I won't hide the fact that I am, by the standards of many Israel advocates, a "dangerous leftist." I support peace efforts, because I believe that peace is the only way to achieve a major goal of the Zionist movement set down at the First Zionist Congress
. That goal was, "Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public [international] law." As long as the Arab states do not recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, Zionism has not achieved its goal, contrary to the claim of "post Zionists," and Jews do not have a place where we can live in peace.
It is sadly necessary to repeat such elementary truisms because there are many Israel advocates who seem to think that Zionism has very different goals such as achieving an embattled Jewish state (we did that) or conquering some variably defined territory called "Greater Israel" and filling it with currently non-existent Jews. We have to keep our goals in mind if we are to succeed.
That said, it is certainly prudent to consider not only the possibility of success, but the consequences of failure. Peace initiatives are generally risky. I hope I may be forgiven if I believe that the current prospects for peace, no matter what strategy is pursued, are slim. It is not "cynicism," pessimism, or even skepticism, but common sense and a consideration of the record that lead to this appraisal. Barry Rubin has astutely pointed out the major failings of the current Obama Middle East peace policy
. He might be wrong, but it seems very likely he is right. Moreover, the history of peace making with the Palestinians has not been good. In fact, it has been disastrous. The Oslo Accords were a worthy attempt made in good faith, at least on Israel's part. But the rosiest-minded peace advocates, if they are fair, must concede that the Oslo accords were a disastrous failure
. They brought the Second Intifada
. They also entrenched a Palestinian leadership that has gotten an internationally recognized entity that is used as a platform for delegitimizing Israel
, and for pressing impossible-to-fulfill conditions for peace.
was an attempt to kickstart the peace process that had died or at least to isolate Israel
from the worst dangers of Palestinian terror. That resulted in the horrible disaster in Gaza. The Palestinians seemed bent on proving correct the worst imaginable scenarios of the Israeli right, just as they had done in the so-called Second Intifada. A government of the genocidal Hamas movement took over the Gaza strip, dedicated to eliminating the state of Israel and in fact, to killing all the Jews in order to bring about the end of days, as they proclaim in the Hamas Charter.
They rained thousands of rockets and mortar shells on innocent civilians in the western Negev, while the world looked on and did nothing and said nothing. When Israel finally was forced to conduct Operation Cast Lead
it found itself, not Hamas
, accused of war crimes.
In November of 2007, Israel agreed to conduct the Annapolis process negotiations with the powerless government of Mahmoud Abbas.
It is probable that these negotiations saved the Abbas government from total irrelevancy and collapse. A Hamas
government would be worse probably. But once again, the negotiations led nowhere, because while Israel offered concession after concession, the Palestinian Authority negotiators simply stonewalled their original demands, which are unacceptable, and which have been the unchanged position of Mahmoud Abbas,
at least since he stated them in an interview in 2000. These conditions are:
"Right of return" for the descendants of Palestinian refugees of 1948, which would flood Israel with millions of Palestinian Arabs and end Jewish self-determination.
Palestinians insist on no Jewish national rights whatever in the old city of Jerusalem or East Jerusalem, which is now styled "Arab East Jerusalem" and the "Occupied capital of Palestine" by Palestinian media.
Return to the 1949 armistice lines, including Israeli abandonment not only of no-man's land areas, but of settlements like Gush Etzion that had been Jewish land before 1948 and which were ethnically cleansed in the Israel War of Independence.
Palestinians may not want a two state solution at all, and may not want peace, at least not by our definition. See Do the Palestinians want peace?.
During this entire nightmare "peace" process, in addition to loss of lives and property, Israel has steadily lost the respect of the world and the "international legitimacy" that is the goal of Zionism. The Israel of the inflexible Itzhak Shamir seemed secure in the world. It had the unshakable support of the majority of US citizens and probably the majority of Europeans. The Israel that has offered concession after concession for peace has been "rewarded" with an unending flow of vituperation from Palestinians and their supporters, is regularly shortlisted by Europeans as the world's greatest threat to peace. Israel is even losing the support of American Jews, some of whom, like Zelig, the Nazi Jew created by Woody Allen, insist that Israel must negotiate with the genocidal Hamas. "Zionism is racism" has never been a more popular slogan. Boycott and divestment initiatives against "Apartheid Israel" spring up like mushrooms after the rain. Many of them are initiated or supported through the Palestinian Authority that was supposed to negotiate "peace." Worse than that, many of them are the work of NGOs supported by the European Union and supposedly friendly European governments, and of Jewish organizations in the United States.
Considering Israel's near total dependence on the U.S. as well as the traditional Zionist commitment to peace, Israel has to make all possible efforts to support the US peace effort, even if they involve divisive and unfair concessions. The US has demanded a settlement freeze from Israel, a condition of phase 1 of the roadmap, and it has done so openly and insistently. There is no corresponding pressure on Palestinians to end incitement or to disarm the Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, though disarming terror groups and ending incitement are also Phase I roadmap commitments. But Israel clearly cannot defy not only the United States, but the entire world, except on issues of vital and existential importance, and it is not realistic to expect any government to do so.
The Palestinians and Arab states will give nothing much in return. There is no chance that the Palestinians will abandon the "right of return" and little chance they will admit to any Jewish rights in Jerusalem. There is no chance that Syrians will give up their insistence on "return" of lands they conquered in an aggressive war and held illegally in 1948 or give up their claim to the east shore of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret). Arab states and the Palestinian Authority are not ready to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
Some day in the next few years, the Obama peace initiative is almost certainly bound to collapse, because no Israeli government can agree to right of return for descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees and concede land in return for a meaningless "peace" agreement. The question we have to be asking now is "What then?"
Is there a plan B? Is there any point at which the US and the EU will agree that the Palestinian Authority has not fulfilled its stated function under the Oslo accords, which was to negotiate peace with Israel? That is unlikely. Is there a plan for a disengagement or trustee process that could put the bulk of the Palestinian population under self-rule or at least not under Israeli rule, without threatening the destruction of Israel?
Javier Solana, Foreign policy chief of the European Union has already threatened that if Israel doesn't comply with Palestinian demands by a certain deadline, the EU may demand that the UN recognize a Palestinian state, even though the Palestinians themselves rejected the idea of a state with provisional borders. Solana was supposedly "speaking for himself," but as he is still the EU Foreign policy chief, (officially, "High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy") the threat cannot be ignored. If the United States objected to this noxious proposal, we have not heard about it.
When the Obama peace proposal fails, it is very likely that Israel will get the blame, and the consequences will be very bad indeed. Will the US continue with business as usual? Not likely. Will it continue to apply unlimited and one-sided pressure on Israel for more and more concessions, without any sign of softening in the Palestinian or Arab stance? Will it simply abandon Israel? Those who still insist, against the mounting evidence, on the "unbreakable" bond between Israel and the US must remember that unbreakable bonds are meant to be broken, just as "iron laws" of history gather rust rather quickly. The Titanic was "unsinkable." The unbreakable bond becomes increasingly meaningless when U.S. policy deliberately leaves Israel virtually isolated in the international political arena.
Israel is being progressively pushed into the role that was reserved in the past for Czechoslovakia and Poland prior to World War II, and South Vietnam in the '70's: an inflexible and recalcitrant ally that is an 'obstacle to peace' and a general foreign policy liability. That is clearly consignment to a rapid and certain doom.
There are things we can do, and things we should be doing right now. Israel has to make its minimal red lines quite clear. It must try to explain to the United States and the world why we cannot ever allow "right of return" and other Palestinian demands. Israel must support the peace effort in good faith, to make clear that the problem is not settlement freezes or illegal outposts or the number of tons of flour sent to Gaza. Rather than quibbling over "natural growth," Israel should stand fast by requirements that the Palestinians comply totally to the road map. Finally, as I cannot repeat often enough, Israel must actively seek for ways to lessen its deadly dependency on US military aid.
We must be prepared for some very, very dark days ahead. When the Obama peace initiative fails, Israel may face the worst crisis it has faced since 1948. We can survive that crisis as we survived in 1948, provided that we know what we must achieve, we are united and we are prepared.
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Replies: 4 Comments
nor do i agree with you. who cares if arab's do not recognize Israel as the HOMELAND FOR JEWISH PEOPLE? looking at it in those terms, you're right, zionism has not acheived their goals...if you're an arab! if arab nations do not wish to recognize Israel, they will, for as long as they do not, be miserable. if they wish to live into eternity being miserable, so be it. some humans just enjoy living in misery. let them.
Ken, Tuesday, July 28th
M. Isseroff, I don't agree with you : Israel hasn't lost the respect of the world. More than 70% of the Americans support Israel (opposed to less than 10% who suppport the "palestinian" Arabs). Even in France, where I live, 60% of the French people supported Israel during the last Gaza antiterrorist operation.
The people who are slandering Israel are the same as always : the antisemites who use the Israeli Jews as scapegoats.
Leroidavid, Thursday, July 16th
No doubt the trauma of abused trust following the second intefada has left its mark on the national psyche. That does not mean that Obama must fail. What is certain though, is that the comfort zone of Israeli prophesies of doom do not help him: the argument is simple. Obama will fail, the Palestinians will never compromise, so let us build settlements, expand, rule another people and be merry on the deck of occupied territory – this ship will sink anyway. The problem with this logic is, that by swallowing up the pitiful remains of what the entire world now sees as a potential home for a sovereign Palestine, Israel is causing the boat to sink.
I have tried to get this point across more than once, but for some reason a separation barrier between inductive logic and stubborn denial reigns supreme. In this mindset the sun simply does not rise tomorrow. So here is how I will try to explain it this time: I once heard an interview with one of the released Palestinian terrorists from an Israeli jail who when asked the question whether he will go back and practice terror against Israelis said (paraphrased): “No, absolutely not. There is no need. I will go back to my wife and make sure we have as many children as possible – that is how we will get our free Palestine”
Israeli policy is now based on the reliability of Palestinian misjudgment and intransigence. Palestinian policy though can now rely almost completely on Israeli territorial desire, appeasement of settler aspirations and the inability to see how the end game brings the Jewish state to the a place where one nation rules another by cantonization and denial of basic human rights. This is not a sustainable future. Refer to South African history as a starting place.
Obama is offering a very important opportunity to Israel. Israel can stop this madness now, run with an inspirational new leadership and create a process rather than balk at it. That position can bring leverage – against the major power that now supports genocidal destruction of the Israel, namely Iran. If Iran is neutralized, there is very little left for radicalized Palestinian dreams of all or nothing. Stopping settlement does not require sacrificing security – and the US knows this well. As the strongest party in this conflict, with the strongest ally, it is incumbent on Israel to take a position – that position is a complete freeze on settlement. For the same reason, the US must show neutrality and strength in its dealings with Israel if it is to broker as a neutral party.
The rest may or may not follow, but the ball then sits squarely in the Palestinian court and somber thoughts of dark days ahead will be something they will have to consider.
jayzed, Wednesday, July 15th
Oh yes you are correct in that you say you are a "leftist" As for being a "dangerous leftist." I think the adjective is erroneous, quite simply you are bemused by your own presumptions and they are unwarranted, you best fit the kind that Dame Glick wrote of in her essay last year "The Rationals vs. the Rationalizers". If I would have thought that you are an ideologue I would never bother to respond, I commend you for at least exhibiting introspection, and you illuminate the bleak vista with pathos, yet you still do not see it was the "leftist" psyche's presumptions that have weakened your own national position's standings, your resilience to recuperate, and your cause’s defensibility. I am devastated at this deterioration, my heart is shorn asunder from what I had long foreseen as inevitable consequences (given uncorrected tendencies) of your laissez faire relativism and sloppy presumptiveness. My heart can go on bleeding out through my ears for you but if you don’t find the compunction to compurgation you will not recuperate and revivify. Only absolute truth, the actualities, must be faced squarely and clearly. One cannot even know what justice is without the truth.
For example yesterday evening I started to go through Milord Ivan Rand's papers I photocopied from his file cabinet in the Dalhousie law library (he was the chairman of the UNSCOP who championed the partition resolution) and came across August 20/ 1947 the UNSCOP population table calculated the total population of the mandate as 900,000 +/- 220 (the British mandatory authority said the population was 1,200,000) Rand said the Jewish population was 598,000,and we know in hindsight that 139,000 Arabs remained in their homes to become eventually Israelis, so according to Milord Rand the maximum number of genuine inhabitant "Pal-est-in-ians" that became "refugees" is about 163,000 in 1948-49 the British figures would make it 463,000 yet by 1949 the UNRWA was claiming they were feeding, sheltering, and providing medical services to 1,200,000. This is the main tactical weapon to act as a front of justification to supplant and dismember Israel.
My guess is, although I can't prove it, is that a man who invented the labour code's "Rand Formula" would not have omitted 300,000 heads if they were in residence.
Larry Riteman, Wednesday, July 15th
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