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Can Water Bring Peace?

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Not sure. But it can certainly bring hope. I know this first hand, as someone who was born in a kibbutz and worked, growing up, in the fields, the orchards, and the fishing-ponds. Back then the kibbutz was largely an agricultural endeavor, not as today mostly industrial, electronic high-tech, or a bed and breakfast kind of a place. But what about peace, you ask?

Let’s find out together. First though, a couple of personal stories to illustrate my point. Back in the late seventies and the early eighties, I did my reserve duty in the Israeli Army in the Golan Heights a few times. On one of these occasions, my company oversaw the southern part of the border, near and around Hamat Gader, where the borders of Israel, Syria, and Jordan meet. As an officer, one of my duties was to drive down the slope with a couple of soldiers for protection, and meet a similar Jordanian Army delegation at the break of dawn, at a low, narrow point where there was an easy access to the Yarmouke River, flowing down the mountains and hills toward the Jordan River and valley.

That was the border between our enemy states at the time, before peace—you see, it’s possible—had been established between Israel and Jordan. We would exchange some morning pleasantries first, and then proceed directly to the business at hand. It involved an easily maneuvered wooden shaft, a small handmade dam of sorts that, when switched one way, diverted the flow of the river toward the Jordanian side. We will meet again at dusk, and would simply reverse the process, allowing the water to flow freely into the Israeli side, down to the Jordan River and all the thirsty fields, orchards, and fishing ponds of the kibbutzim. We would bid goodnight to each other, even exchange some fruits and such. Just as in the mornings, we would sometimes drink black coffee together.

Simple as that. And here the kicker, my friends—which, in all honesty, I never thought of before writing this piece—maybe this simple operation, concerning the sharing of water resources between us Israelis and Jordanians (I believe the Jordanians had their own agreement with the Syrians, not sure though), did help in bringing peace between our two nations later in the mid-nineties. One can certainly hope that that indeed was the case. Which, though some years had passed since then, brings me to my second story.

This one happened as recent as last December, when I was visiting Israel. My brother was driving me to the Jezreel Valley to visit friends, family, and old places. And our kibbutz, Heftziba, of course. As we were getting closer, down on the slope of Mount Gilboa there is a favorite spot, a national park of Biblical significance (where the Prophet Gideon selected his warriors), called The Well, or Spring of Harod. A beautiful spot (see above picture), where the fresh, cool water streams from a cave in the mountain, and falls into a small lake. Plenty of memories I have flowing directly at me from this place. Anyhow, I suggested to my brother that we’ll make a stop there, and he surprised me by saying that unfortunately, it’s totally dry now. What happened, I asked in alarm. The Palestinians, he said, blocked the flow of the stream and diverted it elsewhere.

Which comes to show the chasm that still exists between Israelis and Palestinians, and brings us to the here and now. As the above first story about Israel and Jordan demonstrates, one can only hope for a similar outcome with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well. As it happened, just last week there was major announcement about a joint effort and agreement between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, regarding water issues, and endeavor titled the “Red-Sea Dead-Sea Project.” I’ll let the NY Times brief you on that, as reported there on July 13th: “That project… will take water from the Red Sea, near Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat, and use gravity to carry the water 137 miles via the kingdom of Jordan to the southern part of the Dead Sea, adjacent to Israel’s Arava desert. There it will be desalinated, with the brine deposited in the shrinking Dead Sea and the fresh water transferred into Israel for still-to-be-built desert farms. In exchange, a water pipeline will be built from Israel into Jordan’s capital, Amman, and Israel will augment the already significant amount of water it provides to the Palestinians in the West Bank, particularly in the Hebron area.”

Quite the project, don’t you think? What’s more, the report in the Times continued, “The strategic genius of the plan is that it weaves vital economic interests of these sometimes-antagonists together. Even should Jordan or the West Bank someday fall to radical rejectionists, it would be nearly impossible for those leaders to entirely break the water ties established here without creating substantial hardship for their populations.”

Wow, ain’t that something? It makes one think—especially now, as the fires of war again threaten to erupt in Jerusalem, the West Bank and elsewhere—that there’s hope after all. That water, treated the right way, pouring in the right direction, supplying in the right amount to all parties, can not only extinguish the old fire of hatred and hostility, but can give bloom to a new peace. Make cooler heads prevail. It runs deep, water, you see. After all, this is how King David captured Jerusalem in the first place, through the water shaft, or tunnel. It is hard to believe, considering all the animosity going around, but survival in that ancient, dry land, can only be achieved with the help of water, which necessitates cooperation. Let’s hope it brings peace, too—and sooner, rather than later.

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One-State Solution: Options One & Two

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On the day Prime Minister Netanyahu met President Trump at the White House – a day we might consider from now on as the ‘official’ day the two-state Solution has died, even though others (myself included, here in this blog and in a talk I gave more than four years ago) declared it dead already – the most significant, important words regarding a solution to the conflict were not heard at that ‘strange’ press conference at the White House, or thereafter in commentary on television and radio news programs, and not read in the many articles by fine observers in the papers online and in print, but those I’ve read that day in the NY Times Opinion Pages from someone I never heard of before. It was titled, “A Settler’s View of Israel’s Future,” and it was written by Yishai Fleisher, “the international spokesman of the Jewish community of Hebron.”

Until now, I wasn’t aware of such an ‘official’ spokesman, and such a position for that community. And yet this article, and its five options that apparently are being proposed and discussed in Israel as a one-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, are worth digesting, discussing, and analyzing. Which I intend on doing, since I believe they carry (unfortunately so) more probability of materializing than the two-state solution, as well as other solutions being mentioned. In this respect, just as the settlers’ movement kept to its mission undeterred for almost fifty years, and has won the day, so are these proposals more likely to become a reality as “facts on the ground,” sooner or later.

Before I lay it out for you, however, I must alert you to the fact that two common-denominators unite all these proposals (and others that I’ve heard of, and may discuss here in the future), in regard to the conflict. One: They all propose the de facto annexation of the West Bank by Israel, as indeed the Israeli President Rivlin has suggested lately; if not all of it than most of it. Second: All the proposals in unison refuse to take into consideration the just aspirations of the Palestinian people for an entity, capital and state of their own. In this respect at least, they are all doom to failure – in the long run more than in the short run – even though some elements in them are surprisingly doable. And might even tried by Israel with the help of the new regime in Washington.

Here then is the first proposal, as written in that Times article: “The first option, proposed by former members of Israel’s Parliament Aryeh Eldad and Benny Alon, is known as “Jordan is Palestine,” a fair name given that Jordan’s population is generally reckoned to be majority Palestinian. Under their plan, Israel would assert Israeli law in Judea and Samaria while Arabs living there would have Israeli residency and Jordanian citizenship. Those Arabs would exercise their democratic rights in Jordan, but live as expats with civil rights in Israel.”

Now admittedly, I was taken aback by this proposal. I’ve heard many times before of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Meir Kahane’s and their followers, proposing to uproot all the Arab/Palestinian people from the West Bank – i.e. Judea and Samaria – and transfer them to Jordan, or even further beyond. Basically, they are the same people, those followers assert, with many families living on the east side of the Jordan River, and others living on the west side. (P.S.: As someone who went to battle against PLO forces behind the border in Jordan, I have a particular point-of-view on this. After all, following that battle, Jordan completed the job the Israeli army had begun in what’s known as ‘Black September,’ and threw the Palestinian fighters out of Jordan). This proposal assumes that first, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, its king and people, would agree to it; and second, that the Palestinians would agree. Now, while I find this outcome to be very unlikely – especially on the Palestinian side – I can see the rationale behind this proposal, which solidify Israel’s control over the whole area on the one hand, and supposedly taking care of the problematic ‘apartheid’ issue on the other. Crazy as it may sound – I’ve heard crazier things in the past – I don’t think it should be discarded out of hand for being too crazy as to not have at least an outside shot of becoming a reality one day.

Here then is the second alternative: “Suggested by Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, (it) proposes annexation of only Area C — the territory in the West Bank as defined by the Oslo Accords (about 60 percent by area), where a majority of the 400,000 settlers live — while offering Israeli citizenship to the relatively few Arabs there (about 200,000. H.D.). But Arabs living in Areas A and B — the main Palestinian population centers — would have self-rule.” In other words: not citizenship.

I’ve heard of this proposal before, of course, and in more details even, as Mr. Bennett has made no secret of it lately. In reality, meaning taking into account ‘facts on the ground’ as they are currently existing in the West Bank, this is the most feasible, if not peaceable solution to the conflict. De facto, it’s actually more or less in existence already. It will make Israeli citizens of the Palestinians living in Area C., and the rest will have their limited autonomy (or a “state-minus” as PM Netanyahu had put it recently). It’s a partial solution of course, if that. But when considering where the political winds are blowing in Israel – news flash: right, very right – it has more probability of becoming a reality than any other proposal.

I need to restress this, though: None of the proposals – these two above and the other three, maybe even more, which I will discuss in my next post – deals with the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own; sidestepping the fact the UN and other countries around the globe had already passed resolutions recognizing Palestine as a state in one form or another; and disregarding completely the fact that all these entities and countries – including, until now, U.S.A. – regard the Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal under international law. Stay tune, therefore, as more is to come next month.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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