Monday, December 22, 2008

Another Plan for Israel-Palestine

Walter Russel Mead is considered a serious fellow, I'm told. He has just published an article in the next Foreign Affairs advocating a new way of approaching peace making between Israelis and Palestinians. Shmuel Rosner thinks it's an article that will be widely read in the new administration and may be taken very seriously.

It's an interesting approach and worth the time to read. The first third or so is a thoughtful analysis of the perspectives of Israelis and Palestinians. I can't speak for the Palestinians, but regarding the Israelis I fear Mead concentrates a bit too much on the 20th century and not quite enough on the preceding three millenia, but what he does describe is mostly correct - so his description of the Palestinian position may well be similarly correct.

You've have to be a a callous clod not to accept that the Palestinian narrative is one of tremendous frustration and pain.

Mead's thesis, in a nutshell, is that the Palestinian's sense of grievance centers, above all, on the displacement of the Naqba, and that the only way they'll ever be willing to give Israel peace and security is after it has been satisfactorily addressed.

This is refreshing in that it doesn't pretend that Israel retreating to the lines of 1967 will ever remotely bring peace, which is of course the main conceit of most putative peacemakers and fools, and is convenient as it puts the full onus for lack of peace on Israel. One could say, as most Palestinians do, that the way to redress the injustice of the Naqba is to reverse it, but that's not helpful as it means dismantling Israel one way or the other, and while many enemies of Israel would greet this rapturously, the Israelis won't, which means it can be achieved only through mass destruction and murder. (Western enemies of Israel are unfazed by the thought, but that's why they're not part of the discussion).

Mead's suggestion is that the Palestinian catastrophe was, and therefore remains, the responsibility not only of Israel but of the international community, and therefore the international community must participate in the solution. He details various components of the solution, but at the end of the day he's talking about money, and offering full equality and citizenship in various countries, Arab and Western. Once this has been done, he expects, the Palestinians will be satisfied and will be able to accept partition with Israel and reciprocate with an end to violence.

Is he right in his optimism? I haven't the faintest idea. Will it ever happen? I very much doubt it. I don't see Arab or European countries offering room for tens of thousands of Palestinians each, and even less do I see the same countries paying for a resolution of the conflict in hard cash. So long as Israel pays, fine; if America wants to pitch in, also fine. But the Europeans and Arabs coughing up, say, 30-40 billion $? No way.

Still, it's an interesting read.

PS He also has an interesting comment on the limits of what even the Obama administration will have to accept:
The outlines of a settlement -- regarding borders, security, refugees, and water rights -- are reasonably well understood by all parties, and Obama cannot do much to change them. He cannot expand the Holy Land to give each people the territory it wants; he cannot create another Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary, to give each side its own holy site; he cannot move the al Aqsa Mosque away from the Western Wall.

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