A view from Israel: Diamond in the rough

Like many before him, Dennis Ross places the blame for the stagnant peace process squarely on Israel.

By ISRAEL KASNETT
January 13, 2012 17:49
4 minute read.
Dennis Ross, senior White House adviser on the ME.

dennis ross_311 reuters. (photo credit: Gary Cameron / Reuters)

Dennis Ross, a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who recently stepped down from his position as special assistant to President Barack Obama, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post last week titled “How to break a Middle East stalemate.” In it, he outlines how Israel should make security concessions to the Palestinians but fails to demand anything of them.

Like many others before him, Ross appears to place the blame for the stagnant peace process squarely on Israel’s shoulders.

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But as events in the Middle East unfold, it should be apparent to anyone paying close attention that Hamas and Fatah first need to work out the differences between themselves.

With the Muslim Brotherhood in control in Egypt along with its apparent desire to stir trouble with Israel and both Hamas and the Brotherhood looking to each other for inspiration, this is no time to attempt a peace deal with the Palestinians.

And this is where Ross finally gets it right. He writes, “But there should also be no illusions about the prospects of a breakthrough any time soon. The psychological gaps between the parties make it hard to resolve their differences and have bedeviled all the work for peace talks over the past few years.”

In other words, while Israel and the Palestinians should certainly keep on talking to maintain some semblance of ongoing diplomacy, conditions are not ripe for a breakthrough.

And what would be the point of pressing further? Were a peace deal to appear on the horizon, Hamas would seek to scuttle it at every opportunity. And it is Israel’s right to demand security guarantees as part of any peace deal. Only those under great illusions could make the assumption that Hamas would give up its murderous cause.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently emphasized that the Palestinians “are interested in internationalizing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict... anyone who talks about a political breakthrough with the Palestinians doesn’t have a clue.”

At this point, it is not in Israel’s best interest to attempt to make peace with the Palestinians since they themselves are not yet ready for such an occasion.

The Muslim Brotherhood has shown interest over the past few months in reviewing the 1979 peace agreement Israel signed with Egypt. And if it is the case that it wants to renege on the land-for-peace deal Menachem Begin signed with Anwar Sadat when Israel transferred the Sinai to Egypt, then the entire concept of land for peace disintegrates.

The land-for-peace formula will no longer be relevant and all the years of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on this very tenet wasted. Future deals based on this formula would be “land for cold peace now – not forever.”

It is clear that even people like Ross, who have been intimately involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, continue to misunderstand the realities of the conflict and misread the Palestinian leadership. Ross writes in the same article, “Palestinian leaders need to be able to show that their approach is producing a process that will, in time, end the occupation.”

Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, and that should have produced results on the Palestinian side. Instead, it produced a torrent of missile fire on Israel.

What Ross and others fail to understand is that the Palestinian leadership relies politically on the so-called occupation. Without it, they have nothing with which to rally their people around.

With the West pressing for Israeli concessions only, now is not the time to attempt a breakthrough.

THERE IS so much more to Israel than conflict. We need not allow a third party – in this case the Palestinians – to define our place in the world. Israel can continue to save lives, build and improve infrastructure around the world, introduce knowledge and ideas and teach and be taught.

Israelis are leaders in business, medicine, charity, coexistence, sports, science, education, the arts and much more.

The time has come to manage the dispute Israel has with the Palestinians. The government must clarify that Israel will continue to discuss – in general – points of disagreement with the Palestinians but will not be forced into making further concessions.

There are larger problems the world should be focusing on today, such as Iran, Russia, Syria, African nations or domestic issues.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not lie at the center of the problems facing the Middle East and the rest of the world.

It is truly unfortunate that the world views Israel solely through conflict. If it would just look a bit closer, it would discover a diamond in the rough.


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