Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Peace Conundrum

The terrorists in Northern Ireland are inching back, apparently. This is important, as it demonstrates the resiliency of hatred which fuels violence which feeds discontent. It's been almost a generation since peace came to Northern Ireland, and there are still people willing to murder for the old ideas.

One of the fallacies engendered by the European story of the 20th century is that stories have endings. The Europeans had an absolutely ghastly 35 years starting in 1914, but then it was over and the world was mended. This teaches us that no matter how awful a conflict, it can be brought to an end and everyone will live happily ever after.

It does work that way, sometimes. But often it doesn't. The fear and hatred of Iran which we've been hearing is pervasive in Arab capitals has to do with all sorts of immediate considerations - and also with wounds which have been festering since the 7th century, or perhaps earlier.

Benny Morris thinks peace with the Palestinians is not possible, since the Palestinians mostly wish the Israelis gone, and even if it's only a sizable minority of them (which he doubts) the result will be the same: real peace will be unattainable.

I am not talking about the tactical problem posed by continued or discontinued Israeli construction in West Bank settlements, which will probably be resolved, after some bumps and hesitations. I am speaking of a basic, strategic impasse which, unfortunately, is far more cogent and telling than the ongoing “negotiations,” which are unlikely to lead to a peace treaty or even a “framework” agreement for a future peace accord. This unlikelihood stems from a set of obstacles that I see as insurmountable, given current political-ideological mindsets.
The first, the one that American and European officials never express and—if impolitely mentioned in their presence—turn away from in distaste, is that Palestinian political elites, of both the so-called “secular” and Islamist varieties, are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews. They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs. History, because of demography and the steady empowerment of the Arab and Islamic worlds and the West’s growing alienation from Israel, and because of Allah’s wishes, is, they believe, on their side. They do not want a permanent two-state solution, with a Palestinian Arab state co-existing alongside a (larger) Jewish state; they will not compromise on this core belief and do not believe, on moral or practical grounds, that they should.
This basic Palestinian rejectionism, amounting to a Weltanschauung, is routinely ignored or denied by most Western commentators and officials. To grant it means to admit that the Israeli-Arab conflict has no resolution apart from the complete victory of one side or the other (with the corollary of expulsion, or annihilation, by one side of the other)—which leaves leaders like President Barack Obama with nowhere realistic to go with regard to the conflict.
Yehezkel Dror, in his early 80s perhaps the dean of Israel's political scientists, is less glum than Morris - marginally. While he thinks true peace with the Palestinians just might work, most of the scenarios he enumerates explain why it's not likely.

The Economist offers a fine analysis of the lack of democracy in the Arab world. One might wonder if it's a good thing or bad, the making of peace with non-democratic governments which lack popular legitimacy.

Bottom line: Israel needs to do what's good for Israel. Ruling over millions of Palestinians isn't good, so far as I can see, and maintaining a few hundred small Jewish settlements throughout territories even we know are not going to stay under our control forever is equally bad. Yet the reasonable assumption that no Palestinian leader can deliver true peace, even if he wished to do so, means that Israel cannot be generous and relaxed in what it's willing to give the Palestinians; it must maintain some assets the Palestinians cannot agree to our maintaining. Which means the possibility of reaching an agreement are even more limited than if we could expect true peace.


Anonymous said...

Why the defeatist assumption that Judea/Samaria will not remain under Israeli control? Since when does Judea/Samaria belong to the Arabs? There is no legal or moral obligation for Israel to relinquish control of any more territory, and as the Arabs make clear every day, there is never going to be peace as a result of more Israeli withdrawals. The Israelis must insist on their legitimate legal rights concerning Judea/Samaria under the 1920 San Remo Resolution, the 1922 Mandate for Palestine, and not least the rights of victims of aggression under customary international law. Palestinian Arabs cannot simply "pocket" Judea/Samaria and demand further concessions, because pending a "final status agreement" with Israel, Judea/Samaria doesn't belong to them. Why does the Israeli government, and why do so many of Israel's intellectuals, fail to remind the world of this?

Victor said...

Make it a reality, Anonymous. Have 10 children. Whatever is agreed today, tomorrow is tomorrow.

NormanF said...

Israel is NOT ruling over the Palestinians. There is no "occupation" - the Palestinians have complete autonomy and Israel is not obligated to grant them any upgraded political status. Israel should assert sovereignty over Yesha. Whether the Palestinians agree or not, Israel has the right to put the unsettled state of affairs to an end in the absence of Arab agreement. This may just sober up the other side and if not - well, they made their choice and have to live with the consequences.

Barry Meislin said...

And just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

...those daffy Egyptians keep bobbing up all over the place.


After having impressed the world with their ability to co-opt uncooperative Copts, and then dazzling us all with their adeptness at holding elections, they are now unveiling their---previously all but unkown (well, except maybe for that rather unfortunate episode regarding the Red Sea, which is best left unmentioned)---expertise in things oceanographic.

What will they surprise us with next?!!

Silke said...

let's say the settlements "that are not going to stay" were gone, wouldn't they have to be replaced at least to some extent by much more objectionable looking military outposts?

Barry Meislin said...

Here's something that might be of interest...


Question: Does the Henry Kissinger quote apply to Israel-Palestine? (1-Yes, 2-No, 3-Maybe, 4-Um not sure, 5-Who cares?)

Tom Grey said...

(first visit) I'd suggest that Israel take more future Palestinian land, and officially Occupy it.
And call it Occupied Territory. Planning to return it to Arab control after a final peace agreement, but actually under Israeli control until then.

And expand the amount of land, and Palestinians, controlled, at each terrorist attack.

The point is to take, by force, land from PA control, with the idea of giving it back later.

Israel, like the USA, needs to learn how to be better Occupiers, and teach the occupied how to ...
make business profits, not war.

Making solar panels to cover the Negev would be a good occupation, for instance.