Although Israel’s new government has yet to be formally sworn in, international pressure on the Jewish state to resume peace talks with the Palestinians is already beginning to mount.
Over the weekend, an unnamed Palestinian official told the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper that Western diplomats are pushing to arrange a joint meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
And on Friday, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, congratulated Netanyahu on forming a coalition, but stressed the need “to re-launch the Palestinian/Israeli peace negotiations as soon as possible.”
And so, showing little regard for the disastrous consequences of their previous attempts at so-called peacemaking, American and European officials now seem intent on banging their heads – and ours – against the wall yet again.
Needless to say, they continue to adhere to their misguided conception of what the outcome of such talks should be, even before they have begun. As Mogherini put it in her statement last week, the aim is “achieving a comprehensive agreement towards the creation of an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in peace and security.”
It is the same mantra that Western peace-processors have been repeating ad nauseam for decades, as if asserting it over and over again somehow makes it sensible.
But before attempting to rush into yet another fruitless round of diplomatic wrangling, the reckless advocates of Palestinian statehood would do well to take a quick look back at recent history.
After all, it was just 21 years ago this month that Israel and the PLO signed the May 4, 1994 Cairo Agreement, also known as the Gaza-Jericho accord, under which the Jewish state withdrew from Jericho as well as nearly 60 percent of the Gaza strip, all of which was turned over to Palestinian control.
The agreement was based on the quintessential formula of “land for peace,” whereby Israel relinquished territory and the Palestinians promised to prevent violence and combat terrorism.
Subsequent deals, such as the Oslo II accord of September 1995, the January 1997 Hebron protocol and the October 1998 Wye agreement were all based on the same principle.
In each case, Israel handed territory over to the Palestinians in exchange for promises of peace. And in each instance, without fail, Israel’s gestures were reciprocated with still more violence.
The 1994 Cairo Agreement unleashed a wave of unprecedented Palestinian terrorism, which included suicide bombings that shook the core of the nation.
“Land for peace” quickly devolved into “land for nothing” before crumbling into “land for terrorism.”
Is this really a pattern worth revisiting? Moreover, the situation on the ground in the region is far more complex, and far more dangerous, than it was just 10 or 15 years ago.
ALL AROUND us, the Middle East is in flames, as at least five Arab governments have been busy bombing their own territories in recent months.
In Yemen, government warplanes have been used by the president and the rebels to bomb each other in Aden and elsewhere. In Syria, Bashar Assad has deployed military helicopters to drop barrel bombs on Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, showing little concern for the indiscriminate killing of numerous civilians.
In Iraq, the nation’s air force has been used to attack Islamic State (IS) rebels, while in Libya and Sudan, governments have deployed air power against their own people.
With so much conflict raging across the Middle East, now is hardly the time to be pushing Israel to make dangerous concessions.
Indeed, the Palestinians themselves are irreparably divided, with Hamas controlling Gaza and 80-year-old Abbas in charge in Ramallah.
Even if Israel were to somehow reach an agreement with Abbas, who has shown little desire to end the conflict, of what value would such a deal be? It would not obligate the Hamas fundamentalist regime in Gaza, and who knows if any subsequent Palestinian leadership would feel duty-bound to uphold it.
And with Iran moving ever closer toward its goal of building a nuclear arsenal, one that would threaten Israel’s existence and destabilize the entire region, there are far more pressing issues worthy of Western attention.
Nonetheless, it appears almost certain that Washington and its European allies will soon be turning up the heat, seeking to get the Jewish state to sit down with its implacable foes and offer them still more in the way of compromise.
Netanyahu’s new government needs to stand firm and reject any such pressure. To give up tangible assets in exchange for a dubious peace is something that Israel tried back in the 1990s with calamitous results. We don’t need to try it again.