March 9, 2011
A Time for Soul SearchingBy Dan Gordon
At a recent meeting with American Jewish leaders, President Obama reportedly urged those in the room to speak to their friends and colleagues in Israel and to "search your souls" over Israel's seriousness about making peace.
Periodic soul searching is probably good advice for anyone. But with the greatest possible respect, I would suggest to the President that while Israelis engage in that noble endeavor, he do so as well. Not about his seriousness in regard to facilitating a peace agreement. It is clear that the President is serious as a heart attack about that. He wants an agreement. So has every President of the United States for the past forty years.
As someone who came of age in Israel and who served in the IDF during four wars, I can assure you that no one wants to see peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis more than the people of Israel. Moreover, virtually every Israeli government for the past two decades has supported the notion and publicly committed itself to reaching an agreement which will see the creation of an independent democratic Palestinian State, living side by side with a Jewish and democratic State of Israel.
If that's the case, what's the problem? What, for forty years, has prevented such an agreement? The Obama administration according to its own statements views the settlement issue and territorial compromise as the keys to reaching a just and lasting peace. Indeed, President Obama reportedly said to Jewish leaders that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is eager to secure his legacy by establishing a Palestinian state and would accept a decent offer if one was on the table.
Thus, the problem must be Israeli intransigence, and hence the call for the necessary soul searching amongst Israel's leaders. That in fact has become a kind of mantra for many American administrations. Territorial compromise, land for peace, will bring about the desired peace agreement. Israeli intransigence over those issues is the impediment.
Most fans of the television series "Dallas" will recall that J.R. Ewing was the type of fellow, who if caught in flagrante, cheating on his wife, would deny the obvious reality and say to the long suffering Sue Ellen "Who are you gonna believe? Me or your lyin' eyes?" To continue to pound the drum to cut a land for peace deal with an Arab autocrat who rules by dictate instead of democracy, and does not enjoy either a sense of legitimacy or popular support amongst his own people, as is the case with President Abbas, is quite simply to disbelieve what ought to be obvious to anyone's eyes.
If the events of the past two months in the Middle East should have taught us anything, it is that peace agreements reached with Arab dictators are as substantial as sand dunes; the next strong wind that blows across the landscape can easily obliterate them.
Absolutely no one, including the Egyptians themselves, knows who will be the Egyptian leader six months from now, nor what form its government will take, let alone if that government will maintain the peace treaty which Israel signed with Anwar Sadat in exchange for giving up a territorial buffer zone that literally could mean life or death for the Jewish State.
In addition to giving up land in that treaty, Israel gave up oil and gas reserves which it had discovered and developed. Israel gave up those vital reserves because the Egyptians promised to supply Israel's natural gas needs. One of the first casualties in the wake of the events that have swept Egypt in the last weeks has been a key component of the Israel/Egyptian accords; the promised energy supply from Egypt. There was a terrorist attack in Sinai which blew up the gas line. The current military government of Egypt has confirmed that even once the pipeline is repaired, the flow of natural gas to Israel will not be resumed. In terms of that vital component, the Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt has already been undone. No one can predict whether, nor how long, the rest of the components of that Peace Agreement will continue to stand.
Jordan's monarch, King Abdullah has already begun taking steps to deal with the street demonstrations which threaten his regime. The view from the "Arab street" in Jordan is that the Peace Agreement with Israel must be rescinded. No one on this earth including the American President can say with any certainty whether the Peace Agreement with Jordan will still be in effect one year from now, nor who Jordan's leader will be, nor what form its government will take.
In his discussion with Jewish leaders, President Obama, in describing the Peace Agreement which would materialize because of Israeli territorial concessions,
reportedly said that the Jewish sections of Jerusalem would remain in Israeli hands, but that the Arab sections would not. This is the other part of the mantra that has been chanted as a kind of orthodoxy since the Oslo Accords; "Everyone knows what the final deal between the Israelis and Palestinians will be."
There is a problem with that, however. Evidently what "everyone knows" doesn't extend to the Palestinian people. When sixteen hundred documents were leaked detailing secret Palestinian offers of compromise with Israel which comported exactly with what President Obama (as part of the "everyone" who knows what the final deal will be) outlined to the Jewish leaders, the reaction in the "Palestinian street" was outrage which threatened to topple Mr. Abbas' government. Everyone, including Mr. Abbas, and his Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat, who was forced to resign because of the revelations, vehemently denied that they would ever consider such compromise positions. The leaks were lies. Evidently, President Abbas and his negotiator found it simply too dangerous to "know" what everybody knows.
Virtually every "moderate" Arab dictator in the Middle East has followed the same tactic, cut a deal with Israel which ensures Western support on the one hand, while actively inciting or at very best turning a blind eye toward incitement of a virulent hatred toward both Israel and the Jewish people as a whole. Antisemitism in Egypt was used by its dictators as a way of deflecting public outrage against those regimes' shortcomings. And every American administration, Republican and Democrat alike, have turned a blind eye to it. The result has been that even when certain dictators are swept away the Jew hatred remains.
It is time for the American administration and the American President to demand of the Palestinian leadership, not only that they cease incitement against Israel, but begin to prepare their people for peace and reconciliation. That is the real impediment to peace. Absent that, no agreement built upon territorial concession with an Arab dictator will be worth the paper it's written on. In light of present events, the mantras of the past ring as hollow as J.R.'s exhortations to Sue Ellen not believe her lyin' eyes.
President Obama is justly concerned with his legacy, just as he assured American Jewish leaders that President Abbas was concerned about his. But the legacy for Israel of a failed Peace Treaty with its neighbors, built on territorial concessions, which rob the Jewish State of the ability to defend itself, is not loss of reputation, but loss of the lives of our children and grandchildren who will pay the price in blood, for what could be the most horrific war yet for Israel's survival. It is time for the American President to search his soul.