The fictional Star Trek character Spock credited an ancestor as stating “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” It was a deduction that properly belongs to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. We should have guessed, because the proposition seems so irrefutably logical.
Especially in the Middle East.
Here’s the truth. There’s nothing improbable about the fact that despite his boasts as a dealmaker nonpareil, President Donald Trump will fail to broker a peace between two sides – Israelis and Palestinian Arabs – with mutually exclusive ideologies, and claims.
Peace in the Middle East, particularly between Arab and Jew, is simply not improbable, it is impossible. The former have told us as much, and the latter seem not to listen.
There might be a process, but there will be no peace between these rival neighbors. The diplomatic solution born with Oslo on September 13, 1993 – when Israel committed to a peace process with an adversary that has no equivalent desire for peace – was Israel’s most consequential and fateful mistake.
Since that time, four American presidents have placed their diplomatic hopes on the notion that common sense might prevail. It does not. Especially in the Middle East.
The abbreviated version, that a solution is founded on the assumption that diplomacy done right might engender peace, is based on three fundamental lies. First, that Israel has a negotiating partner that also desires a shared peace – the Palestinian Authority. Second, that Israel’s surrender of territories will lead to that peace. And third, that the western world will support Israel’s right to defend itself after it accepts less than defensible borders.
One need not be a Nobel Laureate to understand this fundamental fact: If the premise is wrong, it logically follows that the conclusion drawn from that premise might well be too.
The premise upon which rests all diplomatic endeavors is based on this: There exist two peace partners, with competing claims to the same territory, separated in agreement by some fundamental misunderstandings that can be addressed and remedied by some skillful negotiator (or his son-in-law) through a bi-lateral process. It is patently false.
Here’s why. There are several conditions, the Palestinian Arabs remind us, that must be traded for a “promise” of peace: An Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 lines (but let’s call them what they really are – the 1949 armistice lines). The Israeli surrender of Jerusalem, including all its post-1967 neighborhoods that are home to nearly a quarter of a million Jews, to then be established as the future capital of Palestine. The right of the 1948 refugees to return to Israel, in inflated and exaggerated numbers that would redefine its demography. And, finally, an officially declared State of Palestine, which would be Judenrein. In exchange, the Palestinian Arabs would offer – a promise of peace. Tangibles for an intangible. Defensible lines, for indefensible borders.
That irrational, and impossible, formula has been rejected again, in the most recent polls, by an overwhelmingly large number of Israelis. It is a non-starter. It is also, with the most minor modifications, the essence of the Saudi peace initiative that was formulated in 2002, and which today’s diplomats are trying to somehow resurrect by engaging supporters of the bi-lateral approach.
The goal: A two-state solution.
Irrelevant it seems, is the fact that the PLO (the precursor to the PA) was formed in January 1964 – it’s raison d’etre we are told in some revisionist spin, was the liberation of the Israeli occupation. The “occupation” that the diplomatic ‘experts’ reference occurred three and a half years later, in June 1967. The conclusion is obvious. The logic is axiomatic. The Palestinian Arabs wish to liberate all of Palestine. It might be instructive here for these experts to consult any Palestinian map. Hellen Keller can see it – the Palestinian Arabs do not seek peace.
Sherlock Holmes and Spock were right. And what is left is the truth.
Henry Kissinger once remarked: “A murderer can also be a liar.”
The concept of land for peace has failed. It ought to be ceremoniously buried. In the quarter century that Israel had allowed itself to be browbeaten into a series of failed diplomatic ventures – most significantly with Oslo, Oslo 2, the Road Map, Wye River Memorandum, Camp David 2000 Summit, and several other initiatives – one thing emerges as undeniable. The Palestinian Arab’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State.
One might channel former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban, who stated following the 1967 Six-Day War, “This is the first war in history which has ended with the victors (Israel) suing for peace and the vanquished (Arabs) calling for unconditional surrender.” Little has changed.
The common thread that has been endemic to all the diplomatic endeavors which have called upon the Israelis to give, and the Palestinian Arabs to take, used to be called by its proper name: appeasement. It seems for almost a generation the guiding principle of western diplomacy – an attitude that is best described the way Teddy Roosevelt once referred to William McKinley – as having “the backbone of a chocolate éclair.”
In search of a viable peace, Middle East specialists conveniently opt to suspend reality. The litany of ill-fated experts, part of a cottage industry that served the American peace initiatives is long – and each failed because their formulas were premised on the belief that there existed two peace partners. There are not.
President Donald Trump cannot make the same mistake. He must come to understand that unless the opposing belligerents in the Middle East miraculously eschew their own ideologies, peace in the Middle East is not only improbable, it is impossible. That is the truth.
The proper premise almost invariably leads to its rational conclusion.
The Trump team needs to better understand the reason the PA even engages in the charade promoted falsely as a peace process. The Palestinian Arab design, however cosmeticized with euphemistic slogans, remains the same – the end of Israel. And because Israel’s demise could not be brought about by war, as evidenced in 1948, 1967 and 1973, then it must they reasoned, be realized as a cumulative result of a long drawn out series of political rather than military successes. Thus, for the Palestinian Arabs, in the context of the greater Israel-Arab conflict, war is not a continuation of diplomacy by other means, as Clausewitz once pronounced, but just the opposite: diplomacy has become the continuation of war by other means.
Will Rogers nailed it almost a hundred years ago: “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie’ until you can find a rock. For the Palestinian Arabs, diplomacy is the rock.
The promise of peace, based on a workable and viable two-state solution, is a lie.
Zsa Zsa Gabor, one imagines, made a promise to her first husband – that it will be forever. It seems that she made the same promise to all her other husbands – the eight who followed the first.
One might suggest this as an appropriate premise: promises are not always meant to be kept. You can then draw a logical conclusion.
By: Meir Jolowitz
Meir Jolovitz is a past national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, and formerly associated with the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.