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The Palestinian State

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians will commence on September 2 in Washington, DC under the auspices of the United States.  The aim of these negotiations will be to resolve all final-status issues and bring an end to the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are long odds that the summit will actually meet its goals, but it is interesting to exam what a future Palestinian state would look like and how the Jewish State will be impacted.

Here are my recommendations for the resolution of final-status issues:

1. There Shall Be No Right For Palestinian Refugees To Return To Their Former Homes Within Israel-Proper.

If the Jewish State was to allow all Palestinian “refugees” into its borders after a final settlement it would be committing politicide. Millions and millions of Muslims would flood Israel and forever change its demographic balance. It would no longer be a Jewish nation and that would contradict the whole point of Israel engaging in these negotiations in the first place; which is to secure a Jewish State with defined borders that is democratic and secular.

There is moral justification for the right of return. Claims of ownership within Israel-proper are dubious at best and they can rarely be verified. Additionally, Arabs weren’t the only refugees in 1948 — 800,000 Jews had to flee their homes for fear of their lives, leaving all their invaluable belongings behind. By any logic, if the Palestinians are allowed to return to places within Israel, Jews should be able to go home to their property in the Muslim world. What happened in 1948 wasn’t a displacement of a people, it was a population exchange of Jews and Arabs. And any final settlement must acknowledge this.

The only reason the Palestinians are still refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and throughout the region is because rather than ease their plight, Arabs leaders have preferred to use their cause as a cudgel against Israel . The Jewish State assimilated its immigrants, the Arabs haven’t.

It is only because of pragmatic political concerns that Israel should offer these refugees a compensation package, which should total up to $30 billion, an amount proposed in 2000 during the almost-successful negotiations at Camp David. In return, these Palestinians should renounce the claims they and their children have made on property within Israel-proper.

(above) Maaborot in the early 1950s.

2. All of  Jerusalem shall remain a pat of the Jewish State and all people — Jews, Christians, and Muslims — shall have access to holy sites.

Jerusalem is the center of the Jewish religion and state, and it is the home to the Western Wall, which is the most sacred shrine of Judaism. It also hosts the Mount of Olives, holy to Christians, and the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-most important place of worship in Islam. Under Israel, all three major religions have had access to their holy sites. However, before 1967, when the Jordanians ruled the city’s eastern half, Christians and Jews were denied access to the Mount of Olives and the Western Wall, and the Arabs desecrated Jewish places of worship.

In 1967, after the Six-Day War, the Jewish State took control of all Jerusalem, an event commemorated by the Israeli holiday of Yom Yerushalayim. All were free to pray as they pleased, and the slums of eastern Jerusalem evolved into prosperity. With this history in mind, all of Jerusalem should remain under Israeli sovereignty. With that in mind, Palestinians should be allowed authority over Muslim holy places and they should be permitted to hold their Parliament and base their governmental functions inside the city.

(above) Jews praying at the Western Wall.

3. Israel shall annex settlements that are close to pre-1967 borders and Palestinians will be compensated by land from Israel-proper.

Following the Six-Day War,  Israelis settled in the West Bank, to the east of the pre-1967 borders. Today, over 300,000 Jews live in Judea and Samaria, most of them in neighborhoods miles from the Green Line. These settlements would probably be annexed by Israel in any resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Just as there are many Jews in the West Bank, there is a sizable Arab population within Israel. These Israeli-Arabs constitute a demographic threat to the Jewish State, which is already 25% non-Jewish. For settlements in the West Bank that are close to the Green Line, Israel should exchange land from within Israel-proper, particularly from the north, in Galilee, which have large numbers of Arabs. This land swap would make both Israel and a future Palestinian state as ethnically homogeneous as possible, and thus  maximize the chance for peace

(above) The Galilee, in Northern Israel, which has a large Arab population.


4. The Palestinian state will be demilitarized and Israel will retain a security presence in the Jordan Valley to protect water resources and patrol the international border.

Any Palestinian state has to be demilitarized. Israel cannot have Arab armies a day’s march from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Like Japan after World War II, Palestine should only be allowed to have a small military force, whose mission is solely a defensive one. To ensure Israel’s security, international peace-keeping forces should man the international border between the West Bank and Jordan, inspecting cargo going to and fro Palestine and preventing the spread of weaponry. To maintain its economic prosperity and to procure the natural resources it needs, the Jewish State should be allowed to continue to draw water from the Jordan River, as it faces a chronic shortage of H2O.

(above) The Jordan River, which provides much of Israel's water supply.


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America, Britain, and the Special Relationship

The Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack.

Britain and the United States share the same language, culture, history, and values. Together, we have weathered World Wars I and II, the Cold War, and the conflict in Iraq. The special relationship — official policy since the legendary camaraderie of Churchill and Roosevelt — has been a boon to both nations and has endured British and American governments of all stripes. Yet today, that important tie — the linchpin of US foreign policy — is under fire and it is up to America to shore it up.

Last month, the new Tory-led British government of David Cameron came to power with the help of its junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, and that party’s leader, Nick Clegg. Clegg, who is now deputy prime minister, and whose foreign policy positions stand in stark contrast to Cameron’s, wants to end the special relationship, as stated in a January Daily Telegraph piece, and “repatriate [British] foreign policy.” This rhetoric has caught on among others as well, with Prime Minister Cameron declaring that the UK seeks   “a strong, but not slavish” relationship with the US.

Britain's Premier, David Cameron, (right) and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg (left).

To be sure, Britain certainly has some legitimate gripes. There is a natural resentment in the UK over its place as the junior partner in the Anglo-American relationship, a role it has played since the Suez Crisis of 1956. There is also anger at the United States for having dragged them into an unnecessary war in Iraq, which has cost thousands of British lives and billions in British treasure.

However, these complaints should not translate into the termination of the special relationship. Rather, America should act to salvage this bond by putting the UK on more equal footing with the US, hesitating before it asks our best friend to commit blood and bullion to a war, and re-emphasizing Atlanticism and the trans-Atlantic alliance. It is a tie worth saving for its sentimental worth and practical value. As the two countries march hand-in-hand into the 21st century and confront the challenges of a new age, they will need strong, dependable, and trustworthy friends to rely on and fall back upon.

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The New Iran Sanctions

A vote at the UN Security Council imposing sanctions on Iran.

Yesterday the United Nations’s Security Council levied new sanctions on Iran for its quickly-progressing nuclear program. The sanctions — which were agreed to with Turkey and Brazil voting no and Lebanon abstaining — black-listed some companies that do business with the theocratic regime and are aiding its attempts to make atomic bombs. However, the Security Council’s actions do not go far enough because they do not target all the corporations that help Iran get around international isolation and the resolution fails to take aim at the heart of the Iranian economy; oil and gas exports. This failure is mostly the responsibility of China and, to a lesser extent, Russia, who capitalized on every opportunity to weaken the draft and assented to sanctions that were much less strong than the ones the United States had originally sought.

The Iranian regime also has Brazil and Turkey to thank, which to thumb their nose at the United States and in Turkey’s case, to ingratiate itself with the Muslim world, have not only voted against the sanctions but have tried to strike a horrible deal with the so-called Islamic Republic. This bargain struck last month and sealed by hugs — in a scene resembling the Munich Conference of 1938 — would leave Iran with enough uranium to manufacture one nuclear bomb, with which it could wreak grievous harm on the world. This is unacceptable and was appropriately rejected by yesterday’s Council vote.

Lula of Brazil, Erdogan of Turkey, and Ahmadinejad of Iran hugging each other in May.

That being said, the United States and Europe need to lead by example and go beyond the sanctions approved in the UN. The EU and the US should crack down on American and European companies that engage in behind-the-scenes dealing with the Iranian government and its lackeys and affiliates, America should divest itself of the theocracy’s oil, and European governments should freeze the assets of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is classified as a terrorist organization and is responsible for much of the regime’s nuclear program. Iran must not be allowed to acquire weapons with which it will menace mankind, theocrats with bombs are never safe.

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