Friday, September 03, 2010
TIME Magazine is running the following cover this week:
A reader might make a reasonable inference from the text, "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace," that Israelis are warmongers, but the good news is that the article (abridged, preview version at link) is nowhere near that offensive. The theme of Karl Vick's piece is that Israelis have very low expectations of the success of any peace process, and that they assume the status quo will remain, and that Israelis have adapted to that reality.
Setting aside for the moment whether Vick is accurate in his assessment, I think it is worth noting that even in its greatly diminished form, the "peace wing" of Israeli politics -- perhaps at its zenith in the 1990s -- is much larger in absolute and percentage terms today that any such peace wing of Hamas or Fatah. Wait, did I just say "peace wing of Hamas?" Is that like saying, "Yankees fans who also root for the Red Sox?" Israelis may have come to terms with the current stalemate, but most would welcome peace, provided that it is on terms that include recognition of state's right to exist, and its safety and security.
As I see it, neither of the two principal parties need a peace agreement. They only need to argue that they made a credible effort.
The Israeli's know what the Palestinians think of them. That would be, about 75% of the Palestinians and about 95% of the young Palestinians, think Israel has no right to exist and will eventually be driven from the land it occupies. And their patrons stoke those fires.
For now it is a stalemate. Demographics tend to favor the Palestinians and even the Israeli Arabs who are better bunny rabbits than the Israeli's are.
As long as the PA is propped up financially by well meaning Europeans, Europeans who are afraid of their own growing Muslim populations, the Iranians, the Syrians, and increasingly the Turks and Saudi's, they have no incentive whatsoever to narrow their sights to a two state solution. Only when they face the imperative to stand on their own feet economically will a two (or three) state solution be possible. Those that prop them up either realize to their satisfaction that their efforts make a two state solution impossible, or fail to realize that their efforts to achieve a two state solution have an effect contrary to their aims.
A further irony is that the closer the parties get to an agreement the less likely will be the chances of achieving it. That is because, of course, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran will create whatever mayhem is necessary to destroy the talks if they show any chance of success.
So I'd say the most likely outcome of the talks is failure of the talks and a continuation of the status quo until such a time as the US finds its cojones again.
A possible outcome of the talks would be war between Israel, Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran.
A (really big) long shot outcome of the talks is a Palestinian state in the West Bank with a capital in the Arab section of Jerusalem. It's the closest I can come to imagining some kind of Palestinian state coming out of this and it just seems for all practical purposes, impossible.
I would have a hard time placing odds on which is less likely - a Yankee fan rooting for the Sox or peace between Israel and its (internal and external) neighbors. Both seem impossible.
The Israelis that I know (a self selecting group, I am sure) would love peace and could find a reasonable compromise if their right to exist would be affirmed, and I imagine that there is a decent percentage of the Arab population in Israel and elsewhere who would go along with it also.
But we never really can get to that conversation, do we? Too many guns at the ready. Survival mode.
Why is the US responsible for the peace in the Middle east? The USA was founded on concepts of freedom of religion and separation of church and state. There are no license fees or royalty payments required to apply those concepts anywhere in the world. But in the middle east people have been killing each other over religious and ethnic differences for thousands of years. They could choose to reorganize along the concepts of freedom of religion and separation of church and state. Or they can keep fighting.
I support a policy for the US which reduces payment to Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians to $0.05 per year. The idea that we need to pay both sides to play nice makes me want to puke. If they cannot agree among themselves to peacefully coexist then by all means fight! And to Egypt and Palestine I say, please put all jihads up front. I know those boys are fighters.
Here's how I see it.
Peace would require and imperfect consensus amongst Israelis and Palestinians that the result I suggest is one both sides ought to regard gratefully. The Israelis must realize that from 1896 until the present time, however bravely they've fought and however hard they've worked, their existence is a gift from the "Western Alliance" for want of an actual term that applies to the shifting dynamic of the West (e.g., Japan and Australian now are part of that Alliance). The Balfour Declaration and the recognition of Israel in 1948 were very generous toward them. The Palestinians must realize that they were defeated in battle by Israel and that Israel had Western Alliance support is irrelevant.
Now: Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank in their entirety, no Jewish settlements at all, go to the Palestinians; the rest to the Israelis.
There will still be bloodshed, extremists on whichever side; but with this result I would regard both sides as having done the right thing. Then, each side can respond to individual incidences with escalating retaliation over the next few generations until the hostilities peeter out.
Or a UN World Heritage Site composed of Greater Israel called "The Holy Land."
Israel will never win over the USA if they keep building settlements and the reasoning that they won the war and can do what they want is not persuasive to the USA. If Israel is erradicated this will be the cause of their downfall - they abused the USA's generosity.
Good movie: Don't Mess with the Zohan. Adam Sandler. He is fair to both sides and it is a very funny take on the conflict and New York City life.
In this context "peace" means a treaty of some sort, with some concessions made by the Jewish Israelis. But the current Palestinian mindset won't honor any treaty. Rightly or wrongly they want to turn back the clock to pre-1948.
This is very different from the treaty brokered by Jimmy Carter. Egypt had little to gain from a protracted struggle -- Egypt was ready to move on.
There's no good answer to the Palestinian problem except for both sides to ratchet down provaction and to develop good back-channel communication. High profile summits aren't likely to help and can backfire. Am I wrong?
There is one LITTLE problem. Abbas represents Fatah not Hamas. Hamas controls Gaza and Fatah has a tenuous hold on the West Bank. Abbas was supposed to face reelection two years ago, but has had his term extended twice.
Without Hamas at the table, and they aren't coming, nothing can be accomplished except more unilateral Israeli concessions.
"Perhaps Hamas would no longer exist if Israel cared enough about peace."
I guess you never read the Hamas charter. It calls for the annihilation of Jews - not settlers, not Zionists, not Israelis but Jews. By the way, what is your evidence that the other side wants peace more than Israel? There is overwhelming historical evidence that the opposite is true.
is "Hamas Peace Wing" as much of an oxymoron as "Fiscally Responsible Democrat Senator"?
Depends on how you look at it. One might consider the Hamas approach to peace similar to Tacitus: “where they make a desert, they call it peace.” We are talking of intent here, not of capabilities, at this stage. When Iran gets the bomb, capabilities will be different.
Sirius: Perhaps Hamas would no longer exist if Israel cared enough about peace.
Short answer to “...If Israel cared enough about peace.” Didn't have too much success with Yasir Arafat, either. My reply is courtesy of Golda Meir, who said, “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” They still celebrate and honor suicide bombers, last I looked. Just haven’t been as successful as they would have liked.
Long answer, from the Hamas Charter:
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it……
The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?....
There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors….
The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying. ..
Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:
"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).
“If Israel cared enough about peace.” Don't think so.
Sirius: Perhaps Hamas would no longer exist if Israel cared enough about peace.
Short answer: Israel didn't have too much success with Yasir Arafat, either. Remember what Golda Meir said, “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” Palis still celebrate and honor suicide bombers, last I looked. Just haven’t been as successful as they would have liked.
I am reminded of the old saying that if Israel disarmed today, it would be invaded and obliterated tomorrow. If the Palestinians disarmed, there would be a two-state solution.
To all of you who were kind enough to respond, I suspect you misunderstood the gist of my comment.
I believe Israel has been too constrained (not too little accommodating) dealing with those who wish its destruction. By wishing too much for peace, she has failed to pursue war against an insatiable aggressor to completion.
I would rather she had annihilated Hamas, annexed Gaza, and succinctly told the world (and Hamas) the example would be repeated in the West Bank should any further provocation so warrant.
Palestinian hatred of Israel (and Jews in general) is pathological. You need to see it to believe it, and you need to hear it in Arabic because they lie to you in English. They even lie to one another, so long as the lies stoke more hatred.