with government [now], but have created governmental policy in the past.â€ Unfortunately, the last several Israeli regimes â€œhave been right-wing â€¦[reflections] of their societies [electorates].â€ The present, alas, does represent the will of the people, but often they merely have become e a voice for the Settlers at that.
To a Jewish-American audience, he reiterates that so much of West Jerusalemâ€™s security resides within their relationship with the United States. Your relatorâ€™s audience would be pleased to hear that he believes much of this relationship is eroding away (because of his adminâ€™s mismanagement).
The principle of â€œLand for Peaceâ€ means [succinctly]the end ofâ€¦the Occupationâ€¦with Occupation we cannot achieve peace,â€ but Netanyahu disagrees. Thus, there is no trust by the other side (us) to negotiate.
The Netanyahu reign demands Israel remain as a Jewish State. Also, the Palestinians look upon the West Bank and Gaza together as one (potential) State wherein Tel Aviv perceives them as separate. This could become an issue with the current or similar-minded future Hebrew governments.
In questioning, he fell into the standard Israeli (and American) position that the Gazans were at fault for the token scud attacks upon Israeli soil from the micro-â€œStateâ€™sâ€ territory that led to Israelâ€™s disproportionate reaction of Operation Cast Iron (December 2008-Januay 2009) when in fact it was instituted by non-State actors that Gaza City could not or would not control. This refusal to acknowledge a popular uprising there and blame the State(s) instead (that they had set up as supposed puppets nonetheless) and punish their innocent citizens for the actions of others that their elected governments were not able to contain, must cease if there is ever to be peace. He, then, asserted that the principle of â€œLand for Peaceâ€ cannot work without commitment, (but, conversely, commitment has been so poorly lacking by those series of Tel Avivâ€™ right-wing governments that he mentioned previously above).
It is sheer ideology that is driving Netanyahu. The Prime Minister knows what the right thing to do is, but he does not possess the courage to do it!
The Ambassador believes that (Palestine)Statehood will be vetoed (by the American States, but that is only if it goes directly to the Security Council before the General Assembly [GA]. There are complicated legal questions if the Palestinian bid is accepted by the one and not the other.) There is a long-standing legal differentiation between a â€œdisputedâ€ and an â€œoccupiedâ€ territory that is being argued domestically within Israel herself at the moment.
Baruch pointed out that Kadima, a Centrist/Liberal (Party) within their Knesset (Parliament), towards whom he appears to lean, and who holds the largest block of seats there. Yet they were forced from the present coalition â€“ still, they have the greatest chance of forming a future Israeli government, deems that it is necessary to allow a neighboring State of Palestine to be formed as soon as possible.
In summation, Palestinians â€“ largely Islamic with a vibrant Christian minority therein â€“ have common interest with liberal political elements within Israel herself as well with a majority in the American Jewish community and others over the West.
The American government should be cultivating these elements within the Israeli military and their Civil Society to pressure their Middle Eastern â€œallyâ€ to accept President Barrack Hussein Obamaâ€™s Administrationâ€™s proposals for bi-lateral dialog towards peace. Influential former members of past Tel Aviv governments support our hopes and aspirations for peace in our mutual Abrahamic homeland.
Not all Israelis or Jews are our enemies. We should, subsequently, embrace those whom we can as friends and allies, and ask how we can work together for our common good!