Only after the Axis bully began misbehaving with particular impudence following 1938's Munich pact, did Lord Halifax finally figure out that this wasn't quite cricket. Until then Neville Chamberlain's foreign minister - one of Britain's prominent proponents of appeasing the Nazis - stolidly kept proclaiming unwavering faith in Hitler's professions of peace. Old attitudes die hard.
Once reputations are staked on policies, no matter how misconstrued, it's not easy to acknowledge error.
But Halifax agonized and drew some extremely cogent conclusions. "I often think how much easier the world would have been to manage," he mused, "if Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini had been at Oxford." Indubitably.
Our own embattled backyard would be similarly much easier to manage had Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh enrolled at Beit Berl. Had they imbibed progressive liberal values, dealing with Abbas/Haniyeh would have been indubitably straightforward and unproblematic.
G.W. Bush's "vision" of a Palestinian state - the one we fervently prayed for thrice daily for 2000 years - would have been a snap to realize. Likewise, there would have been no snag to Olmert's equally profound vision of "realignment" (flavor-of-the-month euphemism for "convergence," which replaced "disengagement," which means retreat to constricting ever-vulnerable confines and surrendering the historic Jewish heartland to ever-genocidal foes).
But as inconsiderate fate would have it, Abbas's alma mater was the People's Friendship University in then-Communist Moscow (where he wrote a PhD dissertation denying the Holocaust) and Haniyeh's Jihadist zeal was forged at that great repository of humanism, the Islamic University of Gaza.
One would expect that G.W.'s vision would evaporate into its thin-air primary component in view of Abbas's incompatibility with notions of democratic accountability, rudimentary responsibility and credible reliability. Likewise one would expect that Olmert's scheme to reward Haniyeh's terrorist ardor with gratuitous territorial gifts would be stymied by the predictable catastrophic consequences of emboldening fanatic hate-mongers.
But expedient delusions indeed die hard. G.W. and his Jerusalemite new best-bud only reaffirmed their dogged determination not to admit that appeasement is wrong, but to assert that there just wasn't enough of it.
DON'T BE fooled by media chatter about their disagreement on whether to go the dead-end Abbas route (pretending there's no Haniyeh behind him) or divest Israel unilaterally of its strategic assets (also pretending there's no Haniyeh around). The difference between the White House boss and his compliant vassal is only in the details. So far as the big picture is concerned it's all the same.
Either way the basic premise is that Israel gives and the PA gets, that Israel makes conciliatory concessions and the PA reluctantly consents to accept the proceeds, that the onus for quelling the chaos isn't on the merchants of mass-murder but on Israel.
The debate isn't about the underlying principle that Israel must pay, only how much Israel is obliged to shell out. Bush essentially wants Israel to forfeit everything.
Olmert's "realignment" comprises a design to obtain a minuscule discount. Olmert hopes to save a paltry remnant, seeing as how he's volunteering of his own accord to deposit a hefty advance for absolutely nothing. That, he assumes, entitles him to a symbolic price-reduction.
All that needs to be finalized to achieve a perfect meeting of the minds between Bush and Olmert is merely the extent of appeasement. The fundamental doctrine of appeasement isn't contested. It's the axiomatic given.
Israel once refused to yield to terrorist demands no matter what was at stake (as in the case of the Ma'alot school massacre, whose 32nd anniversary we glossed over recently. That atrocity, which cost 27 young Israeli lives - mostly children - was contracted by Abbas). Nowadays Israel submits to the perception that it is somehow morally culpable for Arab bloodlust and that it is therefore charged with decreasing Arab displeasure.
The conception of the bad guy as someone who harbors reasonable grievances that can be mitigated or redressed is as integral to the philosophy of appeasement as is the good guys' reluctance to fight.
THE ISRAELI establishment's grotesque defeatism is nearly identical with that of the decent democracies in 1938, except that Chamberlain never compromised his own homeland's territorial integrity.
Chamberlain (September 27, 1938): "How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing."
Olmert (June 9, 2005): "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies."
The grievances - i.e. Sudenten and Palestinian "occupation" canards - are indistinguishable. Hitler managed to convince enlightened Europe that the Czechs were cruel occupiers of the Sudetenland and ruthless subjugators of its ethnic Germans. Underdog Czechoslovakia, struggling for survival, was portrayed as the intransigent troublemaker.
In contrast to the Czechs, befuddled Israelis implausibly succumb to "occupation" propaganda. Increasingly we swallow the claim that the entire conflict isn't about Arab aspirations to eradicate the Jewish state but about creating a Palestinian state. Yet before 1967, as long as the territories in question were under Arab rule, Palestinian self-determination remarkably wasn't an issue. It was obviously raised as an irredentist ruse to wrest land from Jewish control.
The hapless Czechs, it must be emphasized, weren't as self-blinkered as most Israelis. They warned that ceding Sudetenland would lead to Czechoslovakia's obliteration. But Hitler promised otherwise to Chamberlain and Chamberlain believed him.
Near death, Chamberlain told his son that the fault wasn't with appeasement: "Everything would have worked out OK if Hitler hadn't lied to me." Not quite cricket.