As I read the news and analysis surrounding Obama's recent meetings with the Israeli Prime Minister and Palestinian Authority President, I am reminded of the insights of Si Frumkin, a Holocaust survivor who recently passed away.
Mr. Frumkin wrote an article originally published in 2005 just after Israel ceded the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. In his article, Mr. Frumkin explained the meaning of the word, Schadenfreude, which he defined as "malicious satisfaction in the misfortunes of others." He shared that, ironically, he was able to enjoy Schadenfreude upon the ceding of Gaza to the Palestinian people.
When the Israeli citizens withdrew from Gaza, they left behind state-of-the-art greenhouses worth millions of dollars. A group of wealthy American Jews decided that it would be a mitzvah to buy the greenhouses from Israel and leave them for the Palestinians as "the cornerstone of the Palestinian economy." Those American Jews not only had their hearts in the right place, but they understood that in order for a future Palestinian state to survive as a civilized entity rather than a terrorist state, a strong economy must exist.
People naïve enough to believe that kindness may bring about drastic changes to a culture's human nature might view the donation of the greenhouses as the first step in implementing change in the Mideast. Mr. Frumkin stated:
"Happy ending for all, right? Palestinians get the greenhouses, Israelis get $14 million and the small group of admirable Jews in America get the warm feeling of having made the world a more tolerant and loving place, where Arabs appreciate Jewish kindness and are less eager to murder Jews, right?"
Mr. Frumkin then retells the anecdote about a scorpion that asked a fox to carry him across a river:
"The fox refused: ‘You are a scorpion and you might sting me,' he said. The scorpion scoffed. ‘Don't be ridiculous. Why would I sting you? We would both drown if I do,' he said. The fox thought this made sense and told him to climb on his back. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the fox. ‘Why? Why did you do this? We'll both drown,' cried the drowning fox. ‘I know, my friend, but this is the Middle East,' said the scorpion before dying. ‘It's in my nature.'"
The reality of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza ended much differently than those generous American Jews had hoped. Within hours, the Palestinians not only decimated every synagogue left behind, they also demolished the greenhouses - and the foundation for a strong economic start in their new homeland. Mr. Frumkin further explained:
"And so, I have Schadenfreude. The Palestinians will not export flowers to Holland or fruit to France [as the Israelis had prior to their withdrawal]. The greenhouses will not be rebuilt. The Palestinian economy, such as it is, will continue to be mired in corruption, hatred and violence. They will suffer - Schadenfreude - but still, they'll never admit that it was their own fault.
And I have Schadenfreude towards the naive, rich Jews who thought that the Arab reaction to their gift would be based on logic and not on inbred hatred."
This naïveté is not limited to a simple minority of well intentioned American Jews. It is part and parcel of a much larger problem that permeates the decades long struggle to "solve" the Mideast conflict. Israel ceded Gaza to the Palestinians in the hope that it would be the first step in a peaceful co-existence with a lifelong enemy. What resulted was the election of the terrorist organization, Hamas, as the official government of Gaza and the bombardment of thousands of Qassan rockets in southern Israel.
All too often the focus has been on the Israelis who have obstructed a peaceful settlement. Sadly, Obama has jumped on board the "blame Israel" bandwagon as he suggested in his recent meeting with Netanyahu that Israel's economic pressure on Gaza was leaving Gazans with "no hope." Not surprisingly, Abbas has caught on to this blame game. As Washington Post reporter Jackson Diehl notes:
"What's interesting about Abbas's hardline position, however, is what it says about the message that Obama's first Middle East steps have sent to Palestinians and Arab governments...Obama...has repeatedly and publicly stressed the need for a West Bank settlement freeze, with no exceptions. In so doing he has shifted the focus to Israel. He has revived a long-dormant Palestinian fantasy: that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees, while Arabs passively watch and applaud."
What continues to go unnoticed by many of those favoring a two-state solution to the Mideast conflict is that one side of the negotiating table does not favor this plan. Jeff Jacoby pointed out in a recent article in which he chronicled the numerous opportunities the Palestinians opted for violence over a homeland:
"International consensus or no, the two-state solution is a chimera. Peace will not be achieved by granting sovereignty to the Palestinians, because Palestinian sovereignty has never been the Arabs' goal. Time and time again, a two-state solution has been proposed. Time and time again, the Arabs have turned it down."
One would expect an administration replete with Ivy League degrees to understand these limitations. Were Obama to forget about adding another accolade to his list of historical "accomplishments", reason might prevail. Yet reason is not at work in White House.
Israel's Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon, who stated that a "Palestinian entity cannot be formed," explained:
"I do not see any chance of establishing a viable Palestinian entity in Judea and Samaria and/or the Gaza Strip that could sustain itself economically...The gap between Israel as a First-World country and a Palestinian Third-World country is a recipe for instability. I also don't see a chance to form a viable Palestinian entity...that could bring stability on the security front, while chances the entity would be adversarial are very high."
Ya'alon suggested that educational, economic and political reforms should be encouraged as initial steps in managing the conflict. However, he noted that without a responsible and able Palestinian leadership that would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even these measures would be unattainable. I too suggested in a recent article that negotiations with Hamas and Fatah, entities that refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and continue to call for its destruction, are not possible. Mr. Frumkin concluded his article with the following statement:
"You silly people, didn't you learn yet that this is the Middle East, where scorpions sting even if this means their own destruction?"
And so I say to Obama who continues to pressure Israel to cede land to a people proven incapable of peace, as well as the American Jews who voted for him despite signs forewarning a hostile policy toward Israel - you ignorant people. You should have learned by now with whom you are dealing when you demand that Israel alter its borders and welcome a culture of scorpions as neighbors. When will you learn and what price will Israel have to pay for your education?