A longtime State Department official thinks he has hit upon the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel “must stop building settlements” and stop “governing people who don’t have full rights,” former State Department envoy Daniel Kurtzer announced at a Rockville synagogue late last month.
There’s just one problem with the Kurtzer solution: Been there, tried that.
Israel stopped building new settlements in the territories back in 1992. Israel stopped governing 98 percent of the Palestinian Arabs in 1995. So, where’s the peace that Kurtzer is promising?
According to Kurtzer, building settlements constitutes “a significant barrier to the peace process.”
Yitzhak Rabin thought so, too — when he was elected prime minister in 1992. So, he enacted a policy of not establishing any new settlements. All of Rabin’s successors continued that policy.
Last year, for the first time in 25 years, the Israeli government announced its intention to create a settlement to house Jews who were expelled from the community of Amona. I don’t see any evidence that this not-yet-existing new settlement is a barrier to peace.
Kurtzer also loftily proclaimed: “You cannot function in today’s world governing people who don’t have full rights. It just doesn’t work.”
Rabin didn’t want to govern the Palestinians, either. So, in 1995, he withdrew Israel’s forces from the cities in Judea-Samaria where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon later withdrew from all of Gaza. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinians came to an end.
Kurtzer served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005. On a number of occasions during that period, he visited the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas. He saw that the last Israeli military governor, Brigadier Gen. Gadi Zohar, was gone. He saw that the Israeli military administration was dismantled long ago.
Kurtzer must have seen that the Palestinians’ schools are run by Palestinian principals and teachers. He must know that the courts have Palestinian judges. He can’t be ignorant of the fact that the streets are policed by the Palestinian police and security forces. He must be aware that when elections are held, the candidates and the voters are all Palestinians.
The only time Israeli troops enter Palestinian-inhabited areas is when they are chasing terrorists. Going into some Palestinian town for an hour or two to catch a bomb-thrower or a sniper hardly constitutes “governing” the Palestinians.
So why is Kurtzer still going from synagogue to synagogue, falsely claiming that Israel “governs” the Palestinians and prevents them from having “full rights”? The only right they lack is the right to import tanks, planes, Iranian “volunteers” or North Korean missiles. I don’t know who in their right mind would demand that they be given that right.
As for Kurtzer’s claim that “you cannot function in today’s world governing people who don’t have full rights. It just doesn’t work,” I can only say that I am astounded by his apparent unfamiliarity with today’s world.
The Scots don’t have national sovereignty, even though many of them want it. Neither do the Welsh in Wales, the Basques in Spain, the Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland, the Chechens in Russian-occupied Chechnya, the Argentines in the Falkland Islands or dozens of other peoples around the world. The amount of self-rule that the Palestinian Authority enjoys is equal to or greater than any of them.
Sorry, Ambassador Kurtzer, but Israel already tried your way and it didn’t work.
Halting the building of new settlements, releasing terrorists, giving the Palestinian Authority near-sovereignty in the areas where the Palestinians live — none of it brought peace.
It dishonors the memory of Prime Minister Rabin to ignore the sacrifices he made and to pretend that Israel still “governs” the Palestinians. It’s time to acknowledge the reality of Palestinian self-rule, admit that it didn’t bring peace, and come up with a new plan that is not anchored in the failed policy of Israel making concession after concession and never getting anything in return.
Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.