Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Good News: An Exchange

Normally, views advanced in this blog's "Comments"will be left there, but these by "Sagredo" seem worthy of a more conspicuous reply. Sagredo writes:

I like the idea of Europe as a force for liberalism acting on Israel. But Israel as an EU state?

Let us say a two-state solution is implemented, and Israel settles down into a nice Hebrew republic, the Law of Return is repealed or somehow brought into line with European rules, and the EU lets Israel join its club. Having broken its geographic rule for Israel, why should Europe not break its geographic rule and admit the other state?

Now you may say, that could never happen, Palestine is too "Arab," not culturally European the way the Ashkenazim are, and in any case Israel can always veto. But that's not the point. If the European Union is about anything, it's about opening borders. Would Israel ever buy into that in its heart? Or should we pin our hopes on the prosperity of a Palestinian state, that will let so many of its people forget their dreams of return?

I appreciate the chance to clarify matters. Actually,
I see a somewhat different scenario from the one Sagredo is attributing to me.

The key is to think of the EU as creating multiple partnerships for different economic and cultural opportunities, structures which will not look as elegant as a United States of Europe (a preliminary step toward which even the Irish just rejected), but which realize a more deeply elegant vision of global commercial freedom and political integration where possible.

Clearly, the EU's first challenge is to figure out how to create modalities for integrating Turkey. Whatever works for Turkey will inevitably become a model for Israel. Turkey and Israel do not belong in the Arab world, and each has a history braided with European history. Israel already fits even more easily than Turkey into European cultural institutions (sports leagues, university programs, etc.).

Meanwhile, it seems inevitable that Israel, Palestine, and Jordan will work out the terms of a common market and some federal structures for sharing jurisdictions that cannot be split (water, bandwidth, etc.). And the EU should meanwhile advance President Sarkozy's idea of a Mediterranean Union, which Turkey, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan will join together. There is no contradiction in Israel being a part of all three groups. There may be compelling reasons for Israel joining NATO as part of a collective security plan, which would include forces in an "undivided" but shared Jerusalem.

Europe would no doubt view with favor Palestinian goods created with Israelis entering Europe unencumbered by tariffs. Israel will gain connections to Gulf states through Amman, which is booming. Palestine's economy should develop quickly, given the wealth to be created from tourism alone. In any case, Palestinian entrepreneurs (like Israelis removed from settlements and resettled around Jerusalem, for that matter) could do worse that find themselves between Tel-Aviv and Amman. There can be no successful return to Palestine if Palestinian entrepreneurs do not build thousands of real businesses.

Is all of this idle speculation? Perhaps. But not as idle as imagining that any good will come from a fight to the finish. Now that the guns have fallen silent, what if not such speculation will keep them silent?