No one wants to see peace in the Middle East more than I do. So when it comes to making concessions for peace, I am four square in favor of it. Real peace is worth the price of most concessions. The problem is that I do not in any way see peace between Israel and the Palestinians in the offing even under the most generous of concessions. Which is why I am opposed to making any at this point in time.
Like just about all of President Obama’s predecessors he would like to have the elusive plum of forging a peace treaty between Palestinians and Israelis as part of his legacy. Peace between Arabs and Israelis is an achievement worth fighting for. And like his predecessors he is pushing hard during his second term in office to accomplish it. To that end his Secretary of State has been working overtime to get the Palestinians and Israelis to at least sit down and talk to each other. It seems he accomplished that. Negotiators from both sides will have at least one meeting in Washington this week. It will be followed by more if there is any progress made at that meeting. Which remains to be seen.
One might say that this is a major achievement by the administration. But one would be wrong. The hard core issues dividing the two sides are in my view insurmountable as things stand now. And even if there were to be agreement about them, there is the small matter of Islamism overtaking the Arab world right now. An Islamism that rejects the right of Israel to exit in any form. Their version of peace is Helen Thomas version of it: The Jews should all get out of Palestine and go back ‘home’ to Poland, Germany and any other country they originally came from.
The Palestinian view – including moderates is that the Jews do not belong in control of any Arab land including Palestine. Palestine is defined as all of Israel, not just the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip. They mean Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak too.
The only difference between Islamist rejectionists and the ‘moderate’ Muslim Arab is that moderates are realists and will take what the world will allow them to take, which is Gaza and the West Bank. Islamists like Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah do not hide what they believe. They say what they think. They are true believers. And they act on those beliefs to the best of their ability.
They believe God is on their side and they will use all means at their disposal to achieve those goals, which is why the Islamists that control Gaza and Lebanon keep firing missiles (supplied by their Islamist sponsors in Iran) indiscriminately into Israel. There is no placating them. There is no compromise with them. They will fight to the finish. Even to the extent of dying and killing innocents (of even their own people) for their Godly cause.
How strong is Islamism in the Middle East at this juncture? One must certainly ask that question in the context of peace negotiations. If the Islamists can be defeated or controlled, it would be one thing. But all one has to do is look at what is going on in Egypt. True – Islamists were ousted in a military coup. (I don’t care what the US government is calling it. It was a military coup – albeit the right move for them.) The fact is that an Islamist won the last election there. Which means the majority of voters in Egypt see no problem with their view about Israel’s illegitimacy as a State on Palestinian land (i.e. all of Israel). The fact is that even the so called secular moderates who supported the ouster of Islamist President Morsi believe that Israel is illegitimate and should be destroyed.
This was illustrated in an Ami Magazine interview with one young secular Egyptian protester who supported the military coup. When asked about Israel, he too said that Israel has no right to exist. He added that when Egypt achieves true democracy it should turn its attention to destroying Israel. The indoctrination of hatred of Israel in Egypt continues at all levels. Religious and secular. As it does in other Arabs States.
And let’s not forget what’s happening in Syria. Even if Assad is overthrown (which seems less likely now than it did before) there is no guarantee that a new government won’t be even more hostile to Israel than Assad is. My guess is that unless Assad wins – Syria will be even less stable than Egypt.
How do you make peace with a people who at the core believes that you have no right to exist in an unstable violent environment like this?
The truth is that you can in the following scenario. If the opposition only is theoretical, and pragmatism would prevail, peace can be achieved. It can even be a warm peace even if both sides believe theologically in the justness of their own opposing views. That would not stop a fruitful pragmatic relationship to develop with economic and technological ties that would include a robust trade agreement from which sides would benefit. Moderate Muslim Arabs will still believe that all of Palestine belongs to them in theory but will concede that it is in their best interests not to fight an un-winnable battle and instead make peace for the betterment of their society.
That would have happened by now if not for the deadly aims of the Islamists who publicly proclaim their desire to wipe Israel off the map and will brook no compromise. They will continue their murderous ways in pursuit of their theological goals.
Which brings me back to the so called peace negotiations. Peace cannot happen under the conditions that exist now. It is a virtual impossibility. The geopolitical and religious climate will not allow it.
Even if all this could be overcome (…if you believe that I have two words for you: bridge and Brooklyn), Jerusalem has become the core issue. Israel will not give it up any part of it. (Even though they already did. Under Prime Minister Ehud Barak Israel conceded East Jerusalem to the Palestinians at the ill-fated peace negations during the final days of the Clinton administration. But that is not the mood of the present government nor any Israeli except for those on the extreme left). On the other hand even moderate Palestinians will never concede East Jerusalem to Israel as part of any peace treaty.
For Palestinians there is also the intractable issue of allowing Arabs who fled from their homes in 1948 to return. The exponentially increased numbers of their progeny since then could easily outnumber Jews in very short order and vote Israel out of existence. This Palestinian demand will never be part of any peace treaty.
And yet Israel agreed to sit down with Palestinians this week and talk peace. They may as well talk sports for all that matters. It will result in the same thing.
Which brings me to the very heavy price Israel is paying for these talks. They are releasing Palestinians who have been convicted of crimes that have landed them in jail for at least 20 years. I have to assume that many if not all of them have blood on their hands. What are Palestinians giving up? Nothing.
There is something terribly wrong with this equation. This price is too high for nothing more than a sham peace negotiation. Nothing will be solved here – for all the reasons I mentioned. The only result of all this is that a lot more terrorists will be available for active duty.
One may recall that I was willing to pay this kind of price for the release of Gilad Shalit who was held captive by Hamas terrorists for years. That was worth the price. The life of an innocent soldier was saved. I do not regret that decision one iota. Nor would I regret the same decision now if a true peace could be achieved. But I will go out on a limb and say that this has about as much chance happening as does as my growing wheels and becoming a locomotive.
That said I understand why Israel did it.It was because Israel’s best friend, the United States, pushed for it. They cannot say no to this push for peace. Especially since they have ignored US requests to stop building in the settlements. And the fact that this demand was dropped by the Palestinians as a precondition too. Which is something Israel has been demanding too. Israel can’t say no to everything.
So even though I don’t see anything good coming out of this, I don’t necessarily see anything bad coming out of it either. Israel will continue to do its due diligence with respect to protecting its people from any harm – including the harm attempted by the newly released terrorists. I hope – and believe – they will continue to be just as successful against these terrorists as they have been with those released in the Shalit deal. But in my view these new negotiations are a big waste of time.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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