In a curious opinion piece in the Dec. 8 edition of the Washington Post, Israel’s President Reuben (Ruvy) Rivlin acknowledges that, at the moment, nothing is happening or can happen, on the “peace” path. He phrases it cleverly: “no currently viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Rivlin is in the United States for an official state visit. Presumably, he wanted Americans to know where he stands on the most significant issue: the Israeli-Arab conflict. Although Rivlin is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, the two men are not, shall we say, simpatico.
But pointing out that Rivlin is not BFFs with Bibi is not to suggest that his approach to dealing with the so-called “peace process” is dramatically different than is Netanyahu’s. However, it may be much easier, particularly for American Democrats, to abide a message coming from Rivlin that they could not tolerate listening to if it came from Netanyahu.
And Rivlin’s suggestions are reasonable and, for the most part, attainable.
He mentions three steps he believes Israel should take: first, it should support the building of the new Palestinian Arab city, Rawabi, the first planned city for Palestinian Arabs. Rawabi, financed by Qatar, is located near Ramallah and is expected to ultimately house around 40,000 people.
Rivlin says that even if there is no Palestinian Arab partner for peace, Rawabi is something Israelis should support, not only or even necessarily because it is good for the Palestinian Arabs, but because, he wrote, it is in Israel’s interest.
It is worth noting that Rawabi’s developer, Palestinian Arab multi-millionaire Bashar al-Masri, required all contractors working on the project to “sign an agreement refusing to use Israeli products originating from the settlements or work in the settlements themselves.”
The second suggestion Rivlin offers is one that has already been proposed and is under consideration: all Israelis should learn Arabic in school. That makes sense for all kinds of important reasons, including ones that are purely beneficial to Israel. Which is not what Rivlin says, but it is nonetheless true.
The third suggestion is also a good one, at least in the abstract, but the possibility of moving forward on this front is laden with many more obstacles.
Not surprisingly, this suggestion has to do with Jerusalem.
Rivlin admonishes both the left and the right wings of the Israeli public for neglecting the infrastructure in the predominantly Palestinian Arab eastern half of Jerusalem. Rivlin criticizes the Israeli right for “internal political differences,” and the Israeli left for supporting a hardline Arab ideology of “political separation.”
Rivlin puts it this way:
Thus, in debating the future, we have neglected to deal with eastern parts of Jerusalem in the present — and thereby literally abandoned the security of Jewish inhabitants and the welfare of Arab ones. Does anyone think that dealing with the sewage, roads, schools and medical centers of eastern Jerusalem can or should wait until the end of the conflict? Is there anyone who thinks the consequences of these economic disparities in the city will stop at genuine or fictitious political borders? At concrete walls or fences? Or as a result of this or that agreement on sovereignty?
Makes sense, until you consider the reality.
It is hard to imagine the willingness of either side to invest financially in the eastern part of Jerusalem given the vandalism and terrorism currently rampant, and the future still unknown.
Rivlin’s suggestion puts one in mind of asking the Parisian government to invest heavily in the high immigration (from Northern Africa and the Middle East) war zones known as the banlieues. It is only going to get worse before it gets better.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus