No peace in our time
all the idiocies uttered in reaction to Benjamin Netanyahu’s stunning
election victory, none is more ubiquitous than the idea that peace
prospects are now dead because Netanyahu
has declared that there will be no Palestinian state while he is
Israel’s prime minister.
have news for the lowing herds: There would be no peace and no Palestinian state
if Isaac Herzog were prime minister either. Or Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert for
that matter. The latter two were (non-Likud) prime ministers who offered the
Palestinians their own state — with its capital in Jerusalem and every Israeli
settlement in the new Palestine uprooted — only to be rudely rejected.
is not ancient history. This is 2000, 2001 and 2008 — three astonishingly
concessionary peace offers within the past 15 years. Every one rejected.
fundamental reality remains: This generation of Palestinian leadership — from
Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas — has never and will never sign its name to a
final peace settlement dividing the land with a Jewish state. And without that,
no Israeli government of any kind will agree to a Palestinian state.
however, there is a second reason a peace agreement is impossible: the supreme
instability of the entire Middle East. For half a century, it was run by
dictators no one liked but with whom you could do business. For example, the
1974 Israel-Syria disengagement agreement yielded more than four decades of
near-total quiet on the border because the Assad dictatorships so decreed.
authoritarian order is gone, overthrown by the Arab Spring. Syria is wracked by
a multi-sided civil war that has
killed 200,000 people and that has al-Qaeda allies, Hezbollah
fighters, government troops and even the
occasional Iranian general prowling the Israeli border. Who inherits?
No one knows.
the last four years, Egypt has had two revolutions and three radically different
regimes. Yemen went from pro-American to Iranian client so quickly the United
to evacuate its embassy in a panic. Libya has gone from Moammar
Gaddafi’s crazy authoritarianism to jihadi-dominated civil war. On Wednesday,
Tunisia, the one relative success of the Arab Spring, suffered
a major terror attack that the
prime minister said “targets the stability of the country.”
Mali to Iraq, everything is in flux. Amid this mayhem, by what magic would the
West Bank, riven by a bitter Fatah-Hamas rivalry, be an island of stability?
What would give any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement even a modicum of
was a time when Arafat commanded the Palestinian movement the way Gaddafi
commanded Libya. Abbas commands no one. Why do you think he is in the 11th year
of a four-year term, having refused to hold elections for the last five years?
Because he’s afraid he would lose to Hamas.
or without elections, the West Bank could fall to Hamas overnight. At which
point fire rains down on Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and the entire Israeli
urban heartland — just as it rains down on southern Israel from Gaza when it
suits Hamas, which has turned that first Palestinian state into a terrorist fire
Arab-Israeli peace settlement would require Israel to make dangerous and
inherently irreversible territorial concessions on the West Bank in return for
promises and guarantees. Under current conditions, these would be written on
is ringed by jihadi terrorists in Sinai, Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon,
Islamic State and Iranian proxies in Syria, and a friendly but highly fragile
Jordan. Israelis have no idea who ends up running any of these places. Will the
Islamic State advance to an Israeli border? Will Iranian Revolutionary Guards
appear on the Golan Heights? No one knows.
say the critics. Israel could be given outside guarantees. Guarantees? Like the 1994
Budapest Memorandum in which the United States, Britain and Russia
guaranteed Ukraine’s “territorial integrity”? Like the red
line in Syria? Like the unanimous U.N. resolutions declaring illegal
any Iranian enrichment of uranium — now effectively rendered null?
awaits three things. Eventual Palestinian acceptance of a Jewish state. A
Palestinian leader willing to sign a deal based on that premise. A modicum of
regional stability that allows Israel to risk the potentially fatal withdrawals
such a deal would entail.
believe such a day will come. But there is zero chance it comes now or even
soon. That’s essentially what
Netanyahu said Thursday in explaining — and softening — his
the interim, I understand the crushing disappointment of the Obama
administration and its media poodles at the spectacular success of the foreign
leader they loathe more than any other on the planet. The consequent seething
and sputtering are understandable, if unseemly. Blaming Netanyahu for banishing
peace, however, is mindless.