A skewed process
Editorial - THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 13, 2008
Israel is reportedly bracing for a "skewed" report from Lt.-Gen. William
Fraser on Israeli and Palestinian implementation of their road map
obligations. What is likely "skewed," however, is not just one report, but
the whole US approach to achieving Arab-Israeli peace.
Since the government recently announced it would expand a settlement inside
the security barrier near Jerusalem, Israel expects to be criticized in the
Meanwhile, though the Palestinian leadership in Gaza has been openly
orchestrating the bombardment of Israeli cities, Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas is not being held responsible for this, so US
criticism of the Palestinians is expected to be muted.
The micro problem with this approach is that there is no symmetry between
settlements and terrorism, on either the moral or strategic levels. It is a
moral travesty that building homes is compared to murdering innocents. But
even if settlement expansion can be seen as problematic, it makes little
sense to treat all settlements equally, as if there were no difference
between expanding existing towns that are contiguous with Israel and inside
the security barrier, and settlements situated amidst the Palestinian
While the US seems to pretend that there is no line between "good" and "bad"
settlements, a clear distinction should be made between settlements that are
entirely consistent with a two-state solution and those designed to block
such an eventuality.
But all this is trivial compared to the macro problem, which is that the US
makes no distinction between the respective distances Israel and the
Palestinians are from making the two-state approach work, and instead looks
for ways to criticize both sides no matter what, in an attempt to appear
Since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, the Israeli public and political
system have moved dramatically from a consensus that a Palestinian state
would be an anathema, to an equally broad consensus that regards it as
acceptable, even a necessity. At the same time, the Palestinians have if
anything become more radicalized since 1993, and have not begun to prepare
themselves for a two-state approach, let alone embrace it.
The lack of movement on the Palestinian side is illustrated not just by the
complete rejection of Israel by Hamas, but by the nonexistence of a
Palestinian peace camp that accepts Israel's basic legitimacy. While Yasser
Arafat, and now Mahmoud Abbas, claimed to have accepted Israel's "right to
exist," both continued to champion the "right of return," an obvious
back-door method to achieve Israel's destruction.
Almost no Palestinian will accept that the Jewish people have any national
or historical rights to a state alongside Palestine; almost no Israeli will
reject the right of Palestinians to build a peaceful and democratic state
alongside Israel. This gargantuan gap is what prevents peace.
Pretending that Israelis and Palestinians are equally to blame for the lack
of peace is not just misleading and unfair, it is actively harmful to the
cause of peace, because it lets those who are obstructing peace off the
hook. Nor is this "skewing" limited to the Israeli-Palestinian sphere.
Another major impediment to peace is the free ride given to the non-radical
Arab states. These states are considered to be doing their part because they
are not directly helping Hamas (though much of Hamas's funding comes from
these countries, and Egypt refuses to stop the weapons flow to Gaza), and
because they have a standing offer to make peace once Israel has settled
with the Palestinians.
The Arab stance that they are patiently waiting for peace, however, should
not wash. These states could, if they led the way rather than insisted on
following, quickly tip the current Palestinian trend from radicalization to
The non-radical Arab states do not lift a finger to encourage and exemplify
normalization with Israel partly because the international community -
including Israel - does not demand it of them, and does not blame them for
perpetuating the conflict. The other reason these states do not help is
because they are afraid that Iran will succeed in becoming a nuclear power,
and that in such a world it would be very dangerous to take a step that
seems to support the US or Israel.
In short, while the US is busy counting outposts and settlements, and acting
as if Israel is holding up the works, the real obstacles to peace lie
elsewhere. So long as these real obstacles do not become the focus of
Western policy, the "peace process" will continue to be a dismal failure.