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Time to Reinvest in the Peace Process

Israel’s long-term health is also imperiled

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In the past few days, a number of pieces have popped up pushing against the current status of the American/Israeli relationship. Thomas Friedman lamented the Republican success at making Israel a wedge issue for voters, which has stifled debate. Avram Berg got righteously heated about the dangerous intertwining of church and state in Israel and how it now limits its partnership with the United States.

And Palestinian billionaire Munib Masri, along with a lot of vitriol, also had this to say:

American Jews like to split hairs over which candidate is more pro-Israel or who better represents their interests: Is Mr. Obama’s facial expression lacking? Is that omitted adjective by Mr. Romney significant? But ask 9 out of 10 Palestinians and you will get an identical response: “There is no difference between Obama and Romney.”

From an American, an Israeli, and a Palestinian, there is a refrain that may seem familiar: the indistinguishable nature of President Obama and Governor Romney’s positions on Israel. While the Romney campaign has sought to portray the governor as being Israel’s truer love, there’s not much on which to draw a material policy distinction–just some vague talk about the hardly groundbreaking ’67 borders, normal candidate-speak on Jerusalem (both candidates Bush and Obama said Jerusalem was the capital too), and some chiropractic rhetoric about Obama’s posture.

This is not to credit President Obama and Governor Romney, although it is obviously a good thing that the two presidential candidates stand strongly in favor of close ties with Israel and appear committed to stopping Iran. The problem is that the focus on Iran has completely effaced Arab-Israeli peace from the agenda of the candidates and the American discourse on the Middle East. Last month, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton–the face of American foreign affairs efforts–visited the region, she urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations, but gave the specifics and the urgency of the issue passing lip service, it having been relegated to the second tier of the diplomatic agenda.

Governor Romney’s visit to Israel last week was equally empty of aspirational talk about peace, his policy speech did not include the word Palestinian in it once. To boot, Romney’s perfunctory visit with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad certainly didn’t do any favors for Fayyad–whom we should want to see succeed–and Romney’s remarks at his million-dollar fundraiser…well, let’s just say he wasn’t lacing the invitation to any future U.S.-brokered peace negotiations with any perfume on that one.

In the meantime, settler leaders in the West Bank–with no particularly warm feelings about a democratic Israel–are declaring victory. Israel is tumbling toward a suicidal one-state reality and there aren’t any mechanisms in place to tell the settlers that they are just being delusional. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seems once again hemmed in by his right-wing coalition that will guarantee not much changes and, in many ways, Netanyahu is dictating the terms of the American election year debate, which isn’t good for anyone.

While I admit it’s a little naive, it seems twisted that the American presidential candidates aren’t talking about the peace process at all. The Iran threat–and it is a very serious threat–has taken center stage at the expense of an issue that will also deal Iran a blow if America invests in it. Not talking about peace weakens America’s credibility with Arab countries, many of whom are going through the process of self-reinvention and will be evaluating their alliances accordingly. A myopic American focus on Iran also serves the jingoistic/Israel-first caricature of Western efforts in the Middle East.

But most of all, by wasting time needed to confront an insanely intricate and difficult problem, America is helping to hasten the end of the two-state solution, a tragedy that would grant Iran the victory it seemingly most wants, the very real end of Israel, without them even bothering to get the nuke. If an American presidential candidate wants to distinguish himself on Israel, he would do right to consider Israel’s long-term health as well as its short-term. It takes real leadership to do both.

Why Not Vegas? [NYT]
Israel’s Fading Democracy [NYT]
Occupation, Not Culture, Is Holding Palestinians Back [NYT]

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wishnitz says:

Mr. Chandler and his liberal friends continue to live in their imaginary world. He continues to repeat the mantra “israel is lost if it doesn’t acqueisece to a two-state solution”.Well, I’d say that Israel is much more at danger if it gives Judea and Samaria to its implacable enemies, who have not stopped plotting for Israel’s destruction and make no bones about it. It may not be the best way to live, but I’ll take living in an armed camp to dying in the open field. none of the hundreds of moves towards a solution of this knotty situation has come to a successful conclusion. Even its one achievement, the peace treay with Egypt, is on shaky grounds. If tragedy strikes Israel, Friedman, Burg, Beinart et.al, will wring their hands, point their fingers at others and move on to their other liberal causes. I’ll take the present situation over any other alternative.

julis123 says:

One thing is for certain; land for peace is an utter failure and no Israeli in his right mind would continue with the Oslo, withdrawal from gaza etc process. Friedman has proven himself wrong time after time and Burg is an embittered political hack who is a laughing stock in Israel.

mouskatel says:

Reinvest in what exactly? Iran is a convenient excuse as to why no one is paying attention to the “peace process”. The real reason is that the Palestinians have made it abundantly clear in every which possible way that they have no inclination to sit down and negotiate a peace treaty in good faith. Absolutely none. A fair deal was handed to them in any number of ways over the past 10 years alone and the answer every time was no. What exactly is the point of “reinvesting” in this process? It’s been 20 years and the only ROI has been next to nil.

The hard truth is that the Palestinians just don’t want a deal right now. Nothing will move forward and there will be nothing to “reinvest in” until this situation changes. Until then, it’s status quo. (and please, that ranting about Israel’s demise and how “there aren’t any mechanisms in place to tell the settlers that they are just being delusional” is simply absurd. The settlers hold a miniscule amount of power in the knesset and if you lived here and really understood knesset coalition politics, you would know that.)

PhillipNagle says:

It takes two sides to make peace. There is nothing sacred about the 1948 cease fire lines that were never recognized by the so called Palestinians as permanent borders. The Israelis have been more than generous with their peace offers, it is time for concessions from the other side. Last I heard, the legally elected Palestinian leadership was Hamas, and they want no peace with Israel.

Michael Widlanski says:

Adam Chandler’s “Time to Reinvest in the Peace Process” prompts a few questions for him and Tablet, too: When someone writes about the “peace process,” is it enough just to have an opinion, to be a well-known contributor to various publications like the Huff-Po, to drop hyperlinked-names like Tom Friedman, Avram Burg, and Munib al-Masri (all painstakingly researched from the same op-ed page of The New York Times) or is there some minimal standard of knowledge of the “peace process” that is desired, if not required? As someone who has been involved with negotiations with the Palestinians and other Arab delegations, I think Mr. Chandler does not demonstrate even a Philistine’s superficial awareness of the Palestinian position. Is he aware that Mahmoud Abbas actually toughened the PLO stance even more than Arafat, that he abrogated the Oslo Accords by turning to the UN to try to implement Palestinian statehood? Is he aware that Abbas has given speeches in Arabic extolling the actions of terrorists, called them mustash-hedeen: heroic martyrs? Is Chandler aware that in a 2006 speech on Palestinian TV Abbas even called for Hamas to join him in turning its rifles –all Palestinian rifles—against Israel? When Chandler writes about a “two-state solution,” which of the current Palestinian states or regions is he going to try to eliminate or blend with another: Gaza-Palestine (where Hamas evicted the PLO and now vies with Al-Qaeda and such), West-Bank Palestine (where Israel makes sure that the PLO is not evicted) or Jordan-Palestine (where the Hashemites make sure they are not evicted) or Ramat Eshkol-Ramat Shlomo-Jerusalem Palestine (where Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want to control all Israeli decisions on construction)? When Mr. Chandler makes assertions about Palestinians and their opinions, does he back them up with even minimal proof? Does he even TRY to substantiate the statement of al-Masri: “But ask 9 out of 10 Palestinians and you will get an identical response: ‘There is no difference between Obama and Romney.’” Did Chandler or al-Masri even try to back up this contention with a public opinion poll? Doesn’t the assertion itself—that Palestinians see no difference between Obama and Romney– seem a tad strange? After all, do we know that in 2008, public opinion among Palestinians—as measured by polls and by monetary contributions (Yes, Virginia, Obama got money from people in Gaza) was clearly in favor of Obama and against McCain? Beyond all that, especially for a talented writer like Chandler, is it not beneath one’s talents to pretend that the Obama and Romney messages on Israel are virtually identical, except, as Chandler would have us believe, for a few adjectives? As for future borders, the Obama position has been very close to the Tom Friedman posture and the Avram Burg pose—that Israel accept a return to the 1949 armistice lines which Chandler, Obama and Friedman always call “the 1967 borders.” They were not borders, and they were not born in 1967, but in 1948-49. Why should Israel accept indefensible borders when American leaders like Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush understood that a stable Mid-East needed to rest on secure and recognized borders? Why should anyone put credence in Palestinian ideas for borders when the Palestinians themselves cannot even hold an election and agree on who should control southern Palestine (Gaza) or north-Eastern Palestine (the areas of Judea and Samaria that the Hashemites came to call the West Bank in 1950)? As for sandbagging the peace process, it is not Hillary Clinton’s fault for not trying hard enough, as much as Ms. Clinton has made many mistakes as secretary of state. Nor is it Israel’s fault for being preoccupied with a nuclear-armed Iran. Israel can chew and read at the same time. Rather it is the Palestinians’ fault. They have always been more concerned with destroying Israel than in building their own future, and that is why they cling to the status of refugees more than 60 years after the 1948-49 war. The PLO—Arafat, Abbas, Saeb Erikat, Salaam Fayaad—are/were always looking for an excuse not to sign a final deal with Israel, because for them it is a zero sum game, not a two-state solution. For them to really feel alive, it seems, Israel must die. Abbas does not even want to talk to Israel directly unless he gets a permission slip from the Arab League. That is setting back the talks 20 years, to the period before Oslo. Yes, I suppose we could blame Obama for having a part in this, for egging on the PLO to demand preconditions (no Israeli building whatsoever!!!! Ya-da-ya-da), but ultimately the Palestinians are not children, though they like to throw tantrums. We should stop treating them like children and making excuses for them. Chandler and his breast-beating friends could best serve the “peace process” by telling the PLO and Hamas that Israel is America’s friend and best ally in the Mid-East, and that no American leader is going to make Israel make concessions against its own interests. Backing up allies will help restore America’s declining image in the Middle East, and it will get the Palestinian Arabs to start thinking realistically about their future. Dr. Michael Widlanski, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar Ilan University.

“While I admit it’s a little naive”

er, yes.

Michael Widlanski presents a much more comprehensive overview of many of the reasons why this is just a silly article. Adam Chandler’s views reflect a simplistic, knee-jerk left-leaning understanding of the difficulties. To paraphrase Jaques Chirac, Mr. Chandler “missed a good opportunity to keep quiet.”

herbcaen says:

Time to Reinvest in the Peace Process… investing with Madoff would bring better returns and less pain. Every time the “peace” process occurs, Jews get blown up in synagogues, restaurants and busses. A peace treaty would not help with the Iranian situation, because Jews and Sunni Muslims making peace does not address that Irans goals are projecting Shia superiority, and would just as soon nuke Palestinians as Israelis. By saying that a peace treaty would help defuse Iran, Mr Chandler must believe that Iran has legitimate grievances against Israel that necessitate its destruction

exliberaljew says:

It’s hardly worth spilling any more ink on this tripe but suffice it to say that just because you continue to mouth the same old “two state platitudes”, Mr. Chandler, doesn’t mean that the Pal Arabs are going to be any more enthusiastic about it than they have been up until now. To continue the liberal-left nonsense that Israel will somehow cease to be a democratic Jewish state because the Pals don’t want their own state living side by side in peace just shows us that somehow you don’t listen and if you do hear what they have to say it doesn’t register and if it does register you discount it and if you discount it it means you’re just a racist who thinks that the Pals are not capable of thinking for themselves. But they are and they’ve made conscious deliberate and nasty choices that lead to the death of Jews and has scuttled any chance of the Oslo process ever taking root. They just don’t want it. Get it?! I guess not.

Philip says:

Adam, you are so wrong. The two state solution is dead. It was a non starter to begin with. The Arabs hate the Jews, and will never recognize a Jewish state.

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