Archive for November 21st, 2008|Daily archive page

Palestinians offer peace plan to Israel

The Palestinians don't have a state, but they have a good flag.  That's a good sign.

The Palestinians don't have a state but they already have a good flag. That's a good sign.

There is a positive development in the Arab-Israeli conflict: the Palestinian Authority has published, in Hebrew, a peace proposal in Israel’s four largest daily papers.  It outlines the plan that’s backed by both Saudi Arabia and the Arab League that calls for:

  1. Israel withdraws from entire Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Eastern Jerusalem;
  2. Normalization of relations between Israel and the 57 members of the Arab League, who would “consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended”; and
  3. the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Apparently it was Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s idea to place the ads, which describe what Israeli officials have called a “positive initiative” that need to be “fine tuned and corrected.”.

Like the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, this blog favors a two-state solution and welcomes this development.  This is a serious proposal, and hopefully is being offered and will be taken and seriously. 

Of course the third item, the Palestinian right of return, would significantly change the nature of Israel in the short-term,  making it about 40% Arab, and would have the longer-term effect of there being two Palestinian states, due to demographics changes. However, the plan calls for a “just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem,” which could be accomplished via other means.  For instance, I rather think it’d be well worth it for the United States to put up several billion dollars to compensate the refugees and allow them to get on with their lives in a rebuilding Palestinian state; it’d be much cheaper and safer than an indefinite continuation of the status quo. 

8. The precise shade of blue is not specified.

The Flag of Israel has a hight:width ratio of 11:8. The precise shade of blue is not specified.

There are two major stumbling blocks that need to be removed.  For their part, Israel needs to remove the settlements which have been built in the West Bank.  Just as two Palestinian states wouldn’t qualify as a solution neither would two Israeli states, which is basically what is accomplished with these settlements.  They need to be dismantled, something which can be accomplished fairly easily.  Israel should begin removing these outposts immediately and unilaterally.  That will put the onus on the Palestinians to do their part and will show everyone that Israel is serious about making a Palestinian state possible.

The second major problem going forward is the ability of the Palestinian Authority to end the attacks on Israel.  If they can’t do that, this isn’t going to work; Israel must have security.  Lasting peace will require two states, side by side, and living in peace with each other.  Of course, there will be some radicals on both sides who will reject any possible compromise; some on the Arab side will likely resort to violence.

Reportedly, President-elect Barack Obama finds this Arab proposal to be constructive.  He is also impressed with Benjamin Netanyahu’s “economic peace” plan, which calls for rebuilding the economy and infrastructure of the Palestinian areas as a prelude to a formal peace plan.  If Palestinians had more jobs and were less desperate, they’d be less likely to strap bombs to themselves.

There have been problems with just about all the peace deals offered thus far, and this one from the Arab League is no exception.  However, I think the way forward is becoming pretty clear.  Ultimately, I think there will be two states, based largely on the 1967-borders (with some 1:1 land swaps) and no right of return, but some other sort of compensation to make up for that.  This won’t happen until Israel dismantles, or guarantees it will dismantle, the West Bank settlements and the Palestinians make significant progress in curbing the violence from their side.  I predict this will happen 5-20 years from now.  It’s just a matter of how soon the two sides realize this and make it happen.  More than 42% Palestinians are under 15.  Hopefully they’ll soon realize that violence isn’t going to get them what they want and will reject terrorism and decide that most of what they want with peace and modernization is better than a continuation of the violence.

People know more about American Idol than about America

Since Paula Abdul is not in this picture, most Americans probably have no idea what is going on.

Since Paula Abdul is not in this picture, most Americans probably have no idea what is going on here.

Most Americans—56% to be precise—know that Paula Abdul is a judge on American Idol, but less than half can name the three branches of their government, according to a study administered by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the University of Connecticut.  It also found that only 27% of us could correctly identify what the First Amendment explicitly proscribes—and these were multiple choice questions (20% chance just by guessing). 

You can take the 33-question quiz for yourself here.  Hopefully all readers of this blog get the 7th question correct.

High school graduates averaged 44% correct; college graduates did only slightly better, 57%—getting one more question right for each year of higher education.  The quiz was given to 2000 Americans this past spring and only 29% received what would be a passing mark on it.  Amazingly, elected officials actually scored lower than the general public.

Politicians … scored five points lower than the Average Joe, a performance that former Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok labeled “abysmal and alarming.”
 
— Seventy-nine (79) percent of elected officeholders did not know that the Bill of Rights expressly forbids the government establishing an official religion for the U.S.
 
— A large number (43 percent) of politicians did not know what the Electoral College does.
 
Only 32 percent of politicians can actually define what the free-enterprise system is – even though many of them may have campaigned for office pledging to defend it.

I’m guessing that most of those politicians were local officials and not national figures, though I could be wrong.  Anyway, why should we expect our officials to know what they’re doing when we don’t?  You get the government you deserve.

Further information on the study is available at http://www.americancivicliteracy.org