by Ed Morrissey
It’s not often that I agree with Tom Friedman, and even in this instance my agreement comes with heavy qualifiers. However, Friedman’s essential point in today’s column, that the US has no reason to pursue the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, is entirely correct. We would do worse than to follow this advice, even if just in the short term:
Let’s just get out of the picture. Let all these leaders stand in front of their own people and tell them the truth: “My fellow citizens: Nothing is happening; nothing is going to happen. It’s just you and me and the problem we own.”
Indeed, it’s time for us to dust off James Baker’s line: “When you’re serious, give us a call: 202-456-1414. Ask for Barack. Otherwise, stay out of our lives. We have our own country to fix.”
The fact is, the only time America has been able to advance peace — post-Yom Kippur War, Camp David, post-Lebanon war, Madrid and Oslo — has been when the parties felt enough pain for different reasons that they invited our diplomacy, and we had statesmen — Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, George Shultz, James Baker and Bill Clinton — savvy enough to seize those moments.
Today, the Arabs, Israel and the Palestinians are clearly not feeling enough pain to do anything hard for peace with each other — a mood best summed up by a phrase making the rounds at the State Department: The Palestinian leadership “wants a deal with Israel without any negotiations” and Israel’s leadership “wants negotiations with the Palestinians without any deal.”
Why are we there in the first place? To some extent, we have made this a centerpiece of our diplomacy for decades as some sort of penance for our alliance with Israel. Administrations of both parties have approached the conflict as an apology for close ties with Israel, perhaps as a means of maintaining diplomatic credibility with Arab and Muslim nations in the region. Well, that hasn’t worked out very well, has it? The nations that hate us still hate us, and the nations that sell us oil would still sell us oil anyway. (We get more from Canada and Mexico, anyway.)
For the most part, the best we can say is that we haven’t made the situation any worse, although lately we can’t even say that. We draft Road Maps and Wye River accords and attempt to force both sides into accepting them, with the inevitable result that both sides agree only to those conditions they like. The Israelis have gone farther on several occasions, including especially with Bill Clinton, only to have Yasser Arafat reject their concessions and call for armed intifada instead. And that was the high-water mark for American diplomacy between the two.
Friedman uses a “pox upon both houses” approach to ditching the effort, and that is where we diverge. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process will never move forward under the current conditions because the Palestinians put terrorists in charge of their pseudo-state. The Palestinian leadership does not desire peace or coexistence with an Israeli state; they want the Israeli state to themselves. Our continued recognition of this leadership (considered the “moderate” or pragmatic terrorists) does nothing to encourage the Palestinians to push that radical, violent leadership aside for people who want real peace. As long as the Palestinians have such people in charge, we will continue to see zero progress in peace negotiations. While it takes two enemies to discuss peace, it takes two enemies interested in peace — which this process has never had, regardless of how many American Presidents of both parties pretended it does.
We should stop feeling as though we have to apologize for our friendship with Israel, or pretend that the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors didn’t create their own misery through a series of wars against Israel which they lost. Let the Palestinians and the Israelis tend to their own interests, and we should tend to our own as well. When the Palestinians figure out that we are not interested in beating our heads against the wall by dealing with terrorists uninterested in actual negotiations, then perhaps they’ll produce effective leadership with more interest in coexistence rather than annihilation.
Update: An interesting point from Tom Maguire:
Friedman is not attempting to match his advice to the realities of the current Administration. First, it is led by a former street organizer – take away “process” and there is nothing left.
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