It’s so confusing … You’ve heard the arguments. All the spin, the ads, the furious blogs and heated discussions about a possible U.N. vote to acclaim an “Independent, Unified Palestinian State.”
What lofty language. Independent. Unified. Words and concepts dear to our hearts.
But would such a state, merely acclaimed into existence by a third party on a September day in 2011, instantly make things better for the Palestinians? I’m not talking about the politicians, protest leaders, or activists from neighboring states who presume to speak for everyone. I’m talking about average Palestinians trying to have a meaningful life. Moms and dads. Teenagers. Old fogies. People who don’t make it into the sound-bites. In their deepest, truest hearts, what do these people long for? And will it matter if their leaders ignore them?
It’s probably absurd, maybe even insulting, for me to tackle this question. I’ve never seen a refugee camp, much less
lived in one. I don’t go through a checkpoint on the way to work. I know a rocket scientist, but actual rockets falling from the sky? No way.
Yet somehow, despite our profound differences, I’m gripped by a sense of commonality with the Palestinian people. Behold. I have sons of an age to wear a uniform. I have grandchildren. They dream of finding good jobs or marriage partners, not becoming martyrs. I must have a counterpart “over there” who sees at least part of the world through our shared lens. Surely that part, the mother-grandmother part, is as meaningful as the falling rockets.
So I try to ignore the spin and answer this question: What if I were in that other woman’s shoes?
I’d want my world to include modern schools and universities, superb medical care, a vibrant, expanding economy and rich cultural opportunities. Most important, all this would exist in an atmosphere of eased tension and the dignity of knowing my children were growing up in their own bona fide state, one recognized as legitimate by the world community.
Unfortunately, this shining future of certainty and order can never be achieved by an outside body waving a magic wand and acclaiming statehood. Such a unilateral action would leave the most important issues of the conflict unresolved and likely to worsen. What about border issues and settlements? Who speaks for the Palestinians, Fatah or Hamas? Would elections be fair and transparent? Is the current Palestinian government legitimate? Abbas’ elected term of office ended in 2009, and Hamas sits in power in Gaza as the result of a violent coup.
Peacemaking is a process, not a proclamation. The myriad details of daily life must be resolved one by one as both states move toward the goal of authentic peace and prosperity. Anything less than this robs the Palestinians of their full potential.
I see a road out of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but it doesn’t pass through the United Nations. No one can do this job but the individuals who will live in the new societies they create, side by side, in two sovereign states for two peoples.
Israel has already put the necessary cards on the table. Israel wants peace. Israel stands ready to give up the core of its ancestral homeland, the historical cradle of the Jewish people, for peace.
The table is set and it’s not too wide to reach across. Imagine this table full of people, face to face, speaking the language of what they have in common. Who knows what they might accomplish?
And the children are waiting.
Vicki Kaufman has lived in Tucson for 40 years and has contributed articles to the Arizona Jewish Post.