While the media is gaga over the issue of possible peace talks between Netanyahu and Abbas, the peace process is going nowhere fast. I don’t think that is such a bad thing. A true and lasting peace cannot be imposed anyway.
Being a Zionist, I am in favor of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. They are not illegal and I don’t call them an occupation. If and when the Arabs and the Palestinians find it in their hearts (and their textbooks and media would tell the tale) to truly live with Israelis, the interregnum should not act as though the Palestinian State is a reality. Or a foregone conclusion. Israelis can’t be expected to put their lives on hold so that the Palestinians can ignore the reality that the Jews exist and must do something with the land.
The Palestinians are not waiting either. They are busy buying up East Jerusalem to establish their own beachhead in the city. They are busy moving families into the West Bank too.
What incentive, then, do the Palestinians have to conclude peace, if they get the West Bank and East Jerusalem without peace anyway?They have always made it clear that their goal is to push the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea (Hamas wants to convert or kill them. Nice.). White House press corps bigot Helen Thomas gave away their real thinking: Israeli Jews should go back to Germany and Poland and America or wherever. Their thinking is that they can simply wait and squeeze the Jews in Israel so that the Zionist cause collapses. Declaring a Palestinian State would work against their interests since they would have to accept, at least theoretically, a Jewish State. If they can build their own State with billions of dollars of outside help without recognizing Israel, then they remain the underdog and never have to answer to the contradiction with their eventual goal.
Now, I understand that there exist differences in the Palestinian Camp and that not all of them want to kill the Jews. Maybe the semi-peaceful faction is large. But I would contend that there is little support, even among their public, for recognition of Israel as a sovereign Jewish State in the Middle East. If one examines their public opinion polls, their media, their schools, their leaderships, one finds that they (largely) are hostile to a Jewish State. Not all of them, but not near enough to expect peace anytime soon.
The current drive to direct peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis is largely the making of the machinations of the Obama Administration. There are a number of reasons for this drive, chief among them is what the administration hears from people all over the world, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the number one reason for the problems the USA has with the Muslim world. General Petraeus even mentioned this with regard to the American travails in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this view, the conflict magnifies the ability of the radical Islamists to recruit the Muslim population to its cause. And some supposed Israeli intransigence in negotiating a solution is the reason.
That this is a self-serving point for world leaders at all levels is just no reason, it seems, for our President to give up on it. I do not accept it, but I’ll bet he does.
Here is where the problem starts. The Israelis look like a pushover because they have been bending over backwards all these years to make a peace agreement, giving here and there, constantly making big, big sacrifices and taking big, big risks for peace. But the more sacrifices Israel makes and the more risks Israel takes, the more the world asks and demands. It becomes like that old joke from the Soviet days when workers there used to get a big laugh from the thought that the factory managers used to pretend to pay its workers and the workers used to pretend they worked.
Therein, as it is in economics, so it is in politics, that everyone winds up pretending to do something when they are doing nothing. This is to say that when credibility of an adventure is low, people find a way to indirectly avoid it. Street credibility is important and in the Middle East, Obama has lost credibility. He lost this by bullying Israel, by avoiding the realities of the Middle East as Israel saw them and by tilting strikingly to the Arab and Palestinian worlds. Many American Jews of this persuasion even had a name for this: tough love. Some Israelis pushed this idea too such as the publisher of the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, who invited the world to “rape” Israel.
Well, they got their tough love and guess what: they mismanaged another chance to find a real and lasting peace. Instead of being hard on Israel, Obama could have called on the Arab world to make the sacrifices and the Palestinians to stop the hatred so that everyone could stop pretending to make peace. That would have gotten the attention of the Israeli public, but now everyone is back to pretending to make peace.
Why? Because President Obama is damaged goods on the Israeli issue and probably will not recover. He polls positively only in the single digits among Israelis.
He has lost credibility.
So what is the lesson here? The lesson is that many forces critical, but accepting of Israel, need to understand that ignoring Palestinian and Islamist intransigence toward Israel is not a path to peace. Don’t even try to fake being even-handed unless you really mean it; the public can tell the difference.