It is obvious by this time that the so-called “peace plan” intended to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has reached an impassable stalemate. It is simply not working nor will it ever work. The Oslo Accords are a dead letter. The “road map” does not apply to the existing political terrain and is going nowhere. Anyone who follows it is sure to get lost. As for the unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, this would produce only a phantom state, the specter of border closings, reduced economic activity and greater abrasion along the frontiers. It cannot supersede a negotiated settlement. Similarly, the notion bruited about by clueless or duplicitous intellectuals of a “bi-national state” or a “single state of all its citizens” is code for the destruction of Israel and is therefore a non-starter. What, then, is to be done?
Clearly, every round of negotiations has proven to be not only unproductive but often regressive, leaving the parties further back from a desired resolution than they were when they started. The problem is that the strategy of incremental concessions of land for peace demanded of Israel has been misapplied or, in effect, applied in reverse. All the interested parties—the Quartet, the Palestinians, the American president in his various wayward declamations, even the Israeli leadership—have internalized the wrong bundle of premises, for example: the Israeli heartland of Judea and Samaria is really the “West Bank,” a sobriquet for Fatahland; the instruments of international law, such as the League of Nations Mandate, the San Remo Conference and Article 80 of the UN Charter, which legislate in Israel’s favor, can be dispensed with; half of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, belongs to the Arabs; the Palestinians are a unified people and should be regarded as a “nation”; the Armistice Lines of 1949 constitute, to quote Jonathan Kay of the National Post, a “de facto border”; and territory legitimately won in a defensive war must be returned, in complete defiance of international covenants and of customary practice among all the nations of the world. None of these assumptions are valid, and it is primarily for this reason that every démarche for peace has inevitably failed.
In order to make some sense of this distortion, the issue should be placed in the larger context of anti-Jewish suspicion and antipathy. There is an implicit presumption or conviction regarding things Jewish and matters Israeli that animates individuals, groups and countries, an unacknowledged function of latent (and not so latent) antisemitic sentiment, namely, Jews have to pay. They have to pay for the world’s troubles via the well-known mechanism of scapegoating. They have to pay for their statistically disproportionate achievements in science, technology, commerce, medicine and the arts, which account for the ubiquitous phenomenon of envy and resentment to which they have been millennially exposed. (Jews number a fraction of 1% of the world’s population, yet make up approximately 20% of Nobel laureates.) And they have to pay for the unprecedented accomplishment of building a successful nation in the midst of desert and malarial swamp and in the face of the unremitting violence of hundreds of millions of hostile neighbors, a feat avowedly beyond the ability of most peoples. Therefore, according to this twisted logic, it is the Israelis who must pay for peace, not their adversaries who have done their utmost to ensure that the prospect of peace continues to recede.
This is the tacit mindset that prevails, one which has the force of an instinct and the deep penetration of a kind of secret epistemology, and is rarely questioned or brought into the light of consciousness. As Muslim scholar Salim Mansur asserts, it is “a uniquely lethal form of bigotry” that must deny “Israel’s role as a nation, an idea, a religious inspiration, an historic reference, an ethical compass, and as people of the book (the Bible) in the formation of Western civilization.” This is why the Israeli-Palestinian peace deliberations are constantly skewed to the benefit of the latter. This is why Israel is expected to give and the Palestinians are encouraged to take.
And this is why the entire diplomatic process must be re-valued if any progress is ever to be made. The terms and elements of the controversy need to be placed on a proper footing and the participants made to understand that they have approached the impasse from the wrong direction. When Barack Obama in his May 19 speech at the State Department declared that “The status quo is unsustainable and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace,” the toggling adverb “too” does not alter the fact that he got it entirely backwards. After all, what have the Palestinians done to “advance a lasting peace”? Forswear terrorism in conformity with UN Security Council Resolution 1377? Revamp their educational system that teaches hatred of Israel and Jews? Rein in the bellicose media? Prohibit antisemitic sermons in mosques? Revise their Charter in which the demise of Israel is presaged? Tone down their belligerent public rhetoric? Remove the keffiyeh curtaining the map of Israel?
It is not the Israelis who should be suing for peace but the Palestinians, which would redound to their undoubted advantage. The Israeli leadership should inform the Palestinian team that it is eager and willing to arrive at a peaceful resolution of the ongoing embroilment and accept Palestinian sovereignty in the “West Bank” if the Palestinians for their part are ready to cede sundry territorial chunks to Israel and agree to transfer the affected populations to designated regions within the new Palestinian state. What is supposed to be good for the goose is even better for the gander. The Palestinians will make further appropriate concessions, such as renouncing terror, accepting the bustling city of Ramallah as their capital, recognizing Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and solving their refugee problem—for, historically speaking, it is their refugee problem—in the same way as Israel found room for Jewish citizens displaced from Arab countries after 1948. Additionally, the absurd concept of territorial “swaps” will be mothballed. Naturally, Gaza remains a problem. Whether it should revert to Israel and the Gazans welcomed to Palestine as fully empowered citizens, or pursue a hyphenated liaison with the PA, or strike off on its own as a quasi-independent enclave will have to be determined in the course of negotiations.
Moreover, Palestinians should abjure the propagation of arrant nonsense, such as PA president Mahmoud Abbas’ preposterous claim of Canaanite ancestry going back 9000 years—a double zinger—and the corresponding fantasy that the Jews are “incidental to history,” possessing no cadastral lien on the Holy Land. Their own scripture proclaims differently, as they would discover if they re-read Surah 17, ayah 1 of the Koran, which mentions the Temple at Jerusalem. A durable peace cannot be based upon the shimmer of a consensual mirage.