Tuesday, January 17, 2006

US Interference in the Israeli Election Process

An interesting article was posted today in the Jerusalem Post about the US trying to sway the Israeli elections. It notes that the US backs leaders that are willing to make concessions and return land in exchange for peace, often to the detriment of the Israeli people, since the Palestinian goal is not peace but the destruction of the state of Israel.

I think that the author is correct that some of the governments backed by the US have not served the best interest of the Israeli people as concessions have not been coupled with proper security to ensure the success of these concessions. But I’m unwilling to say that the Palestinian goal is still the destruction of the state of Israel, and what’s more, I think the article ignores the fact that the US tries to influence the Palestinian elections as much or more than the Israeli elections.

As I’ve talked about in other posts, there are really at least two distinct groups in the Palestinian community: the Israeli Palestinians, who have been living inside of the state (although sometimes in the occupied territories) since 1967 and the Diaspora Palestinians, who have been living abroad since the 1948 or 1967 wars. While these Diaspora Palestinians often dream of seeing their old homeland restored to a Palestinian state, most Israeli Palestinians I talk to simply want a better quality of life, and are willing to make some compromises to escape the yoke of their oppression.

Yasser Arafat was clearly a Diaspora Palestinian, and his return to the country in the early 1990s does not change that fact. So citing the money that money provided by the international community for the improvement of the Palestinian condition of life has been diverted to terrorist activity is unfair, as this was the practice of Arafat, and there is no proof that present leaders of the Palestinian people would do the same.

What’s more, while I abhor terrorism and have almost been the victim of it a few times while living in Israel, who is to say that the diversion of money to terrorism wasn’t in an effort to improve the Palestinian quality of life. In Palestine, where Israeli closures of the territories and missile strikes are all too common, it is essential for the Palestinian people to negotiate from a position of strength if they are to provide a better life for their people. And as the Palestinians could never compete with Israel with conventional military options, terrorism has been the only available option.

Don’t get me wrong; I do not, in any way, shape or form support terrorism. It is a plague on our time, and the world would be a better place if terrorism could be prevented in total. But for the Palestinians to achieve a Palestinian state, where they govern themselves and are insulated from occupation of the Israeli military machine, they need Israel to respect the state. In that region, power is respected. This is the only power the Palestinians have been able to find over the past 58 years.

It should also be noted that, as much pressure as the US brings to bear on the Israeli elections, they bring more pressure to the Palestinian elections. Look at the weight they’ve thrown behind Mahmoud Abbas. I am a fan of Abbas’ policies and apparent beliefs, but the present situation in Gaza is proof that he will never be the voice of the Palestinian people. Our staunch backing of the candidate over Hamas is a clear indication that we don’t trust Hamas as a partner for peace.

But again, the Palestinians need a leader who can negotiate from a position of strength, just like the Israelis do. At present, this is not Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. I don’t trust Hamas because of their terrorist past, but I am not a Palestinian, so how can I justifiably claim they are not the correct group to have at the negotiating table representing the Palestinian people.

In the end of the day, if you want any hope for a lasting peace, both sides need to choose a leader for themselves, a leader who can negotiate from a position of strength. And the only way to do that is to have elections free from the influence of the United States.

I am an Israeli citizen living in the US, and I consider myself pretty knowledgeable on Israeli events and issues. But I would not vote in an Israeli election today, because I do not live there anymore, and the events taking place inside the country are not experienced first hand by me. Without being there, how can I say what’s best for the Israeli people? And I could never say what leader would be best for the Palestinian people, since I never walked a mile in a Palestinian’s shoes.

If this is the case, how can the US hope to know who will best represent the Israeli or Palestinian people at the negotiating table. Instead, let’s leave both sides to determine who best speaks for them, and who has the best chance of bringing about a resolution that ensures a safe and prosperous future for their people.

Posted by Scottage at 11:30 AM / | |