I've received yet another learned essay arguing that Israel has to acknowledge the failure of the Oslo Accords, and move on.
That is a tiresome mantra, with different versions from the right and left. Each manages to find enough to blame in what the Palestinians have done (the right) or what Israel has done (the left) to justify claiming that Oslo is dead.
Actually, the Oslo Accord alive, perhaps tottering, but one of the best things that has happened to Israel since 1967.
Another mantra of shrill Jews whose theme is oy gevalt, and cannot accept anything other than perfection, is that Jimmy Carter, Camp David, and the agreement with Egypt has brought nothing more than a cold peace, with the Egyptians getting the Sinai but not accepting Israel along with it.
Then we have Ariel Sharon's withdrawal of settlements from Gaza, also a failure insofar as it has not brought anything but missiles from Gaza, and the people forced to leave have not been happily resettled.
Alas it produces unhappy loneliness to claim that what many others see as abject failures are actually pretty good, although imperfect.
Speaking generally, "pretty good, although imperfect" is about as good as anything produced by a political process involving people of widely different interests and views. We might say the same for Obamacare, but that would get us off the track and invite shrill Americans to express their equivalent of oy gevalt, and grab their nearest handgun or assault weapon.
The advantage of Oslo is that it has provided the Palestinians with a substantial degree of autonomy. Probably as much as they have deserved, given their animosity and frequent violence toward Israel. It has freed Israel from having to provide for the daily needs in education, health, and public safety, and sticks with the Palestinians the low quality of what they provide themselves, with large dollops of foreign aid. Israel takes upon itself the freedom to intercede when security demands. Most of the people it seizes and brings back for questioning or incarceration are the opponents of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Those nightly sweeps aid the Palestinian establishment as well as Israelis. None of the Palestinians can concede their dependence on Israel, and the ignorant worthies of the west don't care.
Palestinian security personnel generally cooperate with Israel, especially in the recent decade due to American and Jordanian training. Some Palestinian security personnel have participated in attacks against Israelis. As noted above, nothing's perfect.
Those who screech about Israeli occupation are singing in an ideological choir, without reference to reality. The Palestinians are occupying themselves, not doing a great job of providing themselves with services. Israel's control of the borders and its entry for purposes of mutual defense are as justified as any other country's efforts in its own defense.
Political science is not precise. It ain't physics or mathematics. Not even biology. However, comparison is essential to judgement, and by comparison Israel's concern for self-defense vis a vis the West Bank and Gaza sits pretty well alongside what other countries do.
Israeli settlements over the 1967 border raise knottier issues of legality than ideological singers are willing to concede. Those seeing settlement as the core of the problem also ignore Palestinian rejectionism, which could have dealt with settlements soon after 1967, and certainly in 2000 or 2008, and maybe even in the last round of talks brokered by John Kerry. Admittedly, things aren't all that clear in the murky history of political actions, but these are fair conclusions.
Jimmy Carter, Camp David, and the peace treaty with Egypt have done better in recent months than in previous years. Egypt and-Israel are cooperating against the madness of Gaza and the Sinai. Yet Egyptian officials can still be counted on to single out Israel for criticism in the old style of a cold peace.
Jimmy Carter has muddied his name by preaching the myth of Apartheid. He's shown some care in limiting that political four letter word to the West Bank and Gaza, but it's caught on with those in the leftist crowd, who delight in citing an American President when they curse all that Israel does.
On the positive side of Carter's record is his stubborn babysitting of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and not letting them leave Camp David without reaching an agreement.
Like just about everything else in politics, the withdrawal of settlements from Gaza was not well executed. It came without prying an agreement from the Palestinians, and brought violence rather than any degree of accommodation. The benefit consists in the important point of shortening Israel's borders, leaving out settlement that required heavy defense, and involved frequent casualties of residents and soldiers. Another result, although not one admired by Israeli and international leftists, is that the Palestinian response to the withdrawal pretty much ends any Israeli willingness to withdraw anything bigger than a few hilltop trailers or shacks from the West Bank.
Palestinians will have to accept what's left of the West Bank, assuming they ever have a sensible leader who sees an advantage in making an agreement with Israel.
Together, this list of events are among the best things that have happened to Israel since 1967. They provide clear borders with Egypt and Gaza, which join those with Jordan and Lebanon as marking legitimate lines of defense. Israel's economic development and political wisdom has brought the country to the height of Jewish history. It's been helped by the chaos among Muslims and the extremism of Iran, which have produced for Israel to quiet, but productive relations with a number of Arab countries not previously considered accommodating.
For those who say that we must join others in solving the problem of Islamic terror, the best response is to deal with its manifestations without making it worse. We know that not all Muslims are violent. Some 200,000 Palestinians would rather work with Israelis than kill Israelis. It may be that almost all active terrorists today are Muslims. Yet the wisest goal is to deal with the thousands threatening us, without mounting such a massive attack that brings hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions, or hundreds of millions into the fray.
We could hope for better comments from the American leadership, but we should recognize that the US has many fish to fry along with its commitments to Israel. Looking at concrete actions, and ignoring the verbiage, the relationship has remained productive.
Other causes for worry appear in Europeans who seem committed to Palestine. How committed remains an open question. Alongside verbiage that thrills the Palestinian leadership has been substantial European cooperation with Israel in matters of science, higher education, military intelligence and military equipment.
Oy gevalt will continue to compete with Hatikva as the Jewish national anthem. The two of them together sum up much of Judaic tradition. We should not expect to hear one without the other.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)Department of Political ScienceHebrew University of Jerusalem