Posted by lex, on November 21, 2007
Many critics point to the current US administration’s hesitation to engage American prestige in the Middle East peace process as the reason why things over there remain a chaotic mess. Why we should risk wrestling with that particular pig – especially given the painful lessons learned by the Clinton administration during their attempts in the region – is a mystery, however. And over in the WSJ, former Clinton-era UN Human Rights Commission delegate Jeff Robins points out some of the reasons why Condi’s Mid East engagement process may well be the worst thing to come out of Annapolis since Jimmy Carter graduated.
In order for there to be peace between Israel and her neighbors, everyone concerned must prefer that outcome to the status quo risks and costs of continued, smoldering hostility. Clearly, not everyone does:
The problem is that all too often, those who blame the U.S. for failing to deliver Mideast peace are some of the world’s most culpable enablers of Mideast violence–and those who are themselves actually responsible for erecting the fundamental roadblocks to a resolution of the conflict…
It was, of course, the Arab bloc, including the Palestinian leadership, that decided to reject the U.N.’s 1947 partition of Palestine into two states, Arab and Jewish, living side by side. Instead it invaded the nascent Jewish state rather than coexist with it, spawning the conflict that has so burdened the world for the last 60 years…
We are also not responsible for the Arab world’s choice not to create a Palestinian Arab state in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, when it easily could have done so–before there were any Jewish settlements there to serve as the public object of Arab grievance…
It was not the U.S. whose leaders issued the largely unremembered “Three No’s” of the Arab conference in Khartoum in the summer of 1967–”no” to peace with Israel, to negotiation with Israel and to recognition of Israel–after the 1967 war backfired so badly on the Arab world.
It was the Palestinian leadership, not the U.S., that decided in the fall of 2000 that, rather than accept an independent Palestinian state, its wiser course was to launch a four-year bombing campaign against Israel’s civilian population. The result was not merely over 1,100 Israeli civilians killed, but several thousand Palestinians dead, as well as a shattered Palestinian economy and the decision by Israel to begin construction of a security barrier in July 2002…
When Israel withdrew from all of Gaza in 2005, the Arab world had the opportunity for a fresh start there–to create a measure of hope for a population whose suffering long predated any Israeli presence. Instead of taking advantage of the opportunity, the Hamas-dominated Palestinian leadership opted to begin and then intensify an aggressive missile-launching campaign against Israeli civilian centers.
And so on, and on. It never seems to end.
Robbins points out that not only do the Palestinians apparently prefer to be victimized by their previous poor decisions rather than break with them, none of their Arab “allies” seem particularly interested in nudging them along towards the light. Saudi petrodollars are much more likely to go towards suicide belts in the West Bank than towards economic improvements there, the Egyptians prefer to let rockets flow overland into Gaza – for further flight into Israeli border towns – than ease the plight of those suffering in that Hamas-ruled slum, and the Syrians continue to advance their own interests by playing their nasty little power games with the implacably hostile Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The problem is not that the peace process is flawed, nor that US “engagement” – code language for pressurizing an ally to become a victim – is lacking. The problem is that when the diplomats of the only democracy in the region reach their hands across the bargaining table in a gesture towards peaceful coexistence, those on the other side are measuring them for their coffins.
For too many regional powers the only terms they’re really eager to offer Israel is the peace of the dead. That they’re evidently willing to fight to the last Palestinian to do so should not surprise us more than does the apparent willingness of those same Palestinians go along. Unfortunately for them all, walking into the sea is an option that the Jewish state, at least for now, declines. Barring a miracle, what comes out of this round of Annapolis talks may well be educational for those whose understanding of history goes back no further than the term of the current presidential administration.
But I very much doubt any other outcome is likely. Especially – tragically – “peace in our time.”