Pleased as I am with Ms. Pelosi’s accession to power and gratified as I am by her warm ties to the Jewish community, as reported recently in your newspaper, I am less encouraged by her obeisance to the Israel-right-or-wrong stance of AIPAC.
It is generally acknowledged that the turmoil in the Middle East is today the greatest threat facing world peace, and that the Israel-Palestine conflict is at the heart of this turmoil. Successive administrations have made token gestures toward resolving this problem, all of them defeated by the absolute refusal of Israel to relinquish conquered territory and by the bad faith of the American side, which purports to be an honest broker but which in fact—thanks in large measure to AIPAC—is in fact Israel’s chief advocate (as well as financier and arms supplier).
What is most tragic is the fact that the Israel-Palestine conflict could be ended virtually overnight by an Israeli withdrawal to its 1967 borders and compliance with innumerable UN resolutions demanding that Israel bow to international law on the treatment of refugees. The situation is no longer what it was twenty or ten or even five years ago. Realities have sunk in. Every surrounding Arab nation, including Lebanon and Syria, would today recognize Israel’s existence and exchange ambassadors; Hamas would abandon its absolutist bargaining point; Iran would grudgingly accept the reality of the situation, even if it continued to fulminate. The old Israeli argument of the “existential threat” is simply obsolete. Equally obsolete is its claim on Palestinian (or Syrian) territory for military defense purposes: rockets have long since obviated the significance of “high ground” for artillery emplacements.
We are left with the picture of a country that simply cannot bring itself, regardless of cost, to give up tiny patches of territory once seen as the seeds of a Greater Israel extending from the Mediterranean to the precious water of the Jordan River. That dream has been definitively abandoned. Yet these remaining tiny patches of land are—aside from the cold fact that they belong to Palestine—an absolute impediment to the formation of a coherent Palestinian state. We now see in Israel a country that has—perhaps deliberately—painted itself into a corner by settling hundreds of thousands of colonists on Palestinian land: What Israeli politician could have the courage to bring them home? Who, if not the United States, would pay the billions of dollars needed for their resettlement? These ugly facts of internal Israeli politics—and not an “existential threat” from the outside—are the stumbling-blocks to peace in the Middle East.
And this is where we return to the role of the United States, to Nancy Pelosi. and to my pessimistic view of the future. As long as our government is populated by AIPAC sycophants, as long as we carry water for every corrupt administration in Tel Aviv, as long as we supply cluster bombs to the Israeli air force, as long as we “regret” massacres of women and children in Gaza, as long as we strangle democratically-elected Palestinian governments that refuse to toe Israel’s line, in short: as long as we complacently foster the bloody and tragic status quo in Palestine, nothing will change. The Israelis are patient: forty years have gone by, Israel is prospering thanks to an endless influx of charity from its American friend, perhaps in another five or ten or forty years the Palestinians will have been ground down into compliance. Does Israel’s recalcitrance have worldwide ramifications? Let the Americans take care of them, just as they took care of Iraq and, with a bit of nudging, will hopefully soon take care of Iran!
Nancy Pelosi and a new Democratic congress could exert some influence toward a sane and even-handed American policy for Palestine. The United States alone is in a position to hold Israel’s nose to the grindstone. Sadly, your recent article about her would seem to indicate that nothing is going to change.
George Aid is a Berkeley resident.