Despite the fights that break out in the comments to my diaries, I'm very moderate on the issue of a final status agreement (or, to use another word, peace) between Israel and the Palestinians. This is to say that I agree that the occupation must end, that Israel should not annex parts of Palestinian territory, that the Palestinians have every right to a viable sovereign state, and that both Israel and the Palestinians will have to make large concessions in their initial demands of one another.
But the journalists writing on the topic do their best to drown out moderate voices, choosing instead to embrace ridiculous positions, whether from the right or the left.
To wit: Today I read two articles, one by neoconservative David Frum, and the other by Abderrahim Sabir, published on the Web site of the London Guardian. I couldn't decide who made the worse points.
First Frum's piece. His lead reads thus:
A Netanyahu-Barak government: Now that sends a message to the world, and to Washington above all. It says: Don’t imagine you can push Israel into dangerous concessions by driving a wedge between Israel’s right and left.
Yeah, the Labor Party stopped being properly defined as part of the "left" at least a decade ago — probably more.
For a brief, dizzy moment, it seemed the deal would happen: the Palestinians would get their state, Arafat his tomb in Jerusalem, Bill Clinton his Nobel Peace Prize and Israel...well, it was never certain what Israel would get. Peace? No, not very likely. But maybe a respite before the next round of demands.
While I blame Arafat for the failure of Oslo by turning down a perfectly good offer at Taba, I don't think it's fair to say, if Arafat had inked the deal, that Israel would have gotten nothing. Everything in the Arab world indicates that Israel would have benefitted enormously. Not only would their military budget have dropped like a stone, but they would have gotten a huge peace dividend through normalization of relations (particularly economic relations) with its neighbors.
A small cottage industry has emerged in the West to argue that the Palestinians did not really walk away in 2000. Or that if they did walk away, they were entitled to walk away. Or even if they were not entitled, they should nonetheless get yet another chance.
I was with Frum until the last sentence here. Given that the Palestinian Authority has been under new leadership since Arafat's death, then, yes, they should get another chance. In fact, they should get as many chances as they want, because the alternative is perpetual war.
For the ambitious peacemakers in the Obama administration, the problem is not Netanyahu, but the fact that Israelis have lost faith in peace processes that have brought them not peace but war, rockets not normality.
Of course, Frum cites no polls. I read one today that said 75% of Israelis still support a two-state solution. Figures are similar among Palestinians.
To imagine that we can reach peace by closing our eyes to the realities of conflict—and to treat Israel’s anxieties about the murderous intentions of its neighbors as impediments to be pushed aside.
And this is nothing but fear-mongering. None of Israel's neighbors has any intention of attacking it, with the exception of Hamas. Iran isn't a neighbor and its intentions vis-à-vis Israel are far from clear.
Netanyahu speaks not only for himself, but for the majority of an Israeli public that has learned caution from bitter experience.
I realize the election was a whole three months ago, but am I alone in remembering that the Likud actually polled second in the election? Granted, it was a close second, but Bibi polled second place.
Along with all this nonsense, we get lots of saber-rattling about attacking Iran. These people want to bomb Iran so badly that they're probably physically aroused.
Now to Sabir.
The other question that came to mind is whether President Peres would ever entertain the idea that Hamas could also learn by trial and error.
Hamas has been in the Palestinian Territories now for twenty years. They have not changed their position. That they are in power will, I think, do little to change their intransigence. Rather, they will see their election as a referendum on their agenda and not what it actually was — a referendum on the corruption of the PLO.
The double punishment of the Palestinian population in Gaza – an international boycott/punishment for their vote and an illegal Israeli collective punishment – brought neither peace to the Palestinians and Israelis nor a change of mind in Hamas. It contributed to fracturing the Palestinian unity and purpose.
Well, yes and no. Yes, the siege of Gaza is in every way illegal. But no, there's nothing wrong with boycotting the Palestinian Authority as long as Hamas is in power. Jews attempted a boycott of Germany when Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933. If this country voted in a Klansman as the President, would we not expect that non-whites everywhere would boycott us? What makes Hamas any different? After all, Hamas is not only an anti-Israel organization: As it proved with its Passover massacre and with its rhetoric, it is an anti-Jewish organization.
What Lieberman fails to recognise is that these were occupied territories that were rightly returned to Egypt and Lebanon and brought peace with Egypt and quiet borders with Lebanon.
Am I alone in remembering a war between Israel and Hezbollah in '96? Am I?
The rest of Samir's article is more rational with Frum's, but it supposes that some sea-change would have come over Hamas if it had been allowed to rule the way it wanted without impediment from Israel and the world community. There's a small chance he's correct, but Hamas's actions and rhetoric would seem to say something quite different.
There's an old saying about marital disputes. There are three versions: His version, her version, and the truth. I'd say Frum and Samir and offering "his" and "her" versions. The truth lies somewhere between.
This is not to say I'm offering it here.