The Israeli-Palestinian “proximity talks” were ostensibly launched this week. U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is expected to shuttle between Jerusalem and Ramallah, seeking to find a path to “direct” talks whose purported aim would be peace. To say all this is a triumph of hope over experience is a severe understatement.
Many have pointed out why even the “indirect” or proximity talks bear no positive potential, and there is no need to belabor these matters. If Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas couldn’t reach an agreement with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert—who, at least as far as the PA is concerned, bought totally into the “peace” ideology—how would he reach one with current prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who doesn’t? And what about the fact that the Palestinian Arabs between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are now bifurcated into distinct entities—the Fatah-run PA and Hamas-led Gaza—that are at loggerheads, with Hamas officially shunned by the U.S. as a terrorist organization?
There’s also the matter of the supposedly more moderate PA’s ongoing “incitement”—or, more accurately, its inculcation of a terror-cult centering on the mass murder of Israeli Jews, as heavily documented by Palestinian Media Watch and others. Seemingly the notion of a peace partner for Israel and the notion of an anti-Israeli terror cult are mutually exclusive. The U.S. State Department has praised Abbas for saying he “will work against incitement of any sort” and Netanyahu for purportedly calling off construction for Jews in a Jerusalem neighborhood. As usual, the moral equivalency between terror and building homes is repugnant, and the chances that Abbas could negate seventeen years of PA hate-indoctrination in a few months, even if he tried to, nil.
If, then, the talks are likely to lead nowhere, are they simply unimportant? Unfortunately not—because they sustain the fiction of the PA’s legitimacy despite its murderous ideology, and the fiction of Israel’s supposed need to reduce itself to the death-trap 1967 borders.
Meanwhile another Arab party with which Israel did sign a peace treaty, Egypt, has been pushing to get Israel’s nuclear-weapons capability (never officially acknowledged but universally believed to exist) on the international agenda—and not without success.
The Obama administration’s reported interest in Egypt’s proposal for a “Middle East nuclear-free zone”—a euphemism for defanging Israel—has already been publicly confirmed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at this month’s nonproliferation conference at UN Headquarters in New York. (In a separate but related development, the International Atomic Energy Agency is reportedly considering subjecting Israel’s nuclear program to “unprecedented scrutiny” next month.) Egypt is calling specifically for negotiations on a nuke-free Middle East to begin in 2011.
All this is anathema to Israelis of all political persuasions. From the days when major figures of Israel’s founding Labor Zionist movement, like its first prime minister David Ben-Gurion and its current president Shimon Peres, first began to build Israel’s nuclear capability in the 1950s, it has been seen as a fundamental deterrent and insurance for Israel’s survival in a Middle East where Israel is drastically outnumbered by Arab and Muslim populations and military forces.
Why, then, would Egypt—not only formally at peace with Israel for three decades but often said to be tacitly in alliance with it against radical actors like Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas—be working to undo this mainstay of Israel’s endurance?
Some might say it’s out of fear. But as Israeli commentator Caroline Glick points out,
Notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary, Israel’s neighbors fully recognize that the purpose of Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal is to guarantee Israel’s survival…. This is why although it is four decades old, Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal has never caused a regional nuclear arms race.
Unlike, that is, Iran’s imminent nuclear capability—which the Middle East does fear and, unlike Israel’s, will undoubtedly spark a nuclear buildup in the region if it comes to fruition.
In other words, there appears to be no explanation for Egypt’s push against Israel’s nukes except malevolence. But if the result of thirty years of formally sanctioned peace, and a degree of pragmatic cooperation against mutual foes, is that Egypt is still working to neutralize, through international pressure, a guarantor of Israel’s existence—that is, to put Israel in acute jeopardy, albeit by diplomatic instead of military means as in 1948, 1967, and 1973—what does that say about the depth of the “peace”?
At the start of “Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks,” such sobering thoughts are, of course, no more welcome than the facts about Palestinian “incitement.” Attending to them would indicate that continuing the pressure on Israel to give up its vital strategic buffer in the West Bank is profoundly dangerous to it in such a hostile environment. Better to hear and see no evil and keep the “process” grinding away.