Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Israel and Palestine: Where To Go From Here

In the New York Times on Wednesday, January 28, Thomas Friedman places an intriguing op-ed piece about possible ways to rebuild trust and confidence among Israel and those nations that surround our Jewish homeland. Click here to read it.

In the article, written as an imagined letter from Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to President Obama, he suggests that the Saudis push forward with the so-called “Abdullah Peace Plan” that the Saudis suggested six years ago. The King volunteers sufficient funds to pay for physical reconstruction and security needs to maintain order and build trust as borders are decided and weak governments strengthen.

Friedman suggests that the Saudis put their money where their mouth is. He also wants them to develop the chutzpah to use their diplomatic might – if any – for good purposes.

Despite his tongue-in-cheek suggestions, Friedman also underscores a truly possible scenario that envisions nations of the Middle East taking responsibility to govern regional affairs wisely, to accept the nation of Israel into their midst, and to suppress the hegemonic desires of Iran.

What’s missing from Friedman’s analysis? The role of Syria in a regional peace plan, and the role of Israel in helping to create and maintain trust between them and their Palestinian neighbors.

Syria’s name is not even mentioned in Friedman’s piece, yet they will undoubtedly be deeply involved in a future plan. Israel and Syria have to establish their modus vivendi as they apportion the Golan Heights between them and decide upon water rights. Those will be difficult negotiations, to be certain.

It would also be a boon to relations between Israelis and Palestinians if Israel were somehow involved in the physical reconstruction of areas in Gaza that suffered in the recent fighting. Short of supplying funding for Hamas’ blundering, illegal and immoral warfare from within civilian areas (according to Friedman’s proposal, Saudi Arabia would fork over 25 billion dollars – petro dollars, clearly! – to pay for the rebuilding), Israel has construction and other expertise that, if employed with the right security measures, could go far to engender good will on the Palestinian street.

Not only would there be partnerships formed among Israeli and Palestinian builders, but as electronic, commercial and other kinds of infrastructure are laid down, business ties would surely increase, establishing a pattern of cooperation and collaboration that could be a model for the future.

As the economy of Gaza enlarges, so, too, could human alliances of many kinds. This is what truly is needed in that region of the world so tormented by violence and mistrust.

1 comment:

Lorie and Melanie said...

Although I would love to be an optimist, when I read your thoughts about Israelis and Palestinians working side by side as Israel helps to rebuild Gaza, I can't help but see the parallel between that and what the US is doing in Iraq. I'm not sure that Israel has the security forces necessary to ensure the safety of the contractors. I imagine that there would be kidnappings, suicide bombings, and road side bombs-- much like what the US contractors and military forces are facing right now. I'm also not sure that what the US contractors are doing overseas is helping much to restore the trust of the Iraqi people. Just my two cents...