Saturday, January 22, 2011

History, American Pressure, and Israeli-Palestinian Peace

I read two very interesting accounts of some "unconventional wisdom" recently in ForeignPolicy magazine.  In fact, the magazine is getting very good at offering such gems of wisdom.  I don't always agree with every one of the arguments, but their writers do make us think.  Here are two recent examples on the topic of the Middle East.

First, Aluf Benn, who is the editor at lrge o the Israeli daily 'Haaretz', makes the argument that looking at history is not always helpful in resolving modern-day issues and in fact can often hinder our progress in resolving conflicts.  He cites the world's longest-lasting conflicts -- between Palestinians and Israelis, Indians and Pakistanis, and the warring states of the Balkans -- as his primary examples.

Looking specifically at the first one, he offers that arguments of who touched foot in Palestine first and thus has more of a divine right to the land, is now an obsession that has not resolution.  He believes the parties need to get off that thinking.  There will be no compromise on that argument, he says, because to accept the thinking of the other party, means that one has to destroy the credibility of your own story and belief.  So, they won't get anywhere on that basis.  Benn recommends that the parties should stop focusing on history lessons and deal with the present and the future in order to get a deal.  The question is can they do that and would it possibly lead to a deal?  I think not.  I think it would require more concessions on Israel's part since that is what happened each time the leaders did stop their quarrels about history and tried to address the present situation, as you'll see in a moment in reference to the second article on this topic.  You can read Benn's article by clicking here.

So, let's look at the "here and in the future" approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, a former senior U.S. government official, and a former columnist for the New York Times, writing in the same ForeignPolicy magazine issue indicates that there are two dangerous pieces of unconventional wisdom floating out there:  First, that Israel has been the main stumbling block to peace.  Second, the U.S. has failed to pressure Isreal for serious compromises.  He then shows how both are wrong.

He proceeds to list all of the major concessions Israel has made since 1977 until 2005 (a period of 28 years) and indicates that it got nothing but grief, rockets, and terrorist attacks in return.  This list alone is worth the reading of Gelb's article, which you can do by clicking here.

Gelb points out that in fact the U.S. has pressured, pushed and pulled Israel toward concessions, but in return has received no credit from the Arab side for doing so.  He claims they don't give the U.S. any credit because they feel it could do much more.  But the U.S. has indeed done much (see all the concessions by Israel to date in Benn's article above).

The other problem that Gelb so wisely identifies is that Israel does not explain its concessions well, if at all.  Israelis don't tout their history of concessions fearing the Palestinians would use them as starting points for any future negotiations (and I would add which is exactly how they have operated for the last 33 years).  So, Gelb suggests, Israel would rather "look guilty than weak".  Not so sure.  Finally, Gelb says that if these two 'myths' (Israel being the stumbling block and U.S. not pressuring enough) are not corrected, danger lies ahead.  Peace indeed may be unattainable.

Which now takes me to my conclusion: What are the chances of these myths, especially the first one being corrected?  I submit very small.  What are the chances of the two main players, Israel and the Palestinians setting aside their historical claims to the land?  I submit very small.  (In fact, if you have been reading some material out of he Islam world these days, the Muslims are making claims that Moses belongs more to them than the Jews, or anyone else.  You can read that account by clicking here.)  The outcome is clear, there will not be peace in the Middle East.  The only other possible solution is that the land of Israel and Jerusalem in particular will play a major role in a major battle as described by the ancient prophet Ezekiel in his book of the Bible and in particular in his chapters 38 and 39.  You can read more about how this predicts what is is store for the future of the world by clicking here.

In the meantime, I trust you'll do some serious thinking about what is going on the Middle East, and beyond.  And then make your decisions and live your life accordingly.

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