US and Israel haven't learned their history lessons. Palestinians and Abbas have.
Billions in US aid dollars to individual economies and militaries in the Middle East have not strengthened peace. The success of post-war Europe shows the key to unity is to get citizens of different nations to work together. That hasn't really happened with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.
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Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the Republican chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is withholding $192 million in humanitarian and infrastructure aid to the Palestinians. The funds were previously committed for nongovernmental groups working on state-building and economic development projects, most of which are overseen by USAID. Palestinians working peacefully to build infrastructure are facing layoffs and offices are threatened with closure. This punitive action, too, does nothing to advance the peace process.Skip to next paragraph
While the US and some others may be angry with the Palestinians for pursuing statehood recognition at the UN, it would be wise to pause and understand why Abbas is doing this.
For all intents and purposes, the peace process has gone nowhere for years in spite of the efforts of nations in the "Quartet." Over the decades, movement forward on the peace process has most often taken place only after something shook things up.
The 1990-91 Persian Gulf War led directly to the Madrid Conference in 1991, which led to the Oslo Accords in 1993, which led to the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty. Similarly, the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty was a direct result of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Many have speculated that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s goal in the 1973 confrontation was not to defeat Israel, but only to shake things up by gaining a foothold on the western bank of the Suez Canal.
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Abbas, perhaps remembering these history lessons, apparently came to the conclusion that the status quo needed to be shaken up. To his credit he did not chose a violent option for this action. Abbas’s goal of going to the UN was to peacefully shake things up. History also teaches that such a decision should be not be so easily dismissed.
Rabbi Michael M. Cohen is the author of “Einstein’s Rabbi: A Tale of Science and the Soul” and works for the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
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