The two reader comments you posted about Israel's enemies being either irrational beasts or hyper-rational strategists are both extremes. Whether you're speaking of Hamas, Iran, or Israel and the United States, for that matter, policy is shaped by both rational and irrational factors. A major cause of rampant conspiracy-creation in the Arab world is the belief that powers like Israel and the United States do not make mistakes. Thus, the failed US invasion of Iraq becomes a conspiracy to get Sunnis fighting Shiites, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Or, Israel's assault on Hamas in Gaza elicits conspiracies of genocide, even as Israel attempts to explain and videotape practically every single bombing strike or action to demonstrate its commitment to moral combat - a sensitivity to civilian casualties unheard of in the history of war. Not everything is foreseen, and not every act is as calculated as some would suggest.
In addition, we must consider that what is completely irrational from our viewpoint makes perfect sense from the perspective of Hamas or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In other words, our frame of reference for what constitutes reason is skewed by culture, geography and a lack of information. Without access to the decision-makers, we simply cannot know why Hamas broke off the ceasefire with Israel and launched hundreds of rockets, igniting the Gaza War. Was it an irrational act of insatiable jihad? Or was it a powerplay between the Damascus wing of Hamas - loyal to its Iranian patrons and willing to let Gaza bleed to avoid making difficult choices - and the Gaza leadership, which was presumably under greater popular pressure to maintain calm with Israel? Perhaps Hamas saw its popularity shrinking relative to Fatah and embarked on what it thought would be a minor skirmish to reignite the people's allegiance to the resistance, only to discover that, after half a decade of getting pounded by rockets, Israel was in no mood to play games with a pipsqueak group of thugs. Whatever "rationality" the Palestinians were operating under previously, a newly instilled fear of Israeli retaliation seems to have quieted their impulse for new provocations. That's a rationality everyone can live with, and has, for a year now.
Moreover, the idea that everything can be attributed to Palestinian despair reeks of intellectual despair. How many times must the Palestinians be offered a state on 93-95% of the West Bank and Gaza, with territorial exchanges for the rest, a land corridor, tens of billions in foreign investment, etc.? How many times must we restate the opportunities to make peace that Palestinians have missed, the most recent being just 2 years ago! Olmert was elected on a solid political platform of territorial concessions and negotiations, with a coalition wide enough to push this agenda through. He negotiated with Abbas for four years, from the highest levels to the lowest, finally handing the Palestinian leadership a map of final status borders, only to never hear from them again. How many times must we accept the Palestinians digging themselves into a hole and starting a war to get what they want? Israel should negotiate (in other words, make concessions) with people who reject the concept of Jewish self-determination, shoot rockets at its cities and murder its citizens? Right after Obama sits down with bin Laden and begins to compromise vital American interests. Yes, the Palestinians are desperate, but apparently not desperate enough to make good choices. You'd think losing every war you ever started would be more educational.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
As Andrew has continued posting reader comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (though his editorial focus continues to be decidedly against Israel), I have decided to respond to these two (one, two) related posts in particular. He has never actually published one of the emails I've sent him. Now that I have a nifty blog, however, at least my thoughts are no longer lost to his inbox.