One of this country's prominent professional talking heads, who also happens to be a longtime friend, opined in all earnestness when we met the other day that "the most pivotal recent political development" was Tom Friedman's op-ed in The New York Times (November 7) entitled "Call White House, ask for Barack." The broadcaster positively glowed and gloated. From his ultra-leftist standpoint this was a devastating blow to Binyamin Netanyahu and he lustily savored the triumph.
I had to confess my abysmal failure to be wowed. I gave Friedman's supposedly seminal column less than passing attention and couldn't see what the hoopla was about. Friedman is a veteran Jewish Israel-basher, whose career was constructed on his "personal crisis" of disillusionment with the Jewish state. Trashing Israel, after all, is his proven stock-in-trade. So what if Friedman figures there's "no romance, no sex, no excitement, no urgency" to our peace process, "not even a sense of importance anymore"? Big deal. Whoopty-do!
"The Americans are fed up with Bibi. They'll hang him out to dry and ditch the peace process," the media-hotshot retorted with noticeable exasperation.
"What peace process?" I snapped back. "It's a sham. There never was any process to achieve real coexistence, only a pretext to weaken Israel. Some 'useful-fool' Israelis play along for political expedience and others are intimidated to adopt the agenda," I argued. "Please let Washington quit trying to make us more vulnerable. By all means let them leave us alone."
That said, I wasn't optimistic: "It's too good to be true. What have we got to go on? Friedman? Since when does he call the shots?"
My influential colleague was flabbergasted: "Friedman reflects Obama's mood. This is a stern warning for us. At the very least Friedman will sway Obama and then we'll see where that gets us."
I ACHED to ask which side my famous interlocutor rooted for and whether he gave voice to left-wing wishful thinking, but I controlled myself.
If I hadn't, I'd have pointed out that rather than calm things, international intermediaries and less-than-honest brokers fan the flames. The greater the overseas intervention, the deeper the impasse. Israelis and Palestinians had met regularly, on a weekly basis, to chew the fat pre-Obama. Miraculously the settlements were no "obstacle to dialogue."
After Obama reinvented the wheel, the settlements became a bÃªte noire and all contacts were discontinued. Palestinians are nobody's fools. If Obama promises to be a "friendly facilitator," responsive to their aspirations, why should they compromise, especially when they expect Israel to be coerced into more and more concessions and demonized to boot? They need only wait patiently.
They anyhow never sought accommodation. Their aim is to undo Israel's Six Day War victory and cram Israel back behind the untenable Green Line. Ironically, however, after 1949 the Arabs spent nearly two decades in relentless efforts to violently erase said Green Line, without mention of a Palestinian state. That triggered the 1967 war, which created new territorial facts - worse for the Arabs from their perspective. Thus arose their now-intense nostalgia for the Green Line they once abhorred with such bloody vengeance.
The Green Line, a.k.a. the 1949 armistice line, was created because the Arabs adamantly and aggressively sought to obliterate the previous line they rejected - the 1947 partition line that gave Jews a precarious, crazy-quilt of a ministate. The Arabs attacked tiny newborn, ill-armed Israel with the object of shoving its Jews beyond the shoreline, into the waters of the bottomless blue sea.
When, against the odds, Israel's Jews managed to survive and push the
invaders past the 1947 line to the quasi-more-defensible 1949 Green Line, the Arabs developed an insatiable hankering for the just-lost 1947 line. It was suddenly regarded as embodying the epitome of international legality, just as the later-rejected 1949 line would gain unimaginable legitimacy.
The Arabs always evince uncanny fondness for the lines their belligerence just rubbed out. The trouble is that they succeed to brazenly market their fantastic fabrications to an international community all-too-eager to be duped.
But the Arabs aren't after a mere time warp to blissful 1949. That was precisely what both Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered them, only to be rudely rebuffed. Nevertheless, Palestinians incredibly manage to continue posing as the aggrieved underdogs seeking restoration of the status quo ante. They could've had it all, were they willing to only pro forma relinquish their goal of eventually eliminating the Jewish state. But the ultimate objective of their piecemeal strategy isn't discussed, just the two-state recipe for the return of "usurped land."
THIS ISN'T an Arab innovation. Historians label it irredentism. It originated with the 19th-century Italian national movement for the annexation of territories then under Austrian rule - Italia Irredenta (unredeemed Italy). The term is since applied by extension to unsavory nationalist agitation whereby one country claims stretches of another's territory as property belonging to it. Hitler insisted that Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland was Germania Irredenta - his "last demand in Europe."
The border region's German inhabitants, he persuaded a world all-too-eager to be duped, deserve self-rule. Germans cannot live as a minority anywhere (just as Arabs can't).
Hitler's next move was to portray Sudeten Germans as oppressed. He staged a circus of provocation charging the "perfidious Czechs" with terrorizing Sudeten women and children and murdering innocent villagers. Sounds familiar? Just substitute Arabs for Germans, Israelis for Czechs and Palestinians for Sudetens.
Six months after appeasing democracies let Germany have the Sudetenland, Hitler took all of Czechoslovakia. His "last demand" wasn't final after all. "I saw our enemies in Munich," he later recalled his 1938 powwow with Neville Chamberlain, "they are little worms."
Israel's cardinal sin is refusing to surrender without a shot like Czechoslovakia. But retreating to the Green Line would be akin to ceding Sudetenland. Czechoslovakia, though, only yielded when overwhelmed by superior forces. Israel faces no military defeat. Some of its politicos merely lost the will to win.
In 1945, after 350,000 Czechoslovak casualties, the Czechs expelled millions of indigenous Germans from the liberated Sudetenland. The UN doesn't deem it occupied territory. It doesn't confer perpetual refugee status on the transferred Germans. Rightly, they're regarded as having brought their comeuppance on themselves. They had it coming. Aggressors should pay for their crimes, and must expect no restitution, much less reward for their hostility. The world pretty much agreed on that in Germany's case.
Hence, Germania Irredenta is today a lost cause, not a viable realistic option. Not so Arabia Irrendenta. Different strokes for different folks.
Israelis need to remember that many meddlers and/or professed do-gooders only reluctantly tolerate Israel, want it cut down to size and squeezed back into what dovish Abba Eban dubbed "the Auschwitz lines."
Tom Friedman, let's not forget, called Israel "Yad Vashem with an air force."