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Why Palestinians Should Not Take the 'Never Again' Pledge Lightly

03/12/2014 05:27 EDT | Updated 05/12/2014 05:59 EDT

In the turmoil of the autumn of the Arab Spring and in the light of the Ukraine Crisis, a relatively unnoticed aspect has been the decline of the confected and orchestrated pandemonium about Israel. A blog that happened onto my screen last week stating that sanctions against Russia raised and further legitimized sanctions against Israel illustrated that the Boycott Israel campaign, which never got much further than the most perfervid officers of the United Church of Canada and a few university campuses, shows how feeble that campaign has become.

In Palestine as in Ukraine, what is needed for any progress is a recognition of relevant history, of the facts on the ground, and a source of geopolitical power or influence adequate to make the official facts conform fairly closely to actual conditions. Russia has an ancient position in Ukraine, governed the country for 200 years, and about 30 per cent of Ukrainians are ethnic Russians, but two thirds are not and seek independence from Russia with varying degrees of insistence. In what, under the Romans and the British Mandate was called Palestine, the British sold the same real estate to two opposed parties with the Balfour Declaration promise in 1917 of a home for the Jews without compromising the rights of the Palestinian Arabs, Christian and Muslim.

Some sort of Russian-sponsored, (i.e, militarily imposed) partition is underway in Crimea, and could conceivably spread to some of the coal-rich areas in ethnic Russia, Eastern Ukraine, which provides some consolation to Russia as what was formerly the crown jewel of the Romanov and Soviet acquisitions, (Ukraine), is shorn of its balky minority and joins the West, under the sponsorship of Germany and Poland. These powers straggled into the West in the shambles following World War II and the Cold War.

Germany had always been uncertain whether it was an eastern or western-facing country until the allied powers moved both the eastern and western borders of Poland 200 miles to the West (confirming the concessions to Stalin of the Nazi-Soviet Pact), and approximately ten million Germans fled westwards ahead of the advancing Red Army, bringing Germany, definitively, when it was reassembled, into the West, where American statesmanship assured its reception as a valued and forgiven ally. With the satisfactory outcome of the Cold War, Germany was reunified, and it was anchored in the West by bringing Poland into the European Union and NATO, and moving the eastern border of the Western World to the Polish-Ukraine frontier. Now it is time to move it again, to the east of Kiev.

In Palestine, it is hard to believe that any sane regional strategist believes that Israel can now be eliminated. It is a successful democracy, with a standard of living now above several members of the European Union. It is a nuclear power with a sophisticated anti-missile defence and no one could doubt that it will reply to any nuclear attack with a massive counter-blow of obliteration, and in the light of modern Jewish history, the firmly repeated pledge "Never again," should not be taken lightly.

However many people the militant Islamist leaders may recruit to convey suicide bombs among the innocent, as the late Ariel Sharon demonstrated when he killed the Hamas leadership after each such incident in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, the leadership is less enthused about sharing that fate prematurely and violently. Bin Laden made the same point, despite his blood-curdling holy war videos, by hiding like an animal for years in Pakistan. There is no alternative to dividing the territory between Israel and Palestine, the entity to which the right of return of the dispersed Palestinians can then be proclaimed.

Throughout Israel's history of 66 years, the Arab claim has been that demographic realities would force the Jews into a minority status and into subjugation or flight. Israel's counter has been the construction of settlements on the finite territory that exists on the West Bank of the Jordan River (a diminutive water course by North American standards, despite its immense celebrity, and the Allenby bridge, almost as famous as the Golden Gate, is just a few pontoons). Israel made it clear in Sinai and Gaza that it is prepared to uproot settlers as part of a real peace.

The outline of a resolution was visible in various discussions sponsored by the Saudis over a decade ago: to make the West Bank wider than it was pre-1967 when Israel was nine miles wide at its narrowest, and make Gaza deeper, and connect the two halves of Palestine without cutting Israel in two. The Palestinians themselves have not had the self-confidence to cease to be a teeming breeding ground of terrorists for the pleasure of the more militant Arab powers, which have used the Palestinian dispersal and the rise of Israel as a means of distracting the Arab masses from the misgovernment most Arab countries have suffered.

The turmoil in Egypt and Syria, as the Muslim Brotherhood, which for many decades had been the giant unmentioned gorilla in the Arab house, had and failed its chance at power, and the Alawite despotism in Damascus has been emasculated, has enhanced Palestinian potential for autonomous policy-making. As long as Iranian hostility to Israel was a compliment to the militant Arabs, it was a reinforcement of the anti-Israel forces, but now that Iran is embroiled in promoting Shiite over Sunni interests in the Muslim world and in a struggle with Saudi Arabia for influence in the region, Iran's relevance to Israeli security is in decline. Turkey's 180 degree turn and foray into Arab influence-peddling has blown up in the demise of Recep Erdogan's presidential ambitions, as he now seeks to liberate his occupation of the premiership from his former enthusiasm for term limits.

In all of these circumstances, as Israel reaches for energy self-sufficiency in off-shore oil and gas (and has begun exporting some to Jordan, hard-pressed by the influx of Syrian refugees), the outlook for the Jewish state is more positive than it has ever been. The ability of its enemies to maintain the pretense that Israel is a moral outcast among nations is now more tenuous, and even risible, than ever. Perseverance, in Churchillian terms, through both "the sudden clash of battle and the long-drawn trials of vigilance," has its rewards.

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