We’re getting ready for the latest round of futile peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Abu Mazen is claiming that terrorism isn’t the way to go, Ariel Sharon is issuing work permits and letting Palestinians out of prison, and the State Department is abuzz with excitement. It all sounds exhilarating’until you realize that it’s all destined to end in tears like every other attempt to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The reason I see little reason to get excited about the peace process is because I see little being done to address even the most fundamental issues that need to be dealt with. There are at least three things that need to happen before the Israelis and the Palestinians even start to seriously discuss creating a Palestinian State.
First of all, all the Palestinian terrorist groups are going to have to be dismantled. An agreement cannot be reached when there are terrorists murdering Israelis while the Palestinian government turns a blind eye to it at best and pitches in at worst. Until these terrorists are stopped, the Israelis can’t completely pull out of Palestinian territory, they can’t really afford to let the Palestinians work in Israel en masse, and they can’t trust the Palestinians enough to sign a deal with them. After all, if the Pals are not willing to deal with the terrorists in order to get their own state, why would anyone think they will afterwards? Although the “Roadmap to Peace” wisely deals with this issue right up front, so far there has been almost no actual progress on this central issue. Furthermore, seeing as how it would likely take a Palestinian civil war to get rid of the terrorist groups, I consider it to be unlikely that the Palestinians are going to move on this issue anytime soon.
Secondly, the “Right of Return” needs to be handled right up front. In the Roadmap, this issue isn’t even scheduled to be negotiated until the process is ostensibly reaching its close in 2005. That makes no sense whatsoever since this a huge issue and both sides have diametrically opposed viewpoints on it. The Israelis are not going to take 3.7 – 6 million (estimates vary) Palestinians into their country anymore than the US would take in 300 million members of the Taliban. It’s just not going to happen under any circumstances. But, the Palestinians are desperate to bring these people into Israel. That’s partly because Palestinians are about as welcome as rabid dogs across the Middle-East so no one else wants to take them in, also because Arafat & company want to use the Palestinian refugees to destroy Israel demographically, & because these Pals living in refugee camps are kith & kin with the Palestinians in the “occupied territories”. Coming up with a real solution to this issue will probably involve pressuring the surrounding countries to accept these Palestinians and then paying out tens of billions of dollars worth of aid to the nations that allow the Palestinians to become citizens. Once this issue is handled permanently, it becomes much easier for both sides to cut a deal. That’s why the “Right of Return” simply can’t be treated as a detail issue to be handled at the end of the process.
Third, if we really want the region to settle down long-term, there has to be a guarantee in place that Israel is going to be protected from attacks in the future, including terrorist attacks if it allows the Palestinians to have a State. Since peace treaties with the likes of the Saudi Princes and the mullahs in Iran who encourage Nazi-like hatred against Jews mean nothing, the West will have to guarantee Israel’s security. The best way to do that (although not the only way) would be to allow Israel to join NATO and then make it explicitly clear that allowing terrorist groups to launch attacks at Israel is an act of war. We’d also need a promise from Europe that all economic support for the Palestinians (and the amount would be in the billions indefinitely) would be cut off if they willingly allowed the terrorist groups to reconstitute themselves within their borders. Europe’s dependence on Middle-Eastern oil and their low regard for the Israelis make it highly unlikely that we could get Europe to give Israel the sort of support we’d need to make this work.
There are other lesser (or more solvable) issues things that would have to be worked out as well. Those include removing the settlements, setting up a power sharing arrangement for Jerusalem, creating the borders of the state, removing Arafat from the picture completely, setting up Palestinian elections, getting an agreement from the Palestinians not to allow foreign troops in, water sharing arrangements, peace treaties with the surrounding states, allowing the Palestinians to find work in Israel, etc, etc. These things could all be accomplished, but only if the first three issues I discussed were handled. Otherwise, everyone is just wasting their time and watching the corpses pile up.
Furthermore, it would be a BIG MISTAKE to think that we have an infinite amount of time to pursue peace. The Palestinians could kill 400-500 people in a terrorist attack, set off a dirty bomb, or sicken hundreds, perhaps thousands of Israelis with a biological attack. If any of those things happen, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the talk quickly turn to transfer, which could easily spark a regional war. On the other hand, Pakistan or North Korea could sell a nuclear device to an Islamo-fascist regime or their terrorist allies who might very well detonate the bomb in Israel. That could kill tens of thousands of people and perhaps make the tiny Israeli State almost impossible to live in, which could very well provoke an Israeli nuclear response that could decimate the entire region for generations. Some people might believe this couldn’t happen because the terrorists wouldn’t want to hurt the Palestinian people. These are the same terrorists who run schools teaching 5 yeas olds that there is no higher calling in life than blowing yourself up. Anyone counting on them to act in a sane & rational manner is deluding themselves.
Making a two-state solution work IS possible, but we may be running out of time. Furthermore, it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to make it happen, so much so that I would be strongly be behind “transfer” were I an Israeli. Given that, we cannot afford to shy away from tackling the tough issues and hope that things will just “work themselves out somehow” down the road. We’d be much off pursuing a viable solution from the beginning even if it requires unprecedented cooperation to work, rather than trying to implement a much easier plan that is doomed to failure. Unfortunately, we’ve made the latter choice and there may be a butcher’s bill to pay for it.
Hat Tip To Little Green Footballs for coming up with the phrase “Roadmap to Murderville”.