In his latest NY Times column, Nicholas D. Kristof asks, “Is Israel Its Own Worst Enemy?” His prediction (more perhaps than a prescription) is that Palestinians will pursue a strategy of non-violent protest and that in the absence of an agreement to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, they will demand that Israel give them the right to vote in Israel.
This would challenge Israel’s raison d’etre as a sovereign homeland and a safe haven for a historically persecuted people. Moreover, as Gershom Gorenberg argues, this would also move the conflict from outside of Israel’s current borders to within them, without resolving the problem. One need only consider the fact that the Palestinians themselves are badly divided between hardcore anti-Semites in Hamas and the more moderate Fatah to get a sense of the complications. But Kristof — a non-Jewish friend of Israel — only states what seems logical on the surface:
…. if Israel continues its occupation, then Israel should give the vote in Israeli elections to all Palestinians in the areas it controls.
If Jews in the West Bank can vote, then Palestinians there should be able to as well. That’s what democracy means: people have the right to vote on the government that controls their lives.
This is more from his column, which can be read in its entirety online:
For decades, Palestinian leaders sometimes seemed to be their own people’s worst enemies.
Palestinian radicals antagonized the West, and, when militant leaders turned to hijackings and rockets, they undermined the Palestinian cause around the world. They empowered Israeli settlers and hard-liners, while eviscerating Israeli doves.
…. Now it is Israel that is endangered most by its leaders and maximalist stance. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is isolating his country, and, to be blunt, his hard line on settlements seems like a national suicide policy.
Nothing is more corrosive than Israel’s growth of settlements because they erode hope of a peace agreement in the future. Mr. Netanyahu’s latest misstep came after the Obama administration humiliated itself by making a full-court diplomatic press to block Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. …
With that diplomatic fight at the United Nations under way, Israel last week announced plans for 1,100 new housing units in a part of Jerusalem outside its pre-1967 borders. Instead of showing appreciation to President Obama, Mr. Netanyahu thumbed him in the eye.
…. Granted, Mr. Netanyahu is far from the only obstacle to peace. The Palestinians are divided, with Hamas controlling Gaza. And Hamas not only represses its own people but also managed to devastate the peace movement in Israel. That’s the saddest thing about the Middle East: hard-liners like Hamas empower hard-liners like Mr. Netanyahu. …
While I applaud Kristof for this column (and admire him in general), the issue is complex enough that the writer of this printed letter to the editor disagreeing with Kristof is also correct:
“… Israel’s worst enemy is a world that blames it for impeding a peace process when its leader has offered to sit down with the Palestinians’ leader immediately, anywhere, anytime, and has been repeatedly rebuffed.
“Israel’s worst enemy is a world that fails to see that settlements are only one of several issues that must be addressed in bilateral negotiations between the parties.
“Israel’s worst enemy is a world that fails to see the dire implications of Palestinian leaders partnering with an unrepentant Hamas, or debating whether Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state.
“Israel’s worst enemy is a world where both its allies and its foes hold it to an impossibly high standard, where its every action is scrutinized in a pitiless, often hostile vacuum, irrespective of context or provocation.”