The following Op-Ed is by Israel’s Consul General to the Southwest Meir Shlomo. It was first published in today’s Houston Chronicle:
Critics of Israel’s Palestinian policies ‘just don’t get it’
By Consul General Meir Shlomo
Some time ago I heard a comparison by a native Texan who told me that Texas and Israel are alike in that we are both surrounded by people who “just don’t get it.”
What is it that they don’t get?
Here are a few simple unvarnished truisms about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and what better place to tell them than Texas?
The conflict between Israel and the Arab world, and part of the Muslim world, is first and foremost about the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to have a Jewish state in the land of Israel. The rest, including the territorial aspect, is secondary at best.
We have no territorial dispute with Iran, and yet every Monday and Friday its leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calls for the annihilation of the state of Israel from the face of the Earth. Moreover, Iran is pressing ahead with its nuclear program, which is designed to give him the necessary tools for his vision.
We have no territorial dispute with Lebanon. The border is marked by the United Nations itself, to the last inch, and still Hezbollah is seeking nothing short of the destruction of Israel.
Still, many say that all these countries are seeking the destruction of Israel in support of the Palestinians. Wrong again. The proof? Even during the Oslo process, when it looked like we were going to achieve a final peace accord with the Palestinians, these countries kept instigating Israel, and even threatened the Palestinian leadership at the time.
The Palestinians also refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. True, with them there is a territorial dispute. Here we come to another truism: the settlements. Are they the reason for the conflict? If so, surely removing all of them would solve the conflict. That is the flawed logic of Israel bashers who insist on disregarding an uncontested fact of history:
The first settlement was established after 1967; however, the conflict started long before, at least in 1948, and persisted for 19 years with the absence of any settlements whatsoever.
So if it is not the settlements, why not use the 1967 line as the basis for a solution? Let’s put this one to bed right away. To see Israel before 1967 is to understand how unbelievably small and vulnerable it was. Imagine that two-thirds of the entire population of Texas, and all the industry and economy of Texas, were concentrated in Houston. Now imagine that you live in the Galleria area. On your border, which is as close as the Astrodome, your opponents can gather an exceedingly large army. Is that a formula for peace or a war waiting to happen?
The recent Arab Spring shook the whole Middle East. From Afghanistan to North Africa, the Middle East is going through an earthquake and tectonic shifts of change — none of that has anything to do with Israel.
Young and old, people are marching in squares and being killed by the hundreds in the streets of Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. You don’t hear them chanting slogans against Israel or the U.S. They march because they want what they really need – freedom. They are killed not because of Israel, but because their own rulers want to deny them freedom.
This political earthquake, completely unrelated to Israel, proves another truism: The core of instability in the Middle East is the lack of democracy and backwardness caused by the lack of democracy, not the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
I just came back from Washington, D.C., where I heard my prime minister deliver a historic speech. Benjamin Netanyahu went on record at the U.S. Congress and said that Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinians for a state that will be “viable, independent, and prosperous.”
Where is the partner who will finally “get it”?