Eric Alterman Can’t Seem to Figure Out Why Israel Is Skeptical of Negotiations


Daily Beast left-winger Eric Alterman has taken a look at Vice President Joe Biden’s latest Mideast trip to address the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  Three guesses who he blames for continuing violence in the region.

If you guessed Israel, pat yourself in the back:

The following day, before Biden arrived, the Israeli government announced approval for 112 new homes in Beitar Illit, an ultra-Orthodox settlement near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, despite having agreed in November to curb settlement growth in partial fulfillment of Israel’s obligations under the Bush administration road map. But that was just a warm-up, apparently, for the announcement later in the day by the Jerusalem District Planning Committee that it had authorized the construction of 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood north of downtown Jerusalem.

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Why were the Israelis so intent on insulting the visiting vice president? Plenty of reasons, undoubtedly—some big, some small. Obama is unpopular in Israel. Netanyahu wants to shore up his support with his right-wing coalition. The argument over Iran is real and has no obvious solution. But the real reason Israel is acting against its own self-interest, insulting its strongest supporter, refusing to honor the commitments it made not only to the United States but to all four members of “the Quartet,” and refusing to face up to the situation it has created for itself is that its leaders have decided that peace is off the table.

Alterman laments that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government not only “has no interest” in peace talks, but “it is doing everything it can to undermine” them. His conclusion is that the only shot at peace left would be for “the United States and its allies to impose one.” (So now it’s okay for the US to impose our values on other nations, militarily if possible? It’s sometimes hard to keep track of the Left’s ever-shifting standards. But then, we shouldn’t be too surprised – Israel is a longtime boogeyman of Alterman’s.)

First, it’s noteworthy that Alterman himself admits that, not only is the Palestinian Authority not “in a position to enforce a peace agreement with Israel,” but also that “Hamas, which rules all but unopposed in Gaza,” wouldn’t accept one. If that’s the case, then what’s so outrageous about Israeli skepticism toward negotiation?

Second, Israel’s skepticism has not been reached lightly.  Frank Gaffney has noted that they’ve tried playing nice.  They’ve tried concession after concession from 1979 well past 2005, not the least of which was accepting the Oslo accords’ legitimization of Yasser Arafat. Every olive branch has been met with rockets and suicide bombings. As Gaffney puts it:

Unfortunately, there is now no basis for depicting such a policy as one in which Israel trades “land for peace.”  Today, Israel is giving up land for war.

Third, while it may be comforting for some to believe that the key to peace is “stop being mean,” the fact is that the causes of Palestinian violence cannot be reduced to retaliation against Israeli offenses—not when the Palestinians keep electing Holocaust deniers who reject Israeli’s very right to exist, Palestinian state television boasts talking animals preaching anti-Semitism and jihad to children, and when the Palestinians themselves have repeatedly foregone their own statehood in favor of Israel’s destruction. (For more background on spin surrounding the conflict, check out F. Swemson’s March 6 NewsReal post.)

The Left seems to have taken the old childhood lessons about being the bigger person and not giving bullies the fight they want to a dangerous extreme. What might be fine for the playground becomes suicidal when applied to the real world of international relations. No meaningful peace or negotiations are possible until the Palestinians reach a consensus for Israel’s right to exist and against the jihadists in their midst. In the absence of that, Israel cannot be expected to defend itself in a halfhearted, politically-correct fashion, but should settle for nothing less than such a consensus and the destruction of Hamas and Hezbollah. Daniel Pipes has it exactly right:

What Israel needs is not hectoring about its residential housing policies but an American ally that encourages it to win its war against the irredentist Palestinians of both Fatah and Hamas.

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Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.