“Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace, but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!” — Patrick Henry
The Editors of The Washington Post are stuck on an ideal of a Middle East peace plan that has not brought any success over the last 52 years.
By Editorial Board | January 28, 2020 | 7:45 p.m. EST
The Mideast peace plan that President Trump unveiled at the White House Tuesday amounts, as a practical matter, to another one-sided gift to the right-wing Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Trump promised U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and all of the settlements Israel has constructed in the West Bank — a radical shift in a half-century-old American policy.
Mr. Netanyahu, who gleefully pledged to immediately “apply Israeli law to all areas the plan recognizes,” reciprocated by calling Mr. Trump “the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House.” Mr. Trump can be expected to flog that endorsement as he seeks reelection this year. Mr. Netanyahu, in turn, will present himself to Israeli voters in a March election as the leader who extracted once-unimaginable concessions from Washington. Both leaders can hope to distract from ongoing scandals: Mr. Trump from his impeachment trial and Mr. Netanyahu from his indictment Tuesday on corruption charges.
U.S. sanctions for the annexation of settlements will meanwhile deliver a devastating blow to the prospects for a two-state resolution between Israelis and Palestinians. Those who actually favor that, as we do, will have to hope that the remainder of the plan is soon forgotten. Otherwise, it may provide a new set of benchmarks that will make peace impossible and from which future Israeli and U.S. governments will find it hard to retreat.
The supposed outlines of a split-the-differences Arab-Israeli peace deal have been known since 1967. At the end of his term, President Clinton got then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to agree to a plan, but Palestinian ‘President’ Yassir Arafat threw them back in his face. Mr Clinton told Mr Arafat that it was the best deal he could ever hope to have gotten, but it wan’t good enough for him. Former President Jimmy Carter supposedly said that had Mr Arafat accepted the deal, he would have been assassinated by his own people, which is probably true.
The Post’s editorial position stems from one thing: the Western belief that good people can settle any dispute peaceably, if they’ll just try hard enough. Such an attitude led Neville Chamberlain to believe that he could make a deal with Adolf Hitler. But the notion fails the test in the Middle East on two points:
The notion that both parties are accept Western ideas and genuinely want peace; and The notion that there are good people on both sides.
The first problem is that, for far too many of the Palestinians, the only peace that they want is the peace achieved from victory, a peace which would accrue from their oft-stated desire to push all of the Jews out of the Middle East. They do not want peace with Israel; they want to conquer Israel, to destroy Israel as a Jewish nation.
In World War II, the last war we actually won, it was won but the wholesale slaughter of German and Japanese troops, by virtually destroying those two nations through massive bombing campaigns, by killing civilians, men, women, children and the elderly until Hell wouldn’t have it any more, and by not only killing the soldiers in combat, but much of the next group of boys who would soon reach fighting age. There simply weren’t many adolescent boys in Germany and Japan who were itching for their turn in uniform, to reverse and avenge their countries’ defeats.
That isn’t what has happened in the Middle East. The Israelis have fought four major wars with the Arabs, but when the Arabs sued for peace when bloodied but hardly destroyed, the Israelis agreed. That left the adolescent boys to grow up, thinking that they could have won, and would win the next skirmishes, the next war. The Israelis left hope, hope of victory, alive in the Palestinians.
And the Israelis left the Palestinians in place. If Israel had wanted to keep the lands it conquered in 1967, it should have expelled all of the Arabs living in the conquered territory. It would have been inhumane and brutal, but had it been done, Israel today would have shortened, more defensible borders. By leaving the Arabs in place, the Israelis allowed a captive and restive population to live under their rule, always resentful, always plotting, always seeking to reverse their fortunes. The Israelis of 1967-68 left their successors in an untenable and unsustainable position.
The second problem is that they really are not good people on both sides. The Palestinians are in a position unique in history, having the ability to win their war of independence, if a two-state solution is really what they want, by not fighting, by stopping the low-level terrorist attacks. If they would just quit fighting, it wouldn’t take many years before the Israelis, tired of the incessant, low-level war, would force their government to grant the Palestinians their state.
But as long as the Palestinians keep fighting, the easier it becomes for Israel to plant more and more settlements in Judea and Samaria. There probably are some good people among the Arabs, but there are enough not good people, in Hamas, in Hezbollah, in al Fatah, who are far less interested in peace than they are in fighting. Until the Palestinians suppress, rather than supporting, the fighters, there will be no peace.
There is an obvious truth, one from which Western minds recoil: the only solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute is another war, an all-out war in which one side is so thoroughly defeated that surrender and evacuation is the only alternative to death. It is jarring to our Western minds and morés and ideals to think about that, but it makes it no less true.