ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS


Hear me now or believe me later by mattsteinglass
March 9, 2009, 3:38 pm
Filed under: Israel, Uncategorized

Chas Freeman:

Finally, let me allude briefly to the issue of Israel, a country that has yet to be accepted as part of the Middle East and whose inability to find peace with the Palestinians and other Arabs is the driving factor in the region’s radicalization and anti-Americanism. 

The talented European settlers who formed the state of Israel endowed it with substantial intellectual and technological superiority over any other society in the Middle East. The dynamism of Israel’s immigrant culture and the generous help of the Jewish Diaspora rapidly gave Israel a standard of living equivalent to that of European countries. For fifty years Israel has enjoyed military superiority in its region. Demonstrably, Israel excels at war; sadly, it has shown no talent for peace. 

For almost forty years, Israel has had land beyond its previously established borders to trade for peace. It has been unable to make this exchange except when a deal was crafted for it by the United States, imposed on it by American pressure, and sustained at American taxpayer expense. For the past half decade Israel has enjoyed carte blanche from the United States to experiment with any policy it favored to stabilize its relations with the Palestinians and its other Arab neighbors, including most recently its efforts to bomb Lebanon into peaceful coexistence with it and to smother Palestinian democracy in its cradle. 

The suspension of the independent exercise of American judgment about what best serves our interests as well as those of Israelis and Arabs has caused the Arabs to lose confidence in the United States as a peace partner. To their credit, they have therefore stepped forward with their own plan for a comprehensive peace. By sad contrast, the American decision to let Israel call the shots in the Middle East has revealed how frightened Israelis now are of their Arab neighbors and how reluctant this fear has made them to risk respectful coexistence with the other peoples of their region. The results of the experiment are in: left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them, and enrage those who are not. 

Tragically, despite all the advantages and opportunities Israel has had over the fifty-nine years of its existence, it has failed to achieve concord and reconciliation with anyone in its region, still less to gain their admiration or affection. Instead, with each decade, Israel’s behavior has deviated farther from the humane ideals of its founders and the high ethical standards of the religion that most of its inhabitants profess. Israel and the Palestinians, in particular, are caught up in an endless cycle of reprisal and retaliation that guarantees the perpetuation of conflict in which levels of mutual atrocities continue to escalate. As a result, each generation of Israelis and Palestinians has accumulated new reasons to loathe the behavior of the other, and each generation of Arabs has detested Israel with more passion than its predecessor. This is not how peace is made. Here, too, a break with the past and a change in course are clearly in order. 

The framework proposed by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah at Beirut in 2002 offers Israel an opportunity to accomplish both. It has the support of all Arab governments. It would exchange Arab acceptance of Israel and a secure place for the Jewish state in the region for Israeli recognition of Palestinians as human beings with equal weight in the eyes of God, entitled to the same rights of democratic self-determination and domestic tranquility within secure borders that Israelis wish to enjoy. The proposal proceeds from self-interest. It recognizes how much the Arabs would gain from normal relations with Israel if the necessary conditions for mutual respect and reconciliation could be created. 

Despite the fact that such a peace is so obviously also in Israel’s vital and moral interests, history and the Israeli response to date both strongly suggest that without some tough love from Americans, including especially Israel’s American coreligionists, Israel will not risk the uncertainties of peace. Instead, it will persist in the belief, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that it can gain safety through the officially sanctioned assassination of potential opponents, the terrorization of Arab civilians, and the cluster bombing of neighbors rather than negotiation with them. These policies have not worked; they will not work. But unless they are changed, the Arab peace plan will exceed its shelf life, and Arabs will revert to their previous views that Israel is an ethnomaniacal society with which it is impossible for others to coexist and that peace can be achieved only by Israel’s eventual annihilation, much as the Crusader kingdoms that once occupied Palestine were eventually destroyed.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: