Israel still has no genuine peace partner
By Daniel Mandel
November 13, 2006 . THE AGE. Melbourne, Australia.
There are chiefly two approaches people take to the Arab-Israeli conflict: One is to assert that Israeli occupation of Palestinians is the cause whose reversal would terminate it; the other is to regard Palestinian and wider Arab goals to replace Israel with an Arab/Muslim state as the cause whose relinquishing would bring peace. Antony Loewenstein, (Opinion, 10/11), subscribes to the former view. I subscribe to the latter.
The Arab desire to dismember Israel, expressed in several wars launched by Arab states, has accompanied Israel from the moment of its birth in 1948; the Israeli conquest of the West Bank and Gaza dates from the 1967 Six Day War. Israeli occupation is a symptom, not a cause, of Arab belligerence.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), for example, was formed in Arab-controlled Jerusalem in 1964 self-evidently not with the intention of "liberating" territories that were then firmly in Arab hands.
However, in the 1990s, many Israelis preferred to believe that Arab determination to dismember Israel had given way to acceptance, making a land-for-peace deal possible for the first time. It was a seductive hope, yet despite Israeli flexibility, American diplomatic enthusiasm and European largesse, it failed dismally.
Why? Ample opportunity, after all, existed for the PLO and Fatah leader, Yasser Arafat, heading the newly installed Palestinian Authority (PA) regime to come to terms with Israelis, build a rule of law society and lay the foundations of a firm economy bolstered by the world's highest per capita level of international aid.
Instead, the PA squandered it on building up militias and lining the pockets of officials from Arafat down. Terrorism increased while in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps, incitement to hatred and murder of Jews and glorification of terrorism as a religious and national duty became the order of the day.
In these circumstances, logic dictated that negotiations with the PA be called off, funding halted and diplomatic pressure applied to stop and reverse these developments.
Instead, the Israelis, the Americans and everyone else persisted with talks and concessions to this governmental Enron. This continued even after Arafat walked away from president Bill Clinton's peace plan in 2000, which would have seen uprooted the bulk of the Israeli settlements of which Loewenstein complains. For Palestinians, non-acceptance of Israel trumps statehood.
To this day, PA maps and atlases pretend Israel does not exist, PA-salaried clerics call for the murder of Jews, TV and radio broadcasts, popular songs and poetry extol the glories of suicide attacks, textbooks teach that Israel is unfit to live, and streets and colleges named for suicide bombers. One example: the PA/Egypt border crossing at Rafah is named in honour of a terrorist who murdered five Israelis.
Simply nothing comparable, despite Loewenstein's best efforts fixating on right-wing Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman, exists on the Israeli side.
To this day, both Fatah and Hamas, which together command the support of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, call in their respective charters for Israel's destruction, while Hamas goes one further and calls for Jews to be murdered, yet Loewenstein sees its election as grounds for its international acceptance. Fatah and Hamas have each deliberately killed more than 400 Israelis apiece in five years of suicide bombing but Loewenstein believes Israel is "addicted to violence".
Before the Palestinian terror wave, beginning in September 2000, there were no Israeli incursions, blockades and security fences. Until last week, there were no Israeli forces in Gaza's Beit Hanoun. But scores of missiles fired into Israel from that territory - unilaterally relinquished by Israel last year - brought the Israeli army back.
Hamas called out Palestinian women to shield the escape of cornered gunmen and other terrorists ensconced in apartments eluded the fire intended for them that killed neigbouring civilians in their beds. Using human shields is a vile tactic, made more effective by ritual condemnation for the Israelis confronting it.
Why the studious avoidance of the abundant evidence of Palestinian intentions and conduct? Why the rationalisation of Palestinian terror via the mantra of "occupation"? Why the inversion of cause and effect?
Because it is apparently difficult (though it shouldn't be) to accept that when people say they mean to kill Jews and eliminate Israel, they actually mean it. How much more comforting for the gullible and convenient for the malevolent to insist that peace lies within Israel's unilateral gift.
As the case of Loewenstein shows, an awakening from this resilient fallacy must await still further and greater terror. In retrospect, a peace process between one party bent on survival and the other on destruction has predictably failed.
If Israel one day prevails on Palestinians to relinquish their goal of its elimination, successful peace talks will ensue. If Israel goes under, none of course will be necessary.
Daniel Mandel is director of the Zionist Organisation of America's Centre for Middle East Policy, a fellow in history at University of Melbourne and the author of H. V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel: The Undercover Zionist (2004).