The London-based Economist in its January 1-7, 2011 edition has specific advice for President Obama in its lead story: “It is time for the world to agree on a settlement and impose it on the feuding parties.” The editors of the Economist envision Obama forcing a solution on the parties, i.e. Israel and the Palestinians.
If Obama fails to impose a settlement, the Economist sees 2011 as a year where a most destructive war will take place. In order to avoid such a disaster Obama must exercise tough love on Israel in overcoming Israel’s settler movement, and thus win its acceptance in the Arab world.
According to the Economist the Clinton “parameters” set out at the aftermath of the 2000 Camp David Summit form the basic ingredients for the solution – including an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders, which Abba Eban, the late Israeli foreign minister, called the “Auschwitz borders.” It does, however, allow for border adjustments – meaning perhaps the inclusion of large Israel settlement blocks in Israel, and land-swaps to compensate the Palestinians.
The editors of the Economist are at a logjam when going down the list of “parameters,” with such issues as how to divide Jerusalem, how to ensure that the West Bank will not become an advance base for war against Israel when Israeli forces withdraw, and how to deal with the issue of refugees.
The Clinton “parameters” failed and therefore, the Economist editors opine, Obama should “set out his own map and make this a new starting point. He should gather international support for it, either through the United Nations or by means of an international conference of the kind the first President Bush held in Madrid in 1991. But instead of leaving the parties to talk on their own after the conference ends… America must ride the herd and [exert] pressure on both sides as required.”
One would expect the wise and worldly editors of the Economist to be familiar with Jimmy Carter’s idea in 1977 of convening a U.N conference in Geneva with the participation of the Soviet Union, the Arab States, and Israel. Then-president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, understood that such a conference would be a mere “circus” and, to scuttle this useless idea, he flew to Jerusalem, whereupon the Geneva Conference became a dead letter.
The Madrid Conference, contrary to the Economist view, had the potential of creating, albeit gradually, a non-terrorist Palestinian state with authentic Palestinian figures from the West Bank and Gaza and not from Tunis (where Arafat and his professional “revolutionaries” resided). Unfortunately, the Israeli Left was too impatient with the long process, and launched the Oslo “Peace Process” which became a disaster for both Israelis and the Palestinians.
How does one impose peace on an Islamic cultural-religious worldview that is (a) triumphalist at its core and believes in imposing its ideology (Islam) on humanity and (b) holds to the view that any land that was once held or conquered by Islam can never be anything else but an Arab/Muslim state? If neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas are willing to recognize Israel as the state of the Jews, how then will Obama force the Arab states (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc.) to make a real peace with Israel?
The only sure thing is that Obama might be able to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, but as the Economist itself pondered, “Will he be able to guarantee that the West Bank does not become a terror base against Israel as Gaza did?” Of course not! And then there are the Palestinian refugees. Should Obama force Israel to take in even one million, it would spell the end of the Jewish State, and no Israeli government would accept such a suicide pact.
Whatever the Economist’s ultimate motivation might be, it is certainly in line with its Arab advertisers (it is rather ironic that the major piece of advertisement in this issue is Downtown Dubai) and smacks of the 2002 King Abdullah (Saudi Arabia) Peace Plan, which demanded Israel’s acceptance of the Palestinian refugees, and Arab-Muslim control over the Old City of Jerusalem and, not surprisingly, the total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
The Economist is wrong in stating that “the instant the peace process ends, the war process begins.” History has proven otherwise. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel lived in relative peace without a peace process. It was clear to the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular (especially after the 1982 war in Lebanon) that Israel could not be defeated conventionally and that the price for taking Israel on militarily was too steep. Conversely, the peace process known as Oslo led to the bloody Intifada, which cost Israel over a 1000 lost lives, mostly civilians.
“The unending Israeli occupation …gives these rejectionists (Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas) their oxygen. Give the Palestinian a state on the West Bank and it will become much harder for the rejectionists to justify going to war.” The banal charge of occupation, which the Economist employs is meaningless, and the editors validate it by admitting that Israel’s ending its occupation of Gaza did not make Hamas more forthcoming in terms of peace or acceptance of Israel. Hamas and Hezbollah get their oxygen from the very existence of a Jewish state regardless of it size. To them (and to most Arabs), Tel Aviv is as much “occupied” Palestinian territory as Hebron.
The so-called “occupation” has been a pretext for continued armed struggle while the Palestinians pretended to participate in the peace process. The “occupation” would have ended in the late 1990s if the Palestinians had kept their end of the Oslo bargain. There would have been no “occupation” at all had the Palestinian chosen to accept the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan. But then and now, the Palestinians have sought to destroy the Jewish state rather than build a state of their own. They want the whole pie rather than a part of it…They wish to take over Israel rather than live side-by-side with Israel.
An imposed solution, as the Economist editors recommend, is undemocratic, arbitrary, and will not prevent war. A weakened Israel will be a tempting target for attack by Iran, Hezbollah, and the Palestinians. Iran’s fanatical mullahs and its Hezbollah agents will not end their hostility towards Israel if an imposed peace is created, as the Economist itself conceded. And the West Bank Palestinian leadership will not be more agreeable to a real peace with Israel with or without a settlement building moratorium.
My advice to the Economist is to be more genuine and truthful about the obstacles to peace in the Middle East, and focus on the real causes of instability, terrorism, and war in the region and beyond: the radical Islamist state of Iran, and the spread of the intolerant and jihadist brand of Islam: Wahabbism.
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