Roger L. Simon

Middle East Peace Talks: Déjà Vu all over again all over again

Middle East peace talks to resolve the so-called Israeli-Palestinian crisis have been coming and going most of my adult life and I’m no spring chicken — free range or otherwise. And now here they are again! But this time, as opposed to all those other times, the AP’s Robert Burns informs us, “the stakes are high.” Well, yes… but maybe not in the way Burns intended.

What’s really going on here? Let’s do a thought experiment.

The last time a hopeful world got transfixed by this roundelay (although this time it might not be paying much attention anyway) was back at the tail end of the Clinton presidency when Bill was trying to untie this Gordian knot and win himself a Nobel Peace Prize. Those discussions began at Camp David in 2000 and dribbled on to Taba in early 2001 when it all went south with the Second Intifada and an Israeli election.

Tons of books and articles have been written about this, I’ve even read and forgotten a few, but I recall enough to know that a lot of ink was spilled about just what percentage of the Palestinian demands were acceded to by the Israelis. Some said as much as 98%, while others said more like 90, or maybe even a paltry 88.

Now here’s the thought experiment part. I’m assuming most of the readers here — in this case I’d wager 99% of you — have been in negotiations themselves. When you got 98% or even 88% of what you wanted, did you walk away and start a war… okay, just walk away? And if you did, why did you do that … when you were so close to making a deal? You could obviously hang around in negotiations and get most, if not all, of what you wanted.

Well, the answer is — no fair peeking — because you never wanted the deal in the first place.

First one in with that response wins the used iPod. Sorry, it’s last year’s model because the answer is so obvious. Well, obvious to everybody but the Walt/Mearsheimer crowd (who seem to think that Israel is the rough equivalent of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge) and the Peter Beinart set (who keep advising Israel to make concessions “for their own good,” whatever that is).

Indeed, most of us realize what is even more obvious. If the Palestinians had really wanted a state of their own beside Israel, a two-state solution, they could have had one thirty years ago — or more. They don’t want a two-state solution. They want a one-state solution.


I wish I could say otherwise, but that is the sad truth. It’s not only the religious psychopaths at Hamas who want to torpedo peace; in the end it’s a fair percentage of the Palestinian population as well. And nothing has been done by their own leaders — Fatah and certainly not Hamas — to persuade them otherwise. (Hamas? Isn’t that the organization the Ground Zero mosque Imam Rauf is unwilling to condemn?-ed. I already gave away the used iPod.)

So all that being the case, what in the Sam Hill is Benjamin Netanyahu doing in Washington?

Well, he has no other choice. Barack Obama still is the American president, even if he may be the earliest lame duck in the history of our country. For now he controls all-important military aid.

But there’s a bigger reason. Again, no fair peeking, but I’ll give you a hint. It’s a four letter word that begins with an “I” and ends with an “N.”

And the three-year old Nano with the chipped plastic goes to… okay, forget it. We all know it’s Iran and we’ve all known it all the time. If any of us were Benjamin Netanyahu, that’s all we’d ever think about — and it’s all he should think about. Iran is indeed an existential threat to the state of Israel and Barack Obama only intermittently — to give him the best of it — takes it seriously.

Netanyahu cannot afford to dismiss Obama or even, alas, to irritate him very much, even if the rest of us can. He must bite his tongue and play the game because his own people are up against it as they have never been since 1945. At some point and in some way, the US is going to be desperately needed in the Iran crisis and Netanyahu knows it.

And when is that? The State Department, or is it the Defense Department, is now claiming that Iran is still a year away from enough nuclear material for a couple of bombs. Even if that’s true — and who knows if it is — that is but a minute in history. Blink your eyes and it is here.