Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Peace Nowhere In Sight

It began with President Obama's speech (transcript here) in Switzerland, where he helpfully remarked

For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection.

In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and supporters of his (mostly congressional Republicans) were, however, displeased when Obama added

The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

Acknowledging "that idea has been the working premise for negotiations since 2000," syndicated columnist, conservative Republican and Obama-hater Charles Krauthammer contended

Normal U.S. boilerplate except for one thing: Obama refers to Palestinian borders with Egypt, Jordan and Israel. But the only Palestinian territory bordering Egypt is Gaza.

Does Obama’s map force Israel to give up a corridor of territory connecting the West Bank and Gaza? This is an old Palestinian demand which would cut Israel in two. Is this simply an oversight? Or a new slicing up of Israel?

When he spoke (transcript here) to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee three days later, Obama sought to quell concern of Israeli advocates when, to considerable applause, he explained that his formulation

means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.

Two days after that, the Israeli Prime Minister spoke (transcript here) to an adoring U.S. Congress. The same day, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who generally has found Netanyahu insufficiently committed to the peace process, asked

May I suggest a Tahrir Square alternative? Announce that every Friday from today forward will be “Peace Day,” and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things — an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: “Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed adjustments — including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs.”

If Palestinians peacefully march to Jerusalem by the thousands every Friday with a clear peace message, it would become a global news event. Every network in the world would be there. Trust me, it would stimulate a real peace debate within Israel — especially if Palestinians invited youth delegations from around the Arab world to join the marches, carrying the Saudi peace initiative in Hebrew and Arabic. Israeli Jews and Arabs should be invited to march as well. Together, the marchers could draw up their own peace maps and upload them onto YouTube as a way of telling their leaders what Egyptian youth said to President Hosni Mubarak: “We’re not going to let you waste another day of our lives with your tired mantras and maneuvering.”

Crazy, I know. Bibi is reading this and laughing: “The Palestinians will never do that. They could never get Hamas to adopt nonviolence. It’s not who the Palestinians are.”

That is exactly what Mubarak said about the Egyptian people: “They are not capable of being anything but what they are: docile and willing to eat whatever low expectations I feed them.” But then Egyptians surprised him. How about you, Palestinians, especially Hamas? Do you have any surprise in you? Is Bibi right about you, or not?

Sadly, Benjamin Netanyahu is right about the Palestinians- or at least Hamas, which has inked a reconciliation pact with the comparatively moderate Palestinian authority. Upon the killing of Osama binLaden, the prime minster of the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniya of Hamas, remarked
We condemn the assassination of a Muslim and Arab warrior and we pray to God that his soul rests in peace....

We regard this as the continuation of the American oppression and shedding of blood of Muslims and Arabs.

The elimination of the most famed, and infamous, terrorist in the world- a"continuation of the American oppression and shedding of blood of Muslims and Arabs." This may be a reflection merely of a scurrilous terrorist organization or an effort to secure American support through intimidation. It does suggest that the Israel/Palestinian conundrum has relatively little to do with Islamic militancy. As Mitch Daniels, commenting on the "Arab Spring" understands,

what is going on in the Arab world these days has little or nothing to do with Israel or Palestine, it has to do with tyrannical regimes which have really stifled prospects for their people who are now restless for a better life. I think that should be encouraged. I think that tyrants who suppressing this human urge to greater freedom and prosperity ought to be sanctioned at a minimum. ... I don’t think right now it pays very much of a dividend to try to cut the Gordian Knot of Israel and Palestine.

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