Since 2014 began there’s been a spike in rocket firings from Gaza at Israel—over 30 rockets in six weeks. They have either landed in open fields or been downed by Israel’s Iron Dome system. Israel has responded with some pinpoint strikes on military targets and individual terrorists.
Among other things, having a rocket fall on your country about three out of every four days—in a period considered relatively quiet—is not conducive to optimism about a purported peace process. A poll late last month found 71% of Israelis “not believing” that the current Israeli-Palestinians talks, initiated and relentlessly driven by Secretary of State John Kerry, will “lead to peace.” A grand total of 7% “strongly believed” they will.
According to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, the sides have already stopped talking to each other and are “negotiating” only with Kerry. The sides, Kerry says himself, would not even have to agree to the framework deal he is now trying to concoct—but the pious hope is that it would get them talking to each other again.
If it all sounds desperate and pathetic, colliding once again with the Palestinian inability to come near even highly accommodating Israeli positions—it is. But whether the appropriate lessons can—now or ever—be learned is a different matter.
Earlier this week columnist Jeffrey Goldberg criticized Kerry for warning Israel about “boycotts and other kinds of things” if the peace talks fail. Goldberg accused Kerry of “terrifying Israelis”—but added: “and terrified Israelis are not the sort of people who will make dangerous compromises for peace.”
But that, in turn, raises the question: should one ever make “dangerous compromises for peace”? If peace is supposed to be in the offing, the prize you get in return, why should the compromises be dangerous in the first place?
Goldberg’s phrase is actually a mantra—that is, a substitute for thought—going back decades. Googling “Israel take risks for peace” yields 137 million results.
“Risks for peace” has never caught on in Israel; not even the left uses it.
It would, after all, grate on people’s ears. Risk whom—my children? Risk is not an abstract concept in Israel.
Instead of using inane phrases like “framework deal” and “dangerous compromises,” and running up repeatedly against the same wall—essentially, the profound gap in culture and values between Israel and its neighbors, including the Palestinians—how much better it would be if Israel’s purported friends, the Kerrys and Goldbergs, could try on some new notions instead of the same old stale, discredited platitudes:
- Get over the obsession with a Palestinian state in the West Bank, in addition to the ones already existing in Gaza and Jordan. Somehow, America can get by without this state. Indeed, would it even be beneficial? Is America currently drawing benefit from the existence of Syria, Iraq, or Lebanon, which were also created by Western powers? Why would the West Bank Palestinian state be any different? What evidence is there that Palestinian Arabs have any way to distinguish themselves meaningfully from other Muslim Arabs except through a self-definition as victims of Israel? What evidence is there that they have in any way given up this self-definition, and what they see as the concomitant duty to fight Israel? In short, there is none.
- Instead of pressuring Israel and demanding it to endanger itself, respect it. If the large majority of Israelis are dismissive of the current talks and barely even interested in them, perhaps there are good reasons for it. If the Israeli defense minister, a former chief of staff, insists that there is no substitute—not drones, not sensors, not foreign forces—for Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley, perhaps he knows what he’s talking about.
- Show some humility. When Israeli “peace” moves go wrong, it is not on you that the rockets fall. Don’t sit in far-off, comfortable places and demand that other people do dangerous things. Value Israel, give it credit, as the world’s sole democracy that lives under constant siege, and indeed comes through the crucible as the world’s most creative, innovative democracy per capita. Autonomy for the Arabs of the West Bank, instead of an independent state, is hardly a human rights catastrophe. Start pointing that out to other people, like Europeans, and focus on some real problems instead.
Reprinted with author’s permission