Three days after President Obama's inauguration in January 2009, I crawled out on a thin limb and predicted that there would be peace in the Mideast before the end of Obama's second term.
On this, my last solemn before the summer hiatus, the limb has gotten thinner. But I dare to repeat my prediction. Obama will be reelected next year and there will be peace before the end of his second term.
I base this double prediction on two facts.
The Republicans are floundering around searching for an appealing candidate and are apparently stuck with Sarah Palin. Neither she nor any of the other potential Republican candidates stand a chance against the great Democratic orator.
Likewise the status quo Israel government of Prime Minister Netanyahu is floundering around misrepresenting Obama's dictum: Make peace based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps and ignore the questions of Jerusalem and Arab refugees until a Palestine state with fixed borders is recognized.
This is too simple, too out of the box, for many of the so-called Mideast experts. Alan Dershowitz found a "flaw in Obama's thinking" in a long article about Jerusalem. Obama's flaw was that he was ignoring Jerusalem.
Two States With Unaccepted Capitals
Is it conceivable for the Palestine State with its capital in East Jerusalem to exist while East Jerusalem is in the hands of a foreign power? Why not? West Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for over 60 years without the official recognition by a single important country. An American boy, who was born in Jerusalem, has brought suit in the Supreme Court to order the State Department to list his place of birth in his passport as Israel.
For over 60 years Israel's leading ministries have maintained offices in Tel Aviv to transact government business and to meet with foreign embassies, all of whom officially boycott Israel's capital. Likewise it is possible for a Palestine State, which has declared its capital in East Jerusalem, to do its business in neighboring Ramallah. All the while, it will be the Palestine State negotiating the fate of Jerusalem with the Jewish State and the world powers. It may take another 60 years.
Joe Klein of Time Magazine is not numbered among the experts. So he deals with facts. In the June 6 issue of Time, Klein publishes a map prepared by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute of Near East Policy which shows plausible swaps of territory between Israel and the potential Palestine State.
The map shows that most of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank are in the vicinity of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Their annexation to Israel would not be overly difficult. There is one exception: the city of Ariel. On the map it resembles a thorn pushed deep into the body of the West Bank.
In his address last month to Congress, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised deep sacrifices for peace but he was no more specific than all other Israeli prime and foreign Ministers who have repeated this promise since I heard Abba Eban ring the rafters of the United Nations by shouting this promise forty odd years ago.
An Israeli deep, deep sacrifice would be to give up the city of Ariel to make possible Obama's vision of a "viable Palestine State."
The Arab League will sponsor a resolution at the fall session of the UN's General Assembly to recognize the West Bank and Gaza as a Palestine State. Washington will oppose it but getting a two-thirds majority will be easy. The Herculean efforts by Jews to secure a two-thirds majority for the 1947 partition resolution on which Israel was founded won't be necessary.
As the besieged Jewish community in Israel discovered in 1947, the General Assembly has no power to implement its resolutions. Power rests with the Security Council where Washington has veto power.
But the General Assembly's resolution for a Palestine State will have a "tsunami" effect, to quote Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. I will discuss it in detail in my next column after the summer hiatus.
Meanwhile the occupation is entering its 45th year and the depredations and vandalism of Jewish settlers against their Palestinian neighbors continues.
The Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT), an American pacifist organization based in Chicago, has been sending teams to Hebron and to At-Tawani in the hills south of Hebron. The CPT reports on three night-time forays in May when groves of olive trees and crops belonging to local Palestinians were destroyed.
On the morning of May 12 the At-Tawani villagers discovered that during the night unknown perpetrators had destroyed or damaged ten ancient olive trees in the valley below the village. The grove belongs to and provides sustenance to an At-Tawani family. While the vandals are unknown, reports CPT, all signs point to the Jewish settlers in Havat Ma'on on the hilltop across the valley from At-Tawani.
Carol Tyx of the CPT delegation in At-Tawani heartens us with her description of a "Tree Healing Party" organized by the At-Tawani villagers.
"Scrambling down the hillside," she writes, "some of the boys carried hoes, the women swung buckets. One boy waved a Palestinian flag."
Arriving at the scene of the carnage, the men and boys used hoes to pack earth around the stumps of cut down trees. The women lifted the cover of a cistern and drew water in their buckets.
As the woman water the wounded trees, two army jeeps, then three and four appear. A member of the pacifist CPT stations himself between the boys and the watching soldiers to prevent violence.
My next column will be on August 31. Until then I will keep before my eyes Obama's vision of a viable Palestine State and a secure Jewish State.