Why isn’t there peace? Because of Israel, of course!

The main element of Israeli-Palestinian talks is that only the Palestinian side is allowed to make demands.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas waiving 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas waiving 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Who knew? It’s all Israel’s fault there isn’t peace. Why? Because it hasn’t forgotten its history and doesn’t want to be a “willing martyr.”
Former US president Bill Clinton said it was all Arafat’s fault when he left office, but has now discovered that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blocked peace. The Palestinians are the new Jews – no doubt Passover seders are being prepared for next year that read, “Let my (Palestinian) people go.”
Only right-wing, extremist Likudnik reactionaries dare to question this. All political scientists agree: case closed. Israeli-made global non-warming of the peace process is the problem.
But wait a moment. Leaving aside the past history of Palestinian intransigence, terrorism, refusal to compromise, etc., there remains a fascinating central question: What else could Israel have done? What else should it be doing now?
Herein lies the problem. Israel has been “set up” so that its only “acceptable” alternative is to make unilateral concessions which, as we’ve seen before, result only in more denunciations of Israel, followed by more Palestinian demands for unilateral concessions.
For example, Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and dismantling of all settlements there not only led to a Hamas regime attacking Israel, it didn’t even gain Israel any international credit or additional support. Its “reward” has been pressure to reduce sanctions, rockets and mortars attacks against Israeli cities, claims that Israel committed war crimes in defending itself and ongoing complaints that Gaza is still “occupied.”
THEN THERE are the three preconditions for an “ideal” Israeli peace initiative: Israel cannot ask for anything at all. If it does, the Palestinians will reject it, and that will be “Israel’s fault.”
For example: Suppose we withdraw to the 1967 lines and you drop your demand for all Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to Israel.
How about we support you becoming a sovereign state immediately and you recognize Israel as a Jewish state? Never!
OK, how about you...
Mommy! He’s hitting me again!
Mommy here means the UN, Arab League, Muslim umma, the United States, the EU, Russia and the international community generally.
This is literally true: Israel can give, but not ask for anything in return.
2. Israel must ignore past experience.
Withdrawals lead to the land turned over being a base for new attacks? Forget it. More withdrawals! Verbal promises in exchange for material concessions aren’t kept? The world promises to back you up and acknowledge after the concession that you really want peace and then forgets that pledge? Pretend it didn’t happen. When Palestinians get one gain they just demand something else? Don’t worry about it.
Sinai and cold peace with Egypt leads to breakdown of treaty after new revolution? South Lebanon becomes Hizbullahland, Gaza becomes Hamasland? West Bank is a zone of cross-border attacks and incitement? Drop it.
3. Israel must forgo any analysis of future problems that could arise from these concessions.
For example, an independent Palestinian state established with no Palestinian concessions could take the position that any land it wasn’t given is occupied by a foreign aggressor. It could import weapons, sign military cooperation treaties with any other party it wanted, invite in foreign advisors or troops, incite its population against Israel and glorify terrorism. It could be taken over by Hamas, refuse to stop cross-border attacks or to arrest those responsible, go after Israel in the international courts, seek UN condemnation of Israel as an aggressor, and much more.
Oh, and since it already recieved international recognition it need never negotiate with Israel again or make any compromise with it. And nobody in the international community would really do anything at all to punish, prevent, or pressure it to behave differently.
This situation is comparable to the classic question that parents have long asked their children: If everyone else was jumping off a cliff would you do it, too? Israel’s situation is slightly different: If everyone else told you to jump off a cliff but no one else was willing to take the plunge, would you do it?
THE ANSWER, of course, is “no” - even if those urging you to jump promised to be your friend between the time you jump and the minute you hit the ground.
Just because “everyone” says Israel is at fault, that the status quo is untenable, that something must be done right now, or that the Palestinians cannot wait to make peace based on two states doesn’t mean that any of these things are true.
If the Jewish people simply went along with majority opinion it would have gone out of existence a long time ago. And if Israel simply went along with foreign majority opinion it would have been wiped off the map a long time ago.
So I pondered, weak and weary, trying to think of some new initiative. Israel unilaterally pulls out of the West Bank? Recognizes a Palestinian state as independent? Dismantles all the settlements as a sign of good will? What would work? Think, man, think!
And then it came to me: the ideal solution. See what you think of it:
Israel is ready to accept an independent Palestinian state if the following principles are met:
• Explicit Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.
• The demilitarization of a Palestinian state in such a manner that all of Israel’s security needs will be met.
• International backing of these security arrangements in the form of explicit international guarantees.
• The problem of refugees must be resolved outside the borders of Israel.
• An agreement must end the conflict. This is to say that the Palestinians will not be able to raise additional claims following the signing of a peace agreement.
Oh, wait. That’s not something I made up. It’s the Israeli peace plan of June 2009!
The Palestinian Authority wants a state without agreeing – before or after getting it – to accept a Jewish state, provide serious security guarantees, resettle refugees in Palestine, or end the conflict. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, for example, stated recently that even if the UN recognized an independent state he would then take up the demand to return all refugees and their descendants to live in Israel
Why is this not a pessimistic assessment? Because the intransigence of the Palestinian leadership and popular opinion throws away these opportunities and gets far less than it could otherwise. Despite much talk, there is no material pressure on Israel. After each diplomatic failure due to unmentioned Palestinian rejectionism the world goes away for a while and finds something else to do.
Israel’s stated flexibility and ideas have had some effect in defusing demands. After removing all the hoopla, Israel-Palestinian diplomacy of the last three decades is largely sound and fury and signifies nothing.
So if the world won’t listen to Israel’s proposals, won’t credit its eagerness to negotiate and won’t accept plans that also include Israel getting something for its troubles there is no way Israel is ever going to satisfy it. In this context, desperately trying to come up with new ideas (concessions) in order to gain international praise (not going to happen) is a waste of time. Don’t panic. See through the nonsense.
The writer is the director of Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and the author of The Rubin Report blog.