Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Taking Sides in the Israeli/Palestinian Dispute

Like it or not, President Trump is trying an entirely different approach to Middle East diplomacy. Horror of horrors, he has unabashedly sided with Israel in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He has rejected the standard, supposedly even-handed approach to engineering peace and has chosen to reward our ally Israel while punishing the degenerate terrorists that run Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

If we look at the record of previous failed peace plans, we might get all pragmatic and suggest that it's time for a new approach. We might accept that the old approach has failed, and has failed miserably.

And yet, many people have invested considerable intellectual capital in the old even-handed approach. They refuse to believe that they have failed. And they refuse to accept, even more strongly that Donald Trump might succeed where they have failed. The shame would be unbearable.

Take Dana Allin and Steven Simon, refugees from prior American administrations, foreign policy experts with the proper pedigree, who prefer the old failed approach. By their lights and by their reasoning, the Trump administration is wrong to assume that you can punish the Palestinians into negotiating.

They are none too heartened by John Bolton’s recent speech and by America’s recent actions:

Last week John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, announced the closing of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington; the administration also revoked the visas for the organization’s envoy and his family.

Mr. Bolton suggested that the Palestinians needed to be punished, for both their readiness to refer Israeli construction in occupied territory to the International Criminal Court and their reluctance to engage with the Trump administration’s peace efforts.

Deeply sensitive as they are, Allin and Simon invite us to feel empathy for Palestinian terrorists:

Both charges are spurious, and in any event trivial. It is true that Palestinian leaders have a habit of investing unrealistic expectations in an international community as a kind of deus ex machina. What is also true, however, is that they have hardly any other options.

Sanctions and deterrence should always be part of the American diplomatic arsenal. But punishment for its own sake is not how the United States traditionally conducts diplomacy. Nor is there much evidence that punishment works — just ask Israel, which has been using it for years to try to wring Palestinian concessions.

No other options... how about calling off the war?

Allin and Simon believe that Trump is just naive:

This theory of diplomacy-as-coercion is clear enough and probably has its appeal for people unversed in the intricacies of international peace negotiations. But problems will arise when the Palestinians do not react in the docile manner that administration officials somehow expect.

Of course, a moderately sensitive mind would have recognized that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas declared war on Israel. Don’t wars end with negotiated surrenders? And don’t they arrive at that ending as a result of coercion?

The authors seem to believe, in an especially ham-handed way, that the two sides in this conflict have equal rights to whatever they want. And they fail to understand that the United States is not using punishment for punishment’s sake. They are responding to the terrorism that Palestinians inflict or try to inflict on Jews every day. They are not partners for peace and should not be treated as partners for peace.

The authors declaim against trying to punish terrorists. But, do they really believe, considering the extent of their failures, that the Palestinians will be incited to make peace if we continue to reward terrorism. That is the real issue: if the authors refuse to punish the moral depravity of terrorism, they are proposing, not quite explicitly, that we continue the past approach, by which we rewarded terrorism.

For the record, at the risk of repeating myself, the Palestinians have lost the support of major elements in the Arab world. One should not imagine that the Trump administration is flying blind or is in it alone.

When it comes to moral equivalence, who better to defend it than Thomas Friedman. As you recall Friedman is also a strong proponent of the two state solution. He finds both good and bad in both sides… which allows him to manifest the honest broker mentality that has produced this impasse. He will find fault with both sides, as though the Palestinian cause, which amounts to murdering Jews and trying to destroy the state of Israel, is a negotiating position.

Consider his observation about Hamas:

Hamas is pursuing a strategy of human sacrifice in Gaza — throwing wave after wave of protesters against the Israeli border fence to die without purpose or even much notice anymore. It is shameful.

Hamas has been a curse on the Palestinian people. At a time when the key to any Palestinian breakthrough with Israel is for Palestinians to make Israelis feel strategically secure but morally insecure about holding occupied territories, Hamas, with its relentless tunnel-digging into Israel and border assaults — unaccompanied by any offer of a two-state solution — does everything to make Israelis feel strategically insecure and morally secure about holding territories.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is typically stupid. To imagine that Hamas would ever try to make Israel feel secure is to live in an alternate universe. What Hamas should do is surrender. If it does not surrender, it should be defeated. You do not negotiate on equal footing with a terrorist organization that is trying to destroy you. Wake up, Tom… and grow up.

Naturally, Friedman must find fault with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu… because this will make it appear that he is fair and balanced:

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel has been a brilliant strategist in confronting Iran and managing Russia in Syria. But on the Palestinian issue, all he has is a P.R. strategy — he uses all his intelligence to find ways to make sure the Palestinians get blamed in the U.S. for any absence of progress — without offering any new, or old, ideas on how to separate from the Palestinians to avoid the terrible choices of bi-nationalism and apartheid.

Friedman bemoans the fact that Trump moved the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: “without getting anything in return.” Say what? Was Trump making a concession? In fact, he was treating an ally like an ally. Why does that require concessions?

Trump was saying, yet again, not only that America sides with Israel against terrorism, but that moral equivalence is no longer American policy.

Compare Friedman’s whining with Kevin Williamson's eminently sensible words:

And war is war: There were 169 Palestinian suicide attacks between 1993 and 2016, targeting shopping malls, bus depots, the streets of downtown Jerusalem. In 2014 alone, there were 4,500 rocket and mortar attacks on Israelis. The Palestinians still proudly celebrate their stunning military victory over a pregnant woman, seven children, and five other civilians eating pizza at the Battle of Sbarro. There is constant violence on the Gaza border, and balloons and kites now are used to deliver incendiary devices into Israeli cities. There are practically no diplomatic relationships between the Israeli government and the Palestinian government, partly because the Palestinians have two competing governments run by two competing terrorist organizations: Fatah in the West bank and Hamas in Gaza.

What is the Friedman solution? Glad you asked:

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, should go to America’s four key Arab allies — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — and propose that they collectively say “yes” to engaging Trump and Kushner if the U.S. plan includes two criteria: It calls for a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank — not a bunch of disconnected cantons — and it grants Palestinians some form of sovereignty in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, where 300,000 Arabs already live. (The authority will also have to agree that its state will be demilitarized.)

Friedman does not seem to be very well informed. As it happened, many months ago Abbas traveled to the Arab capitals and received a uniform message: make peace with Israel… even if on Israeli terms. He was incensed. Why do you think that Hamas is throwing a temper tantrum on its border? They have lost the war. Arab states understand that they have everything to gain by doing business with Israel and everything to lose by associating with Palestinian terrorism. It's not a close call.

True enough, it is time for peace, but that means, it is time for the Palestinians to surrender.

Williamson gets the last word here:

Israel has been under assault from the moment of its foundation. The 25th anniversary of the Oslo agreement is just one more milestone, marking a quarter century in which Israel has continued to grow and thrive in spite of the rockets falling on it, a quarter century in which the Palestinians have not learned how to make anything other than war.


Bizzy Brain said...

The "Palestinians" do have a home and a home country. It's called Jordan.

Masonava said...
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