By Rich Walter
“The prospects for peace will be seriously marred if states outside the region continue to raise territorial proposals and suggestions on subjects that cannot promote peace and security.”
While the above quote could certainly have been uttered in the weeks after the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 in December, it was in fact made by the Israeli Cabinet on Dec. 10, 1969.
The statement came a day after an address by U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers to the Galaxy Conference on Adult Education in Washington. Rogers laid out his vision for peace in the Middle East. The speech would form the basis of the Rogers Plan, an American framework for peace.
Too often, when it comes to Israel and the Middle East, we tend to be myopic. We focus on the immediate, as if every event is happening in a vacuum or for the first time. Zooming out and understanding events in the context of the present reality and history can enable us to shed our polarizing responses and provide a more nuanced understanding.
At the heart of Resolution 2334, no matter your politics, is the concept of settlements. A few weeks ago the Center for Israel Education staff sat with our interns at the Emory University Institute for the Study of Modern Israel to undertake an exercise that illustrates the importance of perspective.
In preparing for a new CIE unit on the June 1967 war, we created a table with topics relating to Israel and how they evolved from 1947 to June 1967 to the present day. One of the elements was settlements.
In coming up with adjectives and nouns to describe the concept of settlements from 1947 to 1949, we used terms like “necessary” and “strategic.” At that moment, after the United Nations’ partition resolution, which called for the creation of separate Arab and Jewish states in Palestine, and in the midst of the 1948 war, the moshavim, kibbutzim and communities that were referred to as settlements were considered essential to Israel’s state-building and security, not an impediment to peace.
For June 1967, we left the box blank, recognizing that the term was about to undertake a historic pivot. However, a quick search of the term in the Jerusalem Post archives for June 1967 reveals that at that time the word was almost exclusively used to describe the communities in Israel’s north that suffered shelling by the Syrians from the Golan.
Finally, in filling out the box on the table for 2017, we used the terms “idealistic,” “representative,” “objectionable,” “necessary” and “reprehensible.” We weren’t injecting personal politics, but trying to reflect the reality and diversity of opinions that settlements engender.
An exercise such as this helps us understand how different aspects of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict evolve over time. Perspective makes us less polarized. Providing this perspective and context is the core of what we do at the Center for Israel Education.
Rich Walter is the associate director for Israel education at the Center for Israel Education (www.israeled.org).