COLUMN: At a crossroads, a (scary) time of possibility

Katie Feld

Jenny Newman, Senior Columnist
June 6, 2011
Filed under A Jenny for your thoughts, Outside News

At this time, the United States recognizes 194 independent countries. Very soon, that number may grow by at least one: an autonomous state of Palestine.

Early this month, BBC News reported that the first-ever Palestinian bonds have been sold (tinyurl.com/BPbonds), raising $70 million which will go toward building a tourism center in the West Bank and a new power plant.

“The Palestinian Authority is determined to build the foundations of an independent state,” said Mr. Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.

The PA hopes to declare independence this September. I don’t know if the U.S. will recognize it then, but the time is coming up soon.

The two Palestinian factions – Gaza-run Hamas and West Bank-based Fatah – signed a unity deal for a Palestinian state this month following talks hosted by the new Egyptian government at the end of April. Hamas and Fatah referred to each other as brothers and announced a new period in the struggle for the independence of Palestine (tinyurl.com/BPHamasFatah).

This agreement may force Fayyad, who is adamantly anti-Hamas, to step down from his position – despite the fact that it’s through Mr. Fayyad’s effortsthat the PA has received so much publicity and financial support. The West Bank economy has grown about 9 percent per year for the past two years, according to Bloomberg.com.

Considering Fayyad too ‘pro-West’, Hamas wants a new prime minister (tinyurl.com/BPFayyad). The current frontrunner is Munib al Masari, a U.S. educated businessman who both factions value.

If you’re wondering how Israel feels about all this, the government suspended all tax revenue going to the PA a few days after the factions signed their agreement. That move blocked 70 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s income.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has informed the PA that “the Palestinian Authority has to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas” (tinyurl.com/HamasOrIsrael).

The PA is expected to go ahead and declare independence anyway.

I have two comments about this prospect.  My first message is for the Obama administration. Yes, we get it, you’re under pressure to make peace and all that. But remember that Israel is our ally, and neither Hamas nor Fatah will ever make nice with the United States. For example, let’s look at what Hamas had to say after the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

“We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior,” said Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister.

This charming fellow also mentioned that “we regard [Bin Laden’s killing] as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood” (tinyurl.com/HaniyehBinLaden).

Let me be clear; we are not talking about peace with Ismail Haniyeh. But the PA in the West Bank is hardly on our side either.

In a past column I wrote about the PA’s rather abysmal non-attempts to better its education system, which functions as an anti-Israel propaganda tool. Now that the PA is allied with Hamas, while there is a small chance that the alliance may moderate Hamas, it is far more likely that it will just result in more violence.

My second message is for the Zionist community: Chill. It’s not going to be the end of the world. I highly doubt that an independent Palestine will mean the end of all conflict in Israel. But there is no choice. There is no point being upset over that which we can do nothing about.

I have plenty of questions regarding how the process will happen, and the answers will decide the course of history.

Will the international community formally condemn Palestine if it attacks Israel? Can Israel continue to maintain strong national security?

What will happen to the refugees in other countries who fled the various conflicts in Israel? How will the issue of settlements be resolved?

Will the PA ever standardize its curriculum in a way that doesn’t promote conflict? How should we respond to the loss of the true heartland of historic Israel, Judea and Samaria?

The answer to all these questions is ‘I don’t know.’ Nobody currently does.

That’s scary.

It’s also kind of neat.

Students of Shalhevet and every other Jewish high school, I speak to you now.

We are the future. We’re the ones who will change the way the world works. How this conflict turns out depends a great deal on how we respond to the answers to the above questions.

So together, let us consider what good can come of all this change. But let us also learn from the past. Zionists have a good reason to be wary – pretty much every concession of land Israel has ever made has resulted in more harm directed at Israel.

Still, people who live in settlements are in danger every day and don’t achieve anything by remaining. All they do is fuel the conflict. There have been too many victims of violence on both sides – soldiers and civilians, Arabs and Jews.

In any case, we don’t have a choice about whether or not there will be an independent Palestine – it’s going to happen; the question lies in how we will respond.

And while I say that we should remain wary, if we make the right decisions now, we could see the beginning of peace in our lifetimes.

That, however is a long way off, with a long, uphill battle before us – kind of like climbing Mt. Everest. Except, you know, people have climbed Mt. Everest before.

The journey of a thousand miles has to start somewhere, and staying calm in the face of all these changes would be a very good first step.

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