Thu, June 27, 2013 | RubinReports | By Barry Rubin
“He who tells the truth is driven from nine villages.” — Turkish proverb
Has it become time that the absurd paradigm governing the Israel-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflict as well as the “peace process” be abandoned or challenged?
After all, this narrative has become increasingly ridiculous. Here is what is close to being the official version:
The Palestinians desperately want an independent state and are ready to compromise to obtain that goal. They will then live peacefully alongside Israel in a two-state solution. Unfortunately, this is blocked either by: a) misunderstanding on both sides or b) in the recent words of the Huffington Post, “the hard-line opponents who dominate Israel’s ruling coalition.” Israel is behaving foolishly, too, not seeing that, as former President Bill Clinton recently said, Israel needs peace in order to survive. One aspect — perhaps a leading one — why Israel desperately needs peace is because of Arab demographic growth. The main barrier to peace are the Jewish settlements.
This interpretation has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with reality. People on both sides know this, even if they rarely say so publicly. For the Palestinian side, the pretense of peacemaking — which every Palestinian leader knows — obtains money, diplomatic support, popular sympathy, and pressure on Israel. Here’s the dirty trick involved. If anyone in Israel raises issues about whether a “peace process” can really bring peace, concerns about how it would be implemented, and documented experience about Palestinian behavior in the past, the response is that Israel doesn’t want peace. The actual arguments and evidence about these problems is censored out of the Western mass media and distorted in terms of political stances.
Is the peace process after 40 years (if you count from its origins) or 20 years (if you count from the time of the “Oslo” agreement) at a dead end? Of course it is. That should be obvious.
In reality, the vast majority of Palestinian leaders favor establishing no Palestinian state unless it can continue the work of trying to wipe Israel off the map. They are in no hurry. They do not want to negotiate seriously. And, of course, in the case of Hamas, which controls or has the support of about one-half of the Palestinians, this violent and genocidal intention is completely in the open. You can’t negotiate seriously with those who are not — to recall the old PLO slogan — the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. I say this with deep regret but it is the truth.
On the Israeli side, the pretense is kept up because there is already enough Western hatred or real and potential hostility to what is required for its own self-defense. Israel offered deep concessions and took great risks continually through the 1990s. The judgment on the year 2000, the reveling year on the “peace process,” was that this Palestinian rejection of a two-state solution proved that they didn’t want one.
Now, every few days Abbas comes up with a new trick. The latest one is that he really desperately wants to meet with Netanyahu BUT the Israeli prime minister must first meet his latest preconditions which keep changing. And every time Israel starts closing in on matching one of his demands he just changes them. Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that there is a freeze on government permits for construction on settlements but Abbas doesn’t care.
Kerry gives Israel no credit for that on the peace issue, though it does help U.S.-Israel relations in other ways. For example, Israel will be the first country allowed to deploy the new F-35 warplane and is getting advanced munitions that could be used to hit Iranian nuclear installations. The only condition on these weapons is, of course, that they not be used to hit Iranian nuclear installations. Still, they might be handy some day. And that is precisely the reason Israelis play along and pretend that he might have a better chance at making peace than he does. Which is about zero.
Speaking of Iran, it contributes to a regional situation that ensures anyone on the Israeli, Palestinian, or other Arab side would have to be crazy to make compromises or concessions for peace right now. At a time when Iran is proclaimed suddenly moderate and when the genocidally-intended Muslim Brotherhood is now a U.S. ally and when even the Taliban is being declared acceptable, why is it that Israel is being portrayed by many of the same people as intransigent and the source of problems?
Israelis generally — not just on the left — want peace and a two-state solution. Israelis generally — not just on the right — do not believe it is possible at present, and they can offer much proof on this point. Moreover, given the region’s rapid movement toward revolutionary Islamism, the atmosphere is totally unwelcoming to any progress toward peace.
Even if the Palestinian Authority wished a different policy, it knows that with the hegemony of anti-peace Islamists such a move on its part would be suicidal. Just turn on your radio or pick up a Palestinian newspaper and you can see and hear the hatred, incitement, and rejection of Israel’s existence, the indoctrination of young people to carry on the conflict for decades, the celebration of terrorists and especially suicide bombers. A situation in which anyone who believed in moderation and compromise better keep his mouth shut or face the end of his career or even death is not one where a compromise peace can be made and implemented.
This is common knowledge in Israel.You’d be amazed at the names of left-of-center famous Israeli political figures that in private make clear their view that there is no two-state solution at present, no political solution, but they should keep saying the opposite in public to avoid claims that Israel doesn’t really want peace. As an example, one well-known left-wing leader whose name is associated closely with the peace process said privately that Arafat was an SOB who destroyed the peace process. Another famous dove said that nobody thinks that peace is possible but that we must still pretend otherwise.
There are two phony arguments raised on this issue of why Israel obstructs the peace it desperately needs: settlements and demography. It should take only one minute to dispel this nonsense. And that is why these arguments must be censored out of the mainstream debate by ridicule and insult.
Can settlements be blocking a successful peace process? Of course not. If the Palestinians were so discomfited by construction on settlements they would logically want to accelerate the peacemaking process. This is what King Hussein of Jordan warned them about at the 1984 Palestine National Council meeting. Hurry and get peace, he said, before the settlement process has gone forward too long. They ignored the advice; they weren’t in any hurry.
Again, though, if settlements are gobbling up the land perhaps to the point of no return, shouldn’t the Palestinians demand negotiations immediately instead of refusing to talk for a dozen years and setting countless preconditions that seem to become more demanding as any previous ones are met?
Then we have the bogus demographic issue. The Gaza Strip and West Bank are not part of Israel. Nobody today seeks annexation. Palestinians — except those who live in Israel’s borders — are never going to be citizens of Israel. Ironically, let’s remember, it is the Palestinians who demand that they will through the fictional “right of return” get to be Israelis.
Bill Clinton recently said, with total ignorance:
“Is it really okay with you if Israel has a majority of its people living within your territory that are not now, and never will be, allowed to vote?”
No. They do not live “within [Israel’s] territory.” Therefore, the question does not arise and it will never arise. Israel has not annexed and never will annex the Gaza Strip and West Bank. No one thinks the Palestinians there are citizens and they do not want to be citizens. In fact, they vote in their own elections, or at least once did so and live under their own government and laws. How could anyone not understand this?
Finally, there is the never-addressed issue of what I call, “the day after.” Let’s face it. The Obama Administration and its predecessors have made — how can I put this politely? — some mistakes about the Middle East . They have often urged on Israel very dangerous, even suicidal, courses. They have not always been faithful to allies.
Are these the best-informed, best-intentioned, and best-judgment people to heed? Perhaps it is possible that Israeli leaders actually do know more about the Middle East and their people’s interests than does Washington or Western journalists and “experts.” Perhaps Israel’s people, as shown by their own repeated votes in free elections, are better informed than those thousands of miles away who never lived through this history and, understandably, don’t put Israeli interests first.
After all, these are policymakers who have just formed alliances with a former Nazi collaborator (the Muslim Brotherhood), and other groups which preach genocide against all Jews, hate the West, hate Christians, want to murder gays, and to make women second-class citizens. Would you listen to advice by people who do such things?
Moreover, what would happen the day after a successfully negotiated two-state solution? If cross-border terror attacks began would the United States act decisively to condemn the Palestinian regime? Could it “fix” the problem of a Palestinian state that did not live up to its commitments?
What about a state that was taken over by a Hamas coup or even a Hamas electoral victory, which happened in the last Palestinian election? Suddenly, Israel would be ringed by a Hamas-ruled Palestinian state that rejected peace; a Muslim-Brotherhood ruled Egypt and perhaps Syria; and a Hizballah-ruled Lebanon. Do you think that two-state solution or at least peace would long endure?
What about a Palestinian state that invited in the armies of neighboring Arab states or Iran, with their weapons or as large numbers of advisors?
In short, would Israel be better off from those who, on the one hand, have as little intention of implementing their agreements as they have often done before and, on the other hand, those who urge you to make such a deal but can and will do nothing significant to enforce it?
Clinton said that Israel needs peace to survive. Yet the situation is one in which a certain type of peace would endanger survival. What Israel wants is a two-state solution that brings real peace and that would enhance survival. Why is there never any talk about the quality of the peace?
But finally here is the key concept, as voiced by the Huffington Post’s article on Clinton’s speech:
“It underscored a chasm between the country’s official support for creating an independent Palestinian state and the hard-line opponents who dominate Israel’s ruling coalition.”
The problem is the word “opponents.” Israel would be happy to create an independent Palestinian state that resulted in an end to the conflict. It was ready to do so at the 2000 Camp David meeting but the Palestinian leadership then, and since, has refused to say that even a two-state solution would permanently end the conflict. It would merely initiate the next round of a battle pursing total elimination of Israel.
This is not an ideological but a strategic issue. Wishful thinking and arguments that if you don’t work for peace you won’t get it are fine for the words of bystanders. They would be disastrous for actual policy. Incidentally, the three most “soft-line” supporters of creating an independent state have been Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Barak. These men learned vividly the same lessons that their political opponents did.
The real blockage to peace comes from the Palestinian leadership (including Hamas’s open preference for massacring all Israelis) and by the realities of the strategic situation.
Question: Is this a right-wing position?
Answer: No, it is just a recognition of reality. As I noted above, everyone knows it and if they don’t there are three possible reasons:
- They want to bash Israel and subvert Israel’s relations with the West and they know what they are doing.
- They are ignorant about the region or at least very much out of date. And this goes for those ruled by wishful thinking.
- They think that by pretending peace is possible they can make the Arabs feel that the United States is trying to help the Palestinians and that therefore most Arabs and Muslims will think better of them and radical Islamists will like America.
Among Israelis they know that since this is a firm belief in the West keeping their mouths shut makes it easier to get along with those people who are in power in the West. And this goes for those ruled by wishful thinking, though proportionately far fewer than in the West.
It also goes for those who would gladly welcome a real, viable two-state solution but know that one is decades off and has been made more difficult by the radicalism unleashed by the supposedly moderating “Arab Spring.”
Ironically, the current narrative was put in place in the 1990s precisely because an Israel that was striving for a two-state solution gave peace a chance. The effort proved to Israelis that the Palestinian leadership wasn’t ready to make peace. The effort made the rest of the world think that the Palestinians were victims, desperate for peace. Committing terrorism must have been a cry for help.
Arafat rejected peace; Israel was falsely blamed for rejecting peace even though the facts were well known, to people like Bill Clinton who even said so at the times, in early 2000.
Fixing this political disaster is not a matter for politicians but one for starting the difficult task of correcting the narrative which can make the necessary policy changes in the long-run.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His next book, “Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East,” written with Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, will be published by Yale University Press in January 2014. His latest book is “Israel: An Introduction,” also published by Yale. Thirteen of his books can be read and downloaded for free at the website of the GLORIA Center including “The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict,” “The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East” and “The Truth About Syria.” His blog is Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.