Is Peace Possible in the Middle East?
The Middle East “peace process,” as in Macbeth’s great soliloquy, “creeps on this petty pace from day to day,” depleting its innumerable tomorrows and leading to nothing but misery and despair. It has only “lighted fools/The way to dusty death” and to failure after failure, being quite definitely “a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing.” Of course, the bitter and mephitic Scots laird is speaking of the futility of life while we, on the other hand, are considering the total senselessness of a quixotic and fugitive political enterprise that is heading nowhere except endless stalemate or renewed conflict.
Surely, it has become obvious by this time, after sixty-plus years of tractionless discussions and bloody confrontations, that the current negotiating paradigm of Israeli concessions for Palestinian recalcitrance, that is, land for no peace and a raft of further demands, is simply not working, nor is it going to work. Why the Israeli leadership ever embarked on so fruitless a project is beyond rational explanation. In matters of life and death, unanchored hope is no substitute for hard-headed assaying and a grounding in history. For peace to have even an unhouseled ghost of a chance, several correlative concessions on the part of the Palestinians would be absolutely mandatory. For example:
- The Palestinians would have to agree that a Palestinian state would be no more Judenrein than Israel would be, let’s say, Muslimrein; there are one and half million Arabs resident in Israel, most of whom will not surrender their Israeli citizenship. Why then should 300,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria be evicted from their homes?
- The Palestinians would have to realize that their insistence on the “right of return” to Israel of seven million so-called “refugees” is a complete nonstarter, and must be dropped from their negotiating position. Israel is not about to commit demographic suicide.
- They will be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
- They will have to accept Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Ramallah as the capital of Palestine.
- They will need to be reminded that the “green line” is not an officially ratified international border but merely a temporary armistice line, allowing for adjustments that ensure Israel’s retention of strategic depth. For the Palestinian Authority to assume that its proposed or unilaterally declared state would abut the pre-1967 borders is a violation of UN Resolution 242. Moreover, Clause 5(2) of the Rhodes Armistice Agreement of 1949 stipulates that “In no sense are the ceasefire lines to be interpreted as political or territorial borders” and that they do not affect “the final disposition of the Palestine question.”
- They will consent to cease promulgating anti-Jewish hatred in media and mosque and to erase anti-Israeli incitement from textbook and classroom.
- Given Israel’s meager territorial scale and the volatility and inherent violence in the region, especially the aggressive meddling of Iran in local affairs, the smuggling of rockets and other armaments threatening Israel, and the inroads made by al-Qaeda and its offshoots, the Palestinian Authority will be compelled to permit a defensive Israeli presence in the adjacent hill country.
The likelihood of the Palestinian Authority agreeing to even one of these conditions is virtually nil. But in order for a viable peace to take root, all of these conditions would need to be implemented. Further, none of the desiderata I have listed resolves the dilemma of a Hamas terrorist government solidly entrenched in the Gaza Strip and committed to the destruction of Israel. Neither do these terms take into account a bellicose Hezbollah, equipped with 40,000 Iranian and Syrian supplied rockets, camped on Israel’s northern border. The creation of a Palestinian state would do nothing to defuse the tensions in the area and would conceivably only serve to exacerbate them. For even should the above provisions be settled upon, there is no guarantee that the new Palestine would not join the Islamic axis. Ultimately, as Jonathan Spyer cogently argues in The Transforming Fire, the conflict is not really about borders per se. It is simply one aspect of a world-historical clash between a Hydra-headed Islamic collective and a half-dormant Western world, with Israel in the immediate firing line.
Whither, then, peace? A realistic assessment of the situation would indicate that peace, a harmonious resolution of competing agendas, will always recede the closer we seem to be approaching it via road maps, Quartets, direct or indirect negotiations, interim agreements, or any of the diplomatic sedatives currently on offer. According to recent polls, the bottom-up approach adopted by the Israeli government, stoking the Palestinian economy and building its productive base, has not materially altered the fierce anti-Israeli consensus among the populace. As Jonathan Rosenblum writes, “There can be no peace at present — and perhaps ever — because the Palestinians have pursued not a two-state solution, but a two-stage solution, of which the second stage is inevitably the establishment of a unitary Palestinian rule from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. Even those Palestinians who profess to support a two-state solution, make clear to pollsters that they do not see it as a final solution, but merely as a stage to a takeover of the Jewish state, which they will never, in any event, recognize as such.”
Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.
But there is another possibility, which is to give up entirely on a “peace process” that, thanks to Palestinian intransigence and Islamic Jew-hatred, is doomed to bankruptcy. An unsentimental view of life would conclude that there are some problems in this world for which there are no good solutions, only modes of containment. Iran is a problem with a solution; Israel/Palestine is not. The modus operandi in the Holy Land, such as it is, involves accepting the necessity of an armed truce, punctuated by occasional pre-emptive strikes and local flare-ups, on the model of managing an incurable disease. For if a disease is incurable, it is utter folly to imagine that it can be made to disappear courtesy of some miraculous cure. And the Middle East disease is, frankly, incurable.
As I wrote in The Big Lie, what I am suggesting is, after all, not something that we regard as unacceptable or morally objectionable in everyday life. We understand that it would be perilous to succumb to unfounded aspirations and pious notions by dismissing facts and embracing unrealistic choices. If we discover that we are suffering from diabetes, there is no point in believing that the disease can be made to reconsider. Rather, we must rely on daily treatment, however irksome it may be.
Put simply, we often have to do what we would prefer not having to do. In private life, such constraints may be financial or medical, but the ultimate purpose is survival — just as it is in the realm of national existence, even if this means having to stay on a permanent war footing. If you have to take insulin, then you have to take insulin, or die. If you have to pay down a mortgage, then you have to pay down a mortgage, or lose your house. And if you are dealing with an enemy that has a 1400 year history of conquest and spoliation, and which is committed to your annihilation, then you must remain in a state of perennial military readiness and be prepared to defend yourself in perpetuity. Clearly, this is not a pleasant option but, unfortunately, there is no other feasible alternative. What is true for people is also true for a people. I, for one, cannot see the value in pretending otherwise.
Israel cannot afford to capitulate, not only to its self-declared enemies but to its own passionate yearning for peace. Falling backwards over the possibility of peace is a bungled negotiating paradigm, as Oslo made painfully clear. Any Israeli politician still hooked on Oslo represents a threat to his country. The same applies to the Israeli left — Kadima, Labor, Meretz, Haaretz, the peace constituencies, a treasonable professoriate and many NGOs — who are essentially a pack of useful jewdiots, victims-in-waiting of their own self-immolating policies.
Similarly, any Western diplomat addicted to untenable proposals and implausible assumptions about the achievement of a stable and long-lasting peace in the Middle East represents a threat to Israel as well, and, indeed, to the entire region. When EU foreign policy chief and resident gargoyle Catherine Ashton asserts that there is “no alternative to a negotiated deal,” she displays only ignorance and bad faith, weeds which spring from the mounting dung heap of EU policy-making and British anti-Semitism. Ashton is not referring specifically to Mahmoud Abbas’ threat to declare statehood unilaterally, which would make a modicum of sense if she were. Like her blinkered counterparts — Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton, Dennis Ross, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and others — she is insisting on a wider program that envisages what is both counter-productive and impossible.
In the international theater, it is fair to assume that the United States will never form a friendly alliance with Russia or China but must stay alert and maintain a credible deterrent capability, regardless of commercial exchanges and temporary reciprocities. On the level of the individual, as I have argued, one does not resist the need for medication or medical procedures if one desires to prolong one’s life. It is no different in the Middle East, in particular with respect to the survival of the Jewish state.
Is peace possible in the Middle East? Will Israel manage to arrive at an entente cordiale with its implacable Muslim enemies, whether on its own initiative or with the coercive “assistance” of the West? The answer is no. Or not in the foreseeable future. Militant Islam is not about to go away anytime soon, and neither is Palestinian faux-irredentism, anti-Semitism, or anti-Zionism. “Radical Islam,” writes British historian Andrew Roberts, “is never going to accept the concept of an Israeli state, so the struggle is likely to continue for another sixty years.”
Israel does not have the luxury of losing a war, any more than it does of achieving a false peace. It is not — or no longer — in a position to rely on a slip-now grip-later political system, but needs to react with strength, intelligence, and dispatch. It cannot accede to the Olmertian velleity of being “tired of winning.” It cannot trust the security guarantees of its ostensible Western allies or the United Nations, which are not worth the paper they’re scribbled on. It must, to quote Melanie Phillips, “stop conniving with the premise of their enemies that the Middle East impasse would be solved by establishing a state of Palestine to which the settlements — and thus by extension Israel — are the obstacle.” This is a false narrative that needs to be decisively countered. Israel must also parry the subtle blandishments of the “normalcy tilt,” that is, once memories of terrorist atrocities begin to fade, that life will continue in the cafés and on the beaches of Tel Aviv as per usual. For Israel, with its precarious foothold at the very epicenter of the Dar al-Harb, or Islamic House of War, is not a “normal nation” nor will it ever be.
It is the destiny of the Jewish nation to be constantly in danger of sedition from within and aggression from without. Apart from incendiary violence, it must confront a world-wide disinformation campaign pivoting on what David Harris calls the two “maladies,” namely, the “confirmation bias” (valorizing information unfavorable to Israel, irrespective of its untruth) and “reverse causality” (switching cause and effect, so that Israel is made responsible for the actions of its enemies). Such meretricious impulses or tropisms appeal to both anti-Semites and anti-Zionists and have become the common property of both Jew and Gentile, some Israelis and many non-Israelis, alike.
It is an open question who is more contemptible, the Jew who lights the fire under the cauldron or the cannibal who throws him into it — all, of course, under the sign of “peace,” which is only a synonym for eventual eclipse. It needs to be candidly said. The enemy is threefold: an Islamic aggressor who will not relent, of whom the Palestinians are the advance column; the reptilian Jew who contrives against his own people; and their Western enablers, primarily in Europe and the current American administration. For each of these, peace is only subversion by another name and war by other means.
Israel’s survival, however, is indeed possible, even if peace is not. But it should begin to act in certain demonstrable ways. It must demobilize its homegrown Quislings and intellectual vandals, with argument, reason or, if need be, the application of legal force where appropriate. There is no excuse for hostile NGOs spreading harmful propaganda on the European dime. There is no justification for state-supported leftist professors brazenly undermining the very country that pays their salaries. It serves no purpose to cosset Muslim groups and firebrands who seek to bring down the state, or to turn the other cheek when rockets fall on its civilian communities. In addition, Israel must take control of the explanatory narrative, or, in a current slang expression, “change the diskette.” And the debacle of military unpreparedness and poor leadership, as during the 2006 Lebanon War, must be avoided at all costs.
Forget peace. It’s not going to happen. And it is not a risk worth taking since unchecked sentimentality is the most ruthless of serial killers. Camp David is the inevitable precursor of the Intifada. The situation is admittedly distressing but it is by no means unrelievedly desolate. For Israel will prevail if it succeeds in preserving a reasonable degree of internal unity, and remains confident, steadfast, realistic, and, above all, vigilant.