Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Thesis about Peace

Amira Hass has an article up about how if only Israel would be nice to the Gazans, Hamas would disappear. I wouldn't even know how to begin arguing with her, but perhaps I don't even have to. Go back and read everything she has written in her career (25 years?) and you'll see that at any given moment she was always advocating that Israel should be nice and whatever problem was acute would go away. Some people find such thoughts comforting, which is why they persist.

Most Israelis, however, assume the conflict can't be ended, only managed. Yet managing is a delicate art, not easily given to evaluation let alone perfection. It's a never-ending on-going process of multi-level trial and error, in the hope the errors won't cause too much damage, and can be learned from as you go along.

Just in the past few days we've heard how Iran and Syria are moving missiles into Hezbullah's Lebanon (so much for United Nations Resolution 1701), and the Nigerians (!) have intercepted a shipment of Iranian armaments towards Gaza. Yossi Melman, meanwhile, Haaretz' expert on intelligence matters, explains how having the data and understanding it are two separate things, neither of which is easy to do. Martin Kramer, via Michael Totten, shows how this works also in the opposite direction: the more Israel contemplates the growing Iranian threat, the more of its strategic command centers and such it puts underneath Jerusalem, daring the Iranians to even think of attacking the holy city of al-Quds.

(I would tell you more about these excavation projects, but The Economist this week explained that blogging in the Middle East is becoming ever more hazardous, so I'll stay on the safe side and not tell).

The upshot of all this is not, as you might expect, an ever intensifying arming and bolstering of Fortress Israel. On the contrary. Long term conflict management means forever gauging what the precise correct balance is, including trying conflicting measures simultaneously. See, for example, the story from earlier this week about how the PA is beginning to ask the IDF to stop arresting terror suspects in the Palestinians cities since this limits Palestinian sovereignty; the IDF seems willing to acquiesce and is preparing for the day it happens. Another facet of the exact same story is that the IDF and the PA together are looking into ways to enable exports from Hamas-controlled Gaza in ways which will benefit the Gazans, the Israelis and the PA, but not Hamas. There will be folks out there - the Mondoweiss gang comes to mind - who will spin this into a story of Israeli perfidy and PA servility, but it seems me that if you've got an Amria-Hass frame of mind, anything that makes the lives of ordinary Palestinians more pleasant must be a key to peace and thus worthy of trying.

And so, in an unexpected turnaround, at the end of this post I'm going to suggest a Hass-ian thesis of my own.

A negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not achievable at the moment. On the other hand, in the past few years, and especially since the IDF operation in Gaza succeeded in mostly putting an end to rocket fire from there, a calm has settled upon Israel and the Palestinian territories that is good for almost everyone. The longer it goes on, the more it can be reinforced, by opening roadblocks, collaborating in combating terrorists, growing economies in all three political units. So here's my suggestion: let's stop trying to negotiate what can't be negotiated, and let's strengthen the processes that are already happening. If we could prolong the present 20-month calm by ten years, we might all discover, to our great surprise, that renewed final-status negotiations actually could lead somewhere.

True, no-one wold get any Nobel Peace Prizes for the time being - but ordinary people might lead better lives.


Barry Meislin said...

"Why doesn't Israel be nice and just give up and go away."

Indeed, it's hard to "even know how to begin arguing with her"....

In fact, this is the solution to the intractable problem.

(And when Palestinians and their brethren start slaughtering one another, this will no longer be perceived as a problem.)

NormanF said...

The Arabs hate each other and that's why I don't see a Palestinian state in the cards.

Their internal divisions have hobbled them far more than their hatred of the Jews have helped them.

And nothing in that respect is going to change for the foreseeable future.

modernity said...


Good idea, but the added problem of prolonging the calm to 10 years, is the political make-up in Israel, ie. coalition governments, competing power groupings and their inherent instability, that's forgetting the cackhanded policies that they try to implement and play to their various constituencies...

Yaacov said...

How so, Modernity?The present calm has been created incrementally by four different Israeli governments since 2002.

Anonymous said...

10 years sounds good to me, it gives me hope that that is long enough for the belief that all hinges on I/P will have died out - as long as the Zeitgeist cherishes that notion there is no hope for good negotiations anyhow.


Avigdor said...

"If we could prolong the present 20-month calm by ten years..."

This is what Hussein Ibish would call Israel's "wet dream".

Yaacov, do you remember to what extent the IDF patrolled PA-administered areas during the 90s, post Oslo? Was the PA in full control of A areas? Was the IDF permitted to operate in those areas without PA approval back then?

I seem to remember in 2002, when the IDF went back in to Palestinian cities, it was considered a big deal, the collapse of the PA authority, which would suggest that the IDF could not enter before that.

What I'm asking is, are these PA requests something completely new, or a return to Oslo arrangements?

Yaacov said...

Victor -

They're a return. Tho I do think this time all sides are wiser.

Ibish, as such things go, seems an alright sort of fellow, but I don't think he knows much about the situation. The force of my argument is that at this point, I think many of the Palestinians might be willing to go along; they too know peace isn't in the cards, tho their explanations might differ from ours, and they're benefiting more from the current calm than we are, since at times of violence they suffer more. And have higher casualties.

Dimitry said...

Say, isn't your suggestion is kind of like, umm... What Netanyahu said in his "economic peace" platform before the elections?

Yaacov said...

The thought has crossed my mind, Dimitry. The thing is, I've come to the idea after wandering around the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including talking to Palestinians. I also think that by way of bolstering the calm we should not build in settlements beyond the barrier, which Netanyahu may not think. But otherwise if there's similarity, so be it. It's not wrong merely by virtue of whoever said it first. And the alternative, of negotiating for a final status peace, can't succeed at this moment, so far as I can see.

Dimitry said...

Yaacov, I think you misunderstand me. I actually think this is exactly right (I am not sure about your suggestion about not building in settlments beyond the barrier, because I am not sure it is right to stop people's lives for ten-twenty years. Then again, I think that the reality is that Israel will pull everybody back in five-seven years, once the anti-missile shield is complete, and will maybe leave only military contingents).

My point was that when Netanyahu said similar things (and Lieberman did as well, if I am not mistaken), he was heavily criticized even by moderate left because he supposedly was not giving any peace horizon (Ari Shavit still says somewhat similar things). The more basic point was that I think this course was pretty obviously the only possible way forward for some time now 9at least since the split between WB and Gaza), and yet it is very hard for people to admit it, and those who do admit it are branded as being "right wing", "anti peace" etc. Sad really.

X said...

The "prolong and improve the calm" approach strikes me as the best option too. If so, the "peace process" seems utterly unhelpful, except perhaps in terms of U.S. domestic politics.

Nimrod Tal said...

the word hass is the German word for hate. Perfectly appropriate for Amira hass

Anonymous said...

it also nicely associates and/or rhymes with harass

I know games on names are a no-no in polite company but with some people I find them irresistible

Silke (German)

Barry Meislin said...

Discuss: Not that Amira Hass needs any support from the likes of us; but does the following support her contention? or not?:

Hat tip: Solomonia blog

Barry Meislin said...

Yet more indication that Amira Hass may or may not be correct:

Barry Meislin said...

And what might one make of this?: