The "Peace Process" That Isn't
One of the phrases that has been stuck in our collective minds for decades is a blatant lie. Face it, there simply is no "Middle East peace process." It doesn't exist, never has, and in all probability never will. It is a fiction, bought into by those who value idealism more than realism, who see process trumping results. U.S. actions in the greater Middle East-Central Asia region are always predicated by how the action might impact the Middle East peace process. General Anthony Zini said, for example, that "a war with Iraq could make the situation between Israel and the Palestinians much worse." It is the odd case of a misguided vision overriding operational necessities.
Following the carnage of the First World War, the victorious powers carved up the corpse of the defunct Austria-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires with alacrity. Stories have become legend about Woodrow Wilson on his knees above a large map on the floor asking, "Just where is Czechoslovakia?" and of Winston Churchill, then a staffer, using a straight edge to parse out what would become Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia. When they held the Versailles Peace Conference everyone came. But not all were allowed into the inner sanctums of power.
Future luminaries such as David Ben Gurion, Ho Chi Minh, and Sun Yat Sen, and others petitioned vainly for attention to be paid to their national aspirations. Expectations were raised by Wilson's Fourteen Points that gave hope to indigenous colonial populations. "in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined," the fifth point, led newly emerging leaders around the world to hold aspirations that went unfulfilled.
The legacy of arbitrary national divisions - drawn and manufactured with Great Power's interests primary - was soon felt in the Second World War, throughout the Cold War, and continues into the 21st century. Bestowing the treasures of an oil-rich desert on presumptive royalty of a Bedouin tribe to formulate Saudi Arabia and ignoring aspirations of Sunni, Shi'a, and Kurdish nationalities to draw up the artificial nation of Iraq are just two actions among the many that would water the world with the blood of successive generations.
The torturous diplomatic process that ultimately resulted in the Palestine Mandate of 1922 with the Balfour Declaration began well before the end of the First World War, and is a classic case of war-time expediency (honoring T.E. Lawrence's promise to the Arabs of an independent state ) to on-going big power, post-war colonial ambitions. Because of a seemingly endless series of bilateral agreements modified by ineffectual League of Nations resolutions, geographic boundaries remain in dispute and all sides consider themselves victims of back-room diplomacy and manipulation, with some justification.
By the time of the Second World War it was clear that Arab and general Muslim identification with Hitler's anti-Jewish actions opened a natural alliance. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, was identified by Hitler as "the Furher of the Arab world." Eager to cement the relationship, the Mufti recruited two Waffen SS divisions in the Muslim Balkan area, manning them with locals as well as fighters imported from the Arab areas. His condition was that after Hitler won the war that the Jewish population of Palestine would be liquidated.
In 1948 a conscience-stricken West - appalled by the European Holocaust - pushed for establishment of the state of Israel through the United Nations. The Arab world immediately attacked the new state and the war - sometimes overt, always through political, economic, and terrorism - exists to present day. At the onset of the war, tens of thousands of Arabs fled the new state. Many took residence in Jordan and eventually fought against the Hussein government, prompting the retaliation known as Black September. Eventually this led to formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization and a movement from camps in Lebanon to what is now considered Palestine.
The enmity that exists between Palestine and Israel has deep roots, going back historically well beyond the brief summary of the past 80 years cited here. That antagonism grows by the day and will not be resolved by advocacy groups on either side. Nor can we expect results from diplomats who are persuaded by terms of moral equivalency and are unable to distinguish between a democracy and a dictatorship. The accession to power and status as a head of state by Yassar Arafat, for example, would have been impossible had not the UN and individual world powers granted him such a position.
The fiction of assiduously not taking sides places one in a position of granting equal position to both conflicting parties. As a consequence, regardless of the egregious nature of suicide bombings or missile attacks against Israel's civilian population, we are told that "both sides must exercise restraint" and that "retaliation by Israel endangers the peace process."
The so-called peace process is an invention by incapable diplomats designed to assuage public opinion and keep a stake in the larger Arab world that identifies with Palestine and is eager to exploit Palestinian travail for nefarious purposes. Saddam Hussein paid families of suicide bombers. Saudi princes wax eloquent about the suffering of Palestinians but rarely spend petro-dollars to improve grotesque living conditions there. Ahmadinejad of Iran uses Palestine as a pretext to support the terrorist groups HezbAllah and Hamas and threatens that Israel "should be wiped from the face of the map, should be destroyed and should not exist."
Every American president since Harry Truman has attempted to solve the Israel-Palestine issue. All have failed. Why? The simplistic, but obvious answer is that one of the essential requirements to settle a disagreement is that both parties must want to settle. Regardless of what each belligerent wants for an outcome, each must have settlement as the ultimate outcome before a process can be defined as such. The Israelis approach the table with the expectation of give and take - mostly the former, and have as a goal eventual settlement.
The Palestinian side, on the other hand, has no desire to settle. They have no give, but lots of take. Essentially their position is that when the Jews cease to exist that will satisfy their requirements. This is neither an acceptable nor a reasonable goal in anything that could be defined as a peace process. Rather it is an ultimatum. And, to their credit, the Palestinians do not hide or disguise this goal. They are quite open and frank about expectations. Death to Israel, is more than a slogan; it is their reason for existence.
It is a collection of Western diplomats, media, and idealistic but confused citizens who deny the very words the Palestinian authorities say and put their preferred version into their mouths. So instead of the binary solution - life of death, preferably death - proposed by the Palestinians we are told that just a few more Israeli concessions would lead to peace, and that the sanctity of the "process" is all important.
This is diplomatic claptrap. Understand, both Palestinians and Israelis can provide a willing listener with an endless list of grievances that go back to Biblical times. Many are real and legitimate, others are fabrications. Sorting out the two is akin to painting a true picture of life in the Balkans. But the key point here is not who is right and who is wronged, but what potential outcomes ought we expect. And this is where the equations goes off the charts.
Another reality that demands acknowledgement is unqualified support for terrorist groups from Israel's enemies in the region. A rogue's gallery of terrorist groups - HezbAllah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others - are actively, openly supported by Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, several Gulf States, and Islamic "charities" based in Western Europe and the U.S. Despite crushing, humiliating defeat in war after war, countries still refused to recognize Israel as a nation and continue to fight. Maps in most Arab and Iranian schools do not even have Israel drawn on them.
The West keeps focusing on the symptoms and ignores the core of the problem. Instead diplomats talk about endless meetings and conferences, laundry lists of concessions and accommodations, consul "restraint on both sides," ignore egregious violations by the Palestinians and harshly criticize the Israelis for their actions. This hobo's basket of actions is wistful thinking, not a "peace process."
Solutions? You won't find any here. As I said earlier, this problem is Biblical in dimension. It seems a good start would be to call it what it is: "irreconcilable differences," rather than try to frost the ruined cake with sugary words like "peace process."
— Gordon Cucullu
October 20, 2008
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