Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Drawing a Straight Line from Concessions to Peace

The following is part of a conversation I'm having with KFJ, over at Jewschool. It's out of context, but if you follow the link you can read what I'm responding to, as well as his positions. I'm posting this more for myself, as it encapsulates many of the ideas I've been contemplating and attempting to express this week on the peace process and settlements. Perhaps my eclectic readership can find some use in my remarks as well.
I agree with you. Netanyahu doesn’t want a Palestinian state, but you can’t expect him to want it more than the Palestinians themselves. I don’t think there are many Israelis who think of a Palestinian state as a positive outcome, even if it is a necessary one. That’s what separates the Israeli leadership and the Israeli people from the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people. Under the right convergence of factors, a threshold reached multiple times in the past decade alone, the Israelis are willing to make the concessions demanded of them.

Is this true for the Palestinians? Have they ever faced the kind of international pressure necessary to break, once and for all, the myth of “return of refugees”? Will the people abide by such political decisions without a boot on their neck? Is their civil society preparing the population for the eventuality of self-rule and an end to all claims?

You talk about changing specific Israeli policies - Gaza, settlements - but getting bogged down in the minutia of these is counterproductive, as the Jordanian King recently made clear, when these policies can be made irrelevant under the shadow of a final deal, which deals with borders, refugees, Jerusalem, an end to hostilities and all other outstanding issues.

When the chips are down, which party is willing to bite the bullet and sign, and which party isn’t? President Obama is starting to get it. Are you?

I know you’re an optimistic guy. I know you want peace, passionately, and you work for it. But at some point you have to be able to draw a line between where you are and where you want to be. So far, all you’re concluding is that Israel should be forced to concede unilaterally what it has already determined to concede under the terms of a final deal. Is that progress? Is Israel going to impose peace on itself? Or are you preparing the ground for a repeat of Gaza?

Without holding the Palestinians accountable for their obligations, no Israeli concessions will suffice. You know that. And precisely because Palestinians concessions are in the realm of the conceptual and intellectual - claims, narrative, rights, etc. - they must begin to make down-payments now by preparing their leadership and people psychologically. Instead, you parrot their excuses and give credibility to their obfuscations. Your demands on Israel absolve the Palestinians of having to come to terms with their responsibilities, for why should they sacrifice their claims and narrative when Israel is willing to give it to them for nothing.

There are some who think that Israel must withdraw from all territories regardless of what the Palestinians do. If Iran and Hamas want a second rocket pad in Ramallah then so be it. Israel will just have to learn to live with rockets raining down on its cities, because the occupation is uniquely evil and must be ended, even at the cost of national suicide. I don’t think you believe that. I think you’re pragmatic enough to understand how reckless Israeli concessions can lead to a war, a real war the likes of which the Palestinians have never seen, and whose brunt they will bear.

You don’t have to explain it to me, or to anyone else, but make sure that you can draw that straight line from where you are to where we all want to be.

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