By Yoram Getzler
The following is written in a response to an acquaintance who writes on the need for America/Obama to pressure Israel in the pursuit of a Middle-East peace.
I think it is also relevant to the latest controversy over VP Biden and the Israeli government announcement of building in East Jerusalem, which by-the-way I think is a major mistake and deeply flawed policy in and of itself.
But I think you all need to keep in mind; if the US made such a mess of the attempt to bring Democracy to the Middle-Ease (Iraq adventure) what would make anyone think that it would do any better in the Israel/Arab sphere?
True America has a great deal of leverage over Israel, but practically none over the Palestinians. In any case it’s not a matter of just getting the leadership to make concessions and statements approved by Washington.
As an example; USAID has stated in the past that it would not support Palestinian sports activities held in honor of killers of Israelis. USAID objected, when a PA agency named a sport event in the name of Wafa Idris (who blew-up three people at my local supermarket), the PA agrees to change the name, it does not to do so, and in the next weeks in fact names a tournament in honor of a different shahid (martyr). And the money keeps coming from America. The same holds for the Palestinian state media. Most of the equipment training and funding comes from various western countries, in the main from America. The broadcasts continue to be inflammatory, racist and are the opposite of presenting to the people any kind of programming conducive to compromise and a reasonable conclusion of this conflict. The west continue to send money. As you have to come to understand, Mr. Bargouti, articulate, sophisticated and well spoken, a nice mild moderate sounding man, has a tip of poison to his tongue. The question that would interest me would be does he consciously realize the true meaning of his argument?
And here is one of the reasons for Netanyahu’s insistence on the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Which by-the-way, I believe is not sufficient to contribute to underwriting any public declarations or any signed piece of paper. The hard nut of the problem is the acceptance by the Arab/Muslim world of the legitimacy of the historical claim of the Jewish people to any of the land between the river and the sea. This hundred acres or that ten acres. There is absolutely no recognition of any kind of legitimacy, not only to any claim of ours, but to our very existence itself.
Sure, you will find Muslims in America who will smile and accept the possibility of our claim, but they are in America.
If the US could force anyone to sign anything its staying power to enforce, on a daily basis any agreement is minute.
Take Jewish access to the Cave of the Patriarchs (& Matriarchies). Who is going to provide daily security there that a Goldstein does not return, or that a bus full of Lubavachers is not attacked? And for how many years will this security group remain?
The only possibility in this generation for a reasonable withdrawal from Judea & Samaria was lost over three events this past few years.
The first was the response of the Palestinians of Gaza who were free to make their own decisions as to what they really wanted, a functioning state? Or to kill more Jews. Yes, I know the excuse, but that part of the problem, there is always an excuse for their violent behavior. It was obvious that had the people of Gaza focus their energy on creating a real national entity; there would have been no power on earth that could have kept the Israelis on the other side of the green line. The support for the evacuation from Gaza was a kind of trial for the ending of the occupation itself. We all know the response. No one to encourage more compromise.
Then came Obama; in effect placing all the weight on Israel to make the compromise as if the mantra about the settlements being THE obstacle to peace was accurate.
The final push came from Goldstone. The meaning is that we have no right to defend ourselves when the world has proven that it will not! No matter how many years we absorb being attacked, and we refrain from answering violence with more violence, once we act, we are in the wrong.
The core of the issue are a set of beliefs, these are NOT bargaining positions. Beliefs are not subject to threats; if you do not change your belief I will withdraw aid? I will hit you with this big stick? The statement made by Bargouti was not a bargaining position. It’s a deeply held belief which revolves around the rejection by the Arab/Muslim world of the legitimacy of a Jewish nation. After all, when the Prophet lived the Jews were no more than another of the many religions existing in the Arabian Peninsula. Just one more tribe among many. A tribe, not a nation. In addition the Jews are described in such vile terms that it would be a major religious deviation to see them as anything but underhanded, unscrupulous people that could not be trusted.
A new American policy is not the key. The key is for there to be a reason for the people of Israel to believe that an end to the occupation will not lead to a great danger from the enemy up close; a repeat of the Gaza experience. It could be called a political horizon, if someone can figure that out, we may have a chance.