Category Archives: Two-State Solution

American Vanity and Ambition Plays the Fool in Middle East Political Culture

I’ve posted some items on the upcoming “negotiations.” Here I just want to draw your attention to three recent analyses on key American players in this charade of negotiations: Kerry and Indyk, both of whom consider messing with the only relatively stable situation in the Middle East an extremely short-sighted career “win.” Talk about making others pay for your fifteen minutes of fame.

Indyk: Noah Pollak, “What does Martin Indyk Believe

Between 2006 and 2009, no relevant facts on the ground in the Middle East had changed: Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons, Bashar al-Assad was still the dictator of Syria, and Hezbollah was still entrenched in Lebanon. Only one fact had changed, and it was a Washington fact: Barack Obama had become the president, and he had made “engagement” with Syria a pillar of his Middle East policy. Indyk dutifully discarded his previous objections to the idea.

Give him his due: His shameless positioning and audacious reversals have been successful where they were intended to count – not in making “the cause of peace his life mission,” as Kerry said about him yesterday, but in advancing his career. Step one was showing his loyalty to Obama after betting on the wrong candidate in 2008; step two was burnishing his image as a tough-minded veteran of the Middle East who understands why things went wrong in Obama’s first term and can be counted on to get it right in his second term. On the substance, it’s been an awful, tawdry display. But as a matter of Washington careerism, Indyk’s press conference yesterday, where he was introduced and praised by the secretary of state, is inarguable proof of success.

Kerry: Lee Smith, “Requiem for the Peace Process

The peace process has entered its mannerist phase—it is nothing but a series of empty elegant formalisms. Does Martin Indyk, Kerry’s newly named Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, really need to add a sequel to his memoirs of the peace process, Innocent Abroad—Again?

The Moral Chasm and the Pursuit of Peace

UPDATE on the moral chasm: David Brog, “A Tale of Two Hearts

Recently an Israeli blogger translated a piece by a young Israeli journalist who participated in what was supposed to be a “peace initiative” with Palestinian young adults. She is a classic product of Israeli culture, engaged, open, desirous of peace even if that means painful compromises, Liberal Cognitive Egocentric. This recent encounter with her Palestinian counterparts brought her face-to-face with her LCE.

Her pained realizations reminded me of one of Golda Meir’s many profound reflections on the conflict.

We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.

There’s a moral chasm here so great that even contemplating it becomes unbearable. So what do outsiders do with this chasm? They invert it.

Peace? From the Palestinian Standpoint, There is a Past, No Future

by Lital Shemesh

I participated in the Dialogue for Peace Project for young Israelis and Palestinians who are politically involved in various frameworks. The project’s objective was to identify tomorrow’s leaders and bring them closer today, with the aim of bringing peace at some future time.

The project involved meetings every few weeks and a concluding seminar in Turkey.

On the third day of the seminar after we had become acquainted, had removed barriers, and split helpings of rachat Lukum [a halva-like almond Arab delicacy] as though there was never a partition wall between us, we began to touch upon many subjects which were painful for both sides. The Palestinians spoke of roadblocks and the IDF soldiers in the territories, while the Israeli side spoke of constant fear, murderous terrorist attacks, and rockets from Gaza.

The Israeli side, which included representatives from right and left, tried to understand the Palestinians’ vision of the end of the strife– “Let’s talk business.” The Israelis delved to understand how we can end the age-old, painful conflict. What red lines are they willing to be flexible on? What resolution will satisfy their aspirations? Where do they envision the future borders of the Palestinian State which they so crave?

We were shocked to discover that not a single one of them spoke of a Palestinian State, or to be more precise, of a two-state solution.

They spoke of one state – their state. They spoke of ruling Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Akko, Haifa, and the pain of the Nakba [lit. the tragedy – the establishment of the State of Israel]. There was no future for them. Only the past. “There is no legitimacy for Jews to live next to us” – this was their main message. “First, let them pay for what they perpetrated.”

The comparison that Palestinians like to make between the Shoah (which did not happen) and the Nakbah reminds me of Mel Brooks’ comment as the 2000 year old man: “Tragedy to me is if I cut my finger. I’ll cry a lot, go into Mount Sinai for a day and a half. Comedy is if you fall in an open manhole and die. What do I care.” Only, they care.

I’m not saying that the Nakba was not a tragedy, but in comparison with other tragedies that have befallen the Arabs in this area – “Black September 1970, Hama, 1982, Syria, 2010-13 – what happened in 1948 is not exactly of epic proportions. And, of course, who is responsible for this tragedy?

Empathy for the other is clearly not an element of this culture of blame and revenge. The injury must be paid for, and the injured (the Arabs) restored to their former honor (no autonomous Jews to deal with).

In the course of a dialogue which escalated to shouts, the Palestinians asked us not to refer to suicide bombers as “terrorists” because they don’t consider them so. “So how do you call someone who dons a vest and blows himself up in a Tel Aviv shopping mall with the stated purpose of killing innocent civilians,” I asked one of the participants.

Ah, but you don’t understand, my dear. You and your fellow Israelis – indeed your fellow infidels – are not innocent.

“I have a 4-year-old at home,” answered Samach from Abu Dis (near Jerusalem). “If G-d forbid something should happen to him, I will go and burn an entire Israeli city, if I can.” All the other Palestinian participants nodded their heads in agreement to his harsh words.

The significance here is less the vengeful attitude of the speaker than the assent he produced among his fellow Palestinians. In honor-shame cultures, where vengeance is an honorable deed, the ability of people to dissent from such desires is limited, to say the least.

“Three weeks ago, we gave birth to a son,” answered Amichai, a religious, Jewish student from Jerusalem. “If G-d forbid something should happen to him, I would find no comfort whatsoever in deaths of more people.”

Here’s the progressive, integrity-guilt attitude shared my most Israelis. This is not an isolated case; on the contrary, it’s a national ethos, that not only does not seek vengeance, but, wherever possible, to repair the rent in the body social created by earlier violence. Israel’s hospitals are models of fairness to Jew, Christian, Arab, Muslim. If anything, some might think that treating a terrorist in the same place and with the same care as his or her victims, is going too far.

Take just one example among many. The parents of Malki Roth, founded the Malki Foundation in response her “senseless” slaughter in a Palestinian suicide attack on a pizza parlor chosen specifically to kill as many children as possible. It is dedicated helping special needs children. 30% of the cases it treats are Arab children.

The shocking thing here, is that the “progressives,” in supporting the Palestinian cause, have essentially “gone native,” not so much in their own desire to take vengeance (?), but their radical inability to make even a dent in the tribal attitudes of those whom they support. After 13 years of “solidarity” with the Palestinians, Human Rights NGOs, journalists, UN agencies, have not only failed to communicate even the most elemental principles of a progressive attitude and the peace it can lead to, but have done precisely the opposite: they have infantilized, they have fed the resentments, they have played the picador.

In doing so, they have demonstrated the moral vacuity of a major post-modern meme. If Palestinians want to blow up Israeli civilians because it assuages their pain… “who are we to judge?” And when that kind of insane violence grows with this kind of malignant neglect, even spreads to other societies, then it must be because of something the Israelis did to those poor Palestinians.

Israelis from the full gamut of political parties participated in the seminar: Likud, Labor, Kadima, Meretz, and Hadash (combined Jewish/Arab socialist party). All of them reached the understanding that the beautiful scenarios of Israeli-Palestinian peace that they had formulated for themselves simply don’t correspond with reality. It’s just that most Israelis don’t have the opportunity to sit and really converse with Palestinians, to hear what they really think.

Our feed of information comes from Abu Mazen’s declarations to the international press, which he consistently contradicts when he is interviewed by Al Jazeera, where he paints a completely different picture.

Note that this material has been available to anyone online for decades. MEMRI and PalWatch provide precisely the translations needed. But somehow, people like Lital – i.e., an up and coming major journalist – seems unaware. Has she spent her time reading A.B. Yehoshua and dismissing them as the product of “right-wing” war-mongers?

I arrived at the seminar with high hopes, and I return home with difficult feelings and despair. Something about the narrative of the two sides is different from the core. How can we return to the negotiating table when the Israeli side speaks of two states and the Palestinian side speaks of liberating Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea? How can peace ever take root in a platform which grants legitimacy to terrorism?

Welcome to reality. There’s good news and there’s bad.

The bad news is that until the Palestinians grow up, there will be no peace, and that, at the moment, land concessions actually make things worse. And they won’t grow up as long as their “honor group” consists of other Arabs who live in fantasy worlds and they get support from “progressives” who think that they’re being brave and honorable by supporting their vengeful mentality.

The first Arab leader to wean his people from their scape-goating anti-Zionism will create the first productive, democratic Arab state. May it happen swiftly, in our days.

The good news is that if the West, and especially progressives in the West, would snap out of this “performance” of moral vanity in which we act as if we have no enemies in order to be “true to our values,” and begin to rebuke the Palestinians – and the Arabs, and the Muslims, for behavior that really is, by modern standards, shameful, we could make a lot of progress.

But alas! Palestinians made a cult of their suicide bombers, sanctifying their violence, commemorating it in every way. They even made a papier-mâché recreation of the Sbarro Pizza bombing at the moment of the bomb’s impact, so people could come and savor the Schadenfreude. That exhibit is father to the son who says, “If G-d forbid something should happen to my child, I will go and burn an entire Israeli city, if I can.” And what if his  child were killed by a Palestinian militia, as we can now document happens not infrequently? Will he burn a Palestinian city? This testifies to a complete failure of the international community to hold the Palestinians to even the most limited set of standards. They are not only the queen of welfare nations, they are the king of moral affirmative action.

Westerners need to contemplate the moral chasm that separates Israeli and the Palestinians culture, make up their minds who is on the side of the progressive values that they (say they) cherish, and say to the Palestinians, as it needs to say to Muslims: Where are the voices of moral outrage in your community? Where are the projects and programs you have to respond to such grotesque interpretation of morality? Where is your commitment to humanity and your willingness to outgrow your need for tribal revenge?

I’d like to believe that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate, really moderate. I think that could even happen with a shift in the honor-group. But right now, the world community supports the (near) worst a society can produce, people whose moral discourse we would not accept even in the most permissive community, a community that pressures members to kill their daughters. They embody everything upon whose rejection we have built the world that allows us to dream messianic dreams about a global civil society.

We need to stop feeding these folks with and look for the real moderates, those willing to accept that, in matters of faith there is no coercion, and build a community of tolerant faithful.

And one of the first things to do, is stop adopting a demonizing narrative about Israel that empowers the worst tendencies and actors in Palestinian/Arab/Muslim political culture. That’s actually doable. And it’s definitely in the interest of the West to say to Palestinians and Muslims, “you need to get along with the Israelis, with the Jews.” You can’t be so juvenile as to say, “I refuse to deal with these people.”

So that’s the good news: we Western liberals can start now contributing to peace, and we can actually lead the way. Prizes for the most important and successful delivery of progressive tochacha to Palestinians and Muslims. What a virgin field!

Tablet Article: A Cultural Redesign of the Peace Process

Redesigning the Peace Process

Ignoring cultural difference and overestimating politics has left us without a resolution. We can do better.

By Richard Landes|September 25, 2012 7:00 AM|0Leave a comment

(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photos Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons)

Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, there hasn’t been a moment when the punditocracy hasn’t insisted that Israel needs to make a deal with the Palestinians—and soon. Otherwise, they claim, Israeli democracy, saddled with millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control without citizenship, will have to choose between the twin catastrophes of democratic suicide and apartheid. And since the solution that everyone knows is the eventual one–land for peace–is so clear, let’s just get on with it.

It hasn’t panned out. We’re now approaching two decades of failure of the two-state solution. Every strategy for pulling it off—Oslo, Taba, Geneva, Road Map, Dayton, Obama/Clinton—has, despite sometimes enormous efforts, failed or died stillborn. And yet, with each failure, anew round of hope emerges, with commentators and politicians arguing that this time, if we just tinker with some of the details, we’ll get peace right. (Or, as an increasing number have now come to believe, it’s time we abandon the two-state solution entirely.)

The predominant explanation for this impasse in the West has focused on Israel’s role:settlements that provoke, checkpoints that humiliate, blockades that strangle, and walls that imprison. Palestinian “no’s” typically get a pass: Of course Arafat said “no” at Camp David; he only got Bantustans while Israelis kept building illegal settlements. Suicide bombers are excused as registering a legitimate protest at being denied the right to be a free people in their own land. In Condoleezza Rice’s words: “[The Palestinians] are perfectly ready to live side by side with Israel because they just want to live in peace … the great majority of people, they just want a better life.” The corollary to such thinking, of course, holds that if only the Israelis didn’t constantly keep the Palestinians down the world would be a better place. So, the sooner we end the occupation, the better, even if it means urging the United States to pressure Israel into the necessary concessions. It’s for Israel’s own good.

How not to save Israel: Response to Gershom Gorenberg

A friend asked me what I thought of the following piece by Gershom Gorenberg published by Slate. Disclosure: Gorenberg and I were once close friends. He was a regular at the Center for Millennial Studies, when wrote his book End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. He even asked me once to substitute for him at an NIF [!] function in New York – before I knew what I was dealing with (more on that below).

For a formal review of the book by Lazar Berman, who used to post at the Augean Stables, see “The Unmaking of Gershom Gorenberg.”

Fisked below.

How to Save Israel
The three steps that could rescue it from endless conflict and international ostracism.
By |Posted Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, at 6:59 AM ET

For Israel to establish itself again as a liberal democracy, it must make three changes.

It’s pretty revealing that Gorenberg thinks Israel needs to establish itself again as a “liberal democracy.” He apparently thinks that the first round ended in 1967. That means that the key moment in a democracy – when an opposition group can be voted into power – which occurred for the first time in 1977, doesn’t even count, along with the in some cases excessive commitment to radical democratic principles of Aharon Barak’s Supreme Court (1978-2006). As will become apparent later on, this schema has a great deal to do with his moral perfectionism and, tangentially I think, his concern for what others think, an aspect of his thought revealed in his concern about “international ostracism.”

The following is adapted from Gershom Gorenberg’s new book The Unmaking of Israel. Read the earlier excerpts about why, exactly, Israel ended up losing most of its Arab population in 1948 and about why a new kind of old-time Judaism has taken hold in Israel.

I write from an Israel with a divided soul. It is not only defined by its contradictions; it is at risk of being torn apart by them. It is a country with uncertain borders and a government that ignores its own laws. Its democratic ideals, much as they have helped shape its history, or on the verge of being remembered among the false political promises of 20th-century ideologies.

The risks Gorenberg identifies (see below) are only some of the risks Israel runs, but which he tends to ignore, not the least, the risks embedded in the suggestions he has to make for resolving the contradictions. “On the verge of being remembered among the false political promises of 20th century ideologies”?! Is this a reference to Nazism and Communism? Historically this is ludicrous – unless Gorenberg sees Israel becoming a totalitarian state sometime soon. Only in terms of the kind of post-colonial anti-Zionism of say, Tony Judt or Phillip Weiss, it does make sense.

What will Israel be in five years, or 20? Will it be the Second Israeli Republic, a thriving democracy within smaller borders? Or a pariah state where one ethnic group rules over another? Or a territory marked on the map, between the river and the sea, where the state has been replaced by two warring communities? Will it be the hub of the Jewish world, or a place that most Jews abroad prefer not to think about? The answers depend on what Israel does now.

I have an Israeli friend, a good liberal who supported Oslo despite the information he was getting about the malevolent intentions of the PA, who admitted to me that after the outbreak of the Second Intifada (in other words, after the Palestinians got out of their Trojan horse and showed their real hand), that the hardest thing for him to realize is that “it’s not in our hands.”

Gorenberg has yet to realize that. For him, everything is in Israel’s hands, and if only they’d do what he told them, then they’d have peace, a liberal democracy, the moral high ground, and the world would once again like and admire them (or at least not stigmatize them as pariahs). As a result, he is a prime candidate for “masochistic omnipotence complex” (MOS) ie, it’s all our fault and if only we could be better [a liberal democracy] then we could fix everything.

As a result, Gorenberg is susceptible to framing the conflict in terms of the “four dimensional Israeli, two- (or one-) dimensional Palestinian“. Since I rarely agree with Phillip Weiss, let me note that he points out the same lack of any real interest in Palestinians on Gorenberg’s part. This was, by the way, my critique of the play NIF staged in NYC which I commented on in Gorenberg’s place: four dimensional Jews ruminating and churning their guilt in a void filled with fantasies of Palestinian peace-makers whom extremist Jews try to assassinate.

For Israel to establish itself again as a liberal democracy, it must make three changes. First, it must end the settlement enterprise, end the occupation, and find a peaceful way to partition the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

What on earth leads Gorenberg to think that this “peaceful way to partition” is possible? When he says “stop the occupation” he presumably means retreat to the Green line (the ’49 armistice lines). When the Palestinian leadership – “secular” and religious – says occupation, they mean the shore line. Does Gorenberg think that ending the settlement enterprise and the occupation will lead to a peaceful partition, rather than to a resumption of war with Israel in a weaker position? Has he considered that possibility?

Is Obama’s Pressure for Direct Israeli-Palestinian Talks Pushing Region Towards War? (Updated)

My latest report for Pajamas Media on the Negotiations

Is Obama’s Pressure for Direct Israeli-Palestinian Talks Pushing Region Towards War? (Updated)

Byzantine politics have nothing on negotiation strategies in the Middle East between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Headlines July 29 initially announced that the Arab League — meeting in Cairo and under heavy pressure from the Obama administration — had approved Abbas’ return to direct negotiations with Israel. Comments from Jerusalem, including from Netanyahu, hailed this welcome gesture as a chance to get back on track towards a two-state solution.

All sounds good: the Obama administration applying pressure on the Arab side, the Arabs respond and move forward; Israelis welcome the move.

But to those familiar with the nature of these negotiations, none of this made any sense.

Read the rest at PJMedia

The Contempt of the “Right-Thinking” Peacock Rhinos: J-Street goes after Wiesel.

HT/David Winick

Elie Wiesel published a major ad, “For Jerusalem,” in several US newspapers, prompting President Obama to meet hastily with him and reassure him that he understands the importance of Jerusalem to the Jews. Jeremy Ben-Ami of J-Street responded with his own ad featuring a counter-attack by Yossi Sarid, one of the unrepentant architects of the Oslo process, that dismissed Weisel as misinformed, misled, deceived, and, worst of all, “imbuing our current conflict with messianic hues.”

This last accusation is particularly significant. Any religious affection for Jerusalem on the part of Jews appears on J-Street’s radar as messianic attachment, and since, by J-Street’s analysis, compromise on Jerusalem is a sine qua non of achieving peace, such feelings are impediments to reaching a “rational” solution.

Now one of my greater gripes with J-Street concerns the inconsistency with which they apply their principle that pressure should be put “on both sides.” When in doubt, their motto seems to run, squeeze Israel. I am open to correction, but I am unaware of one formal position that they have taken in which Palestinian concessions are the principle target of their actions or declamations.

So here, the fact that the Muslim claim to Jerusalem is not only historically weak, but filled with messianic overtones, indeed Jihadi messianic ones, at the core of an unrestrained apocalyptic struggle, has no bearing for him.

Only the Jews should be restrained from messianic urgings; indeed they should restrain their messianic yearnings to make room for those of the Muslims. Then we’ll have peace.

Barry Rubin, in a brilliant study of Assimilation and its Discontents, pointed out how Jews, eager to succeed in the modern world, found their talent for self-denial one of their most valuable tools, and, for example, would champion any people’s liberation cause but that of their own people. J-Street steps right into the mold, and in so doing, reveals just what levels of contempt it feels for anyone whose sensibility gets in the way of their own sure-fire recipe for peace.

And what if… what if such a strategy of self-denial and sacrifice for the sake of peace ends up backfiring? The fact that J-Street would have Israel carve up its capital to make Palestinians happy, without any attention to the religious stakes for Palestinians, speaks eloquently for a perspective I think as cruel to Jews as it is unwise.

For J-Street, Palestinians need not compromise on Jerusalem as their “capital,” despite the fact that when it lay in Arab hands, Palestinians showed no interest in making it their capital. It matters not that their attachment is part and parcel of a violent and irredentist demand for Palestine from the “river to the sea” for both Fatah and Hamas. It matters not that, in their demand for control of the sacred precincts of their “third most holy city,” Muslims treat Jewish claims with dismissive contempt.

Question for Jeremy and Yossi Sarid, and all the other believers that unilateral compromise will bring peace: What if Israel’s agreement to share Jerusalem, pressured by the Obama administration, produces the opposite effect on Palestinians? What if, rather than empower the moderates to produce matching Palestinian concessions, as you seem to fervently believe, it strengthens the position of the irredentists who argue “East Jerusalem today, Palestine from the River to the Sea” tomorrow?

J-Street: Is there a plan B here?

Palestinian Statehood: The Cognitive Egocentrist’s Dream Solution

Working on my book, I have not had time to post at the blog (or to respond to some of the more interesting threads). So I post this piece, partly because it’s so important, partly because I don’t have the time to fisk the deeply dishonest piece it refers to, by Malley and Agha, which reeks of condescension both for the readers of the NYRB and for the Palestinians whose childish reasoning they present without a hint of criticism… all of which disguises their demopathic agenda.

They don’t want a state
Sever Plocker
Published: 07.08.09, 17:54 / Israel Opinion

Researchers increasingly argue that Palestinians uninterested in statehood

Do the Palestinians want a state? This question sounds like a provocative one. Isn’t it patently clear that the Palestinian national movement aspires to realize its goals by establishing a Palestinian state? Isn’t it patently clear that the ethos of political sovereignty has guided the dreams and struggles of the Palestinian people for ages?

Well, no. It’s not patently clear.

More and more Mideast affairs researchers are today willing to respond to the question about whether the Palestinians want a state with a “no.” Some of them offer a hesitant “no,” while others offer a resounding “no.”

In a June 11 New York Review of Books article, written by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, they two prominent experts argue the following: “Unlike Zionism, for whom statehood was the central objective, the Palestinian fight was primarily about other matters…Today, the idea of Palestinian statehood is alive, but mainly outside of Palestine…A small fraction of Palestinians, mainly members of the Palestinian Authority’s elite, saw the point of building state institutions, had an interest in doing so, and went to work. For the majority, this kind of project could not have strayed further from their original political concerns…”

This inverts my understanding. (Please, readers, correct me if I’m wrong.) Many inhabitants of both the WB and the GS wanted statehood and peace; the leadership never did. When Arafat said “no” at Camp David, the younger members of his delegation wept (Dennis Ross anecdote). Arafat never used his militant credentials to sell the idea of a two-state solution to his people (really to his honor-group of Palestinian and Arab alpha males), but to reassure them that this was the two-phased solution to wiping out Israel.

The two experts sum up by arguing that the notion of a Palestinian state is perceived as a foreign import, and as a convenient outlet for foreign elements who interfere with the Palestinian people’s independent wishes. They point to the “transformation of the concept of Palestinian statehood from among the more revolutionary to the more conservative.” Moreover, Agha and Malley argue that in the past, when Yasser Arafat seemingly endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state and even threatened to declare its establishment, he did not adopt an unequivocal stance and did not make his intentions clear. Since Arafat’s death, the notion of statehood lost the remaining popular support it enjoyed.

So it’s the West’s fault for wishing the Palestinians well that the two-state solution has failed. Agha and Malley are channeling the Dominating Cognitive Egocentrist‘s projections: “I assume “they” are plotting to destroy and enslave me, because that’s what I’m doing to them.”

Flushing out the Honor Madness: Palestinian Leadership responds to Netanyahu’s Speech

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the Jews in a major city in the southern USA. He told me that by and large what they got in Sunday school was the classic AIPAC-style narrative: “The Arabs won’t accept Israel and want to destroy it; Israel’s efforts to make peace fail because the only thing they understand is strength, and if you make concessions they’ll interpret it as weakness and press for more.” After a moment of silence in which, presumably, I was supposed to cluck at the hopeless backwardness of such a “narrative” (which as readers of this blog know I call the Honor-Shame Jihad Paradigm and consider fairly accurate), I asked, “So where do you find this narrative inaccurate.”

His response was so perfect that I wrote it down to use in my book.

    The vast of majority everywhere want a roof over their heads, to sleep peacefully at night, enjoy their families, food in their bellies and to say good morning to their neighbors and spouses.

Now how was this a response to my question? It had nothing to do with real data from the Arab world, nothing from the various responses of Arab leaders to various concessions Israel has engaged in since 1993. It’s his liberal cognitive egocentrism, raised to the level of an axiom of human nature (confusing human and humane), and then applied as a negation of any evidence to the contrary. If all people are like this, then the Arabs can’t be like that narrative. QED. PCP. The whole world is like us.

I cited for him the comment of one of the Arab rioters in 1936 to the Peel Commission’s question about why he so hated the Jews, if the Zionists have made the land far more prosperous than it had been before they came:

“You say we are better off: you say my house has been enriched by the strangers who have entered it. But it is my house, and I did not invite the strangers in, or ask them to enrich it, and I do not care how poor it is if I am only master of it” (Weathered by Miracles, p. 207).

He responded: “Do you think they all think like that?”

Good question. I say yes, I sound like a bigot. If I say no, then where are we?

Do they all think that way? Or is this irredentism “merely” an expression of the male mafia, the alpha males who crave vengeance, the political/religious leadership, “the Arab street”? What about the “vast, silent majority.” I’m not sure. I think that many… most… maybe even the vast majority would accept my friend’s lovely depiction of a prosperous and peaceful life. (It is, after all, at the core of the messianic promise.)

What I do know is that as long as honor-shame culture, with its demanded solidarity — asabiyyah — prevails, and as long as it’s enforced with such vicious brutality, whatever your “average Palestinian” thinks, he or she will have no ability to change the dynamic of the HSJP narrative. And when mothers can be driven to killing their daughters by a merciless community that demands it for the sake of family honor, then it can’t just be a problem of elites.

I give this anecdote as a preface to the following post on Palestinian reaction to Netanyahu’s speech, because so much of the dynamics we disagreed upon show up in unvarnished form. Netanyahu clearly struck on honor-shame chord.

If it were a chess game, Netanyahu’s speech would be a “?!.” “?” because if the Palestinians had responded intelligently — even while retaining their desire to destroy Israel — they could have said, “Fine. Let’s get on with it.” Then, when they got their demilitarized state, they could go ahead and militarize and no one could stop them. It’s a “!” because, true to form, Palestinian “pride” trumps (what we define as rational) self-interest at every turn. As a result we have the spectacle of unvarnished zero-sum Arab irredentism in response to a speech that called for basic mutuality — two states for two religious communities. Short of everything, it’s Palestinian suffering.

Below are a series of responses from Palestinian leaders that display all the elements of an honor-shame culture under conditions of humiliation which needs to be fixed by shedding blood — at once childishly violent in rhetoric, and violently malevolent in intent.

There are two questions here: 1) Is this the real reaction, or posturing? Even as posturing, it’s significant. Why take these mad postures? As bargaining tools? Possibly.

2) Is the West listening and registering this? And if so, do they have the wisdom and foresight to tell the Palestinian leadership to grow up and, as Obama might put it: “join the 21st century.”

Palestinian Reactions to Netanyahu’s Speech
‘Akin to a Declaration of War’; ‘Netanyahu is a Liar and a Crook’; ‘The Speech is Worthless and Warrants a Determined Response’; ‘Not In a Thousand Years… Would [He] Find a Single Palestinian’ to Agree to His Conditions

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s June 14, 2009 speech was met with hostility by all Palestinian factions. The Palestinians called Netanyahu “a liar and a crook,” stated that the only purpose of his “hollow” speech was to placate U.S. President Barack Obama, and claimed that he was effectively ruining the chances for peace. Senior Palestinian Authority officials called on theU.S. to force Israel to implement the two-state solution, and on the PA to toughen its positions. Hamas called on PA to stop security coordination and to reassess their position on negotiations with Israel.

Following are excerpts from reactions in the PA press to the speech:

PA: Netanyahu’s Speech Has Ruined the Chance for Peace

Palestinian Authority negotiations department head Saeb ‘Ariqat stated: “The peace process can be compared to a turtle, and now that Netanyahu has turned it over, it’s lying on its back. Not in a thousand years will Netanyahu find a single Palestinian who would agree to the conditions stipulated in his speech. The speech is a unilateral declaration ending the political negotiations on permanent status issues.” [1]

This is an eloquent expression of the arrogance of prime divider elites. They will speak for their people without the slightest hesitation. Essentially, ‘Ariqat [also known as Erakat], the main expounder of the Jenin Massacre in 2002, is condemning his people to decades if not generations of suffering, but he not only doesn’t care, he makes no room for the slightest dissent. No proud Palestinian would stand for this (and I guess, by implication, no one shameful enough to accept the deal, is a Palestinian). So Erakat’s implicit answer to my friend’s query is: “Yes! Every Palestinian thinks this way.” (NB: Erakat’s considered a moderate, not a racist who demeans Palestinians by thinking they’re all war- and hate-mongers.)

The Problem is the Settlements: The Lack of Palestinian Ones

President Obama has fingered the settlements as his first item of business, a strategy of dubious merit except insofar as it uses the issue as a pawn sacrifice. As for the ways the Palestinians need to “belly up to the bar,” it’s fairly vague. Israelis, of course (and, I’d argue, anyone who’s paying attention), are worried that despite the Arabs’ extraordinary ability to position themselves as the proponents of the “two-state solution,” are not at all committed to what Western PCPers assume — i.e., that they accept Israel as a Jewish state with a right to live in peace.

On the contrary, too much evidence suggests that they are committed, one way or another, to the destruction of the state of Israel, and that the “two-state solution” is just another term for the “Phased Plan” for eliminating Israel.

I’d like to propose something that can test Palestinian intentions in concrete terms that will not only reassure Israelis profoundly, but benefit the Palestinian refugees. To my mind, the greatest sign that the Palestinian Authority had no intention of pursuing Oslo as a way to achieve peace, but as a Trojan Horse, is the fact that, once they had control of significant tracts of land in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, they never made the slightest move to get Palestinian refugees out of the camps and into real housing. The scandal of how the Arab and Palestinian leadership have treated their refugees is the most revealing story in the long and allegedly complex conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis.

I suggest that President Obama demand, publicly, and in the same strong terms with which he addresses the Israelis, that the PA begin immediately building settlements for Palestinian refugees on the lands available to them in the West Bank, so that they can begin living decent lives. This would be an enormous boon to the Palestinian economy, it would mobilize the significant talents the Palestinians have in the building industry, and would signal to the Israelis that the “right of return” — i.e., the demand that Israel commit demographic suicide — is not lurking in the background of the “Arab Peace Plan.”

Nothing prevents the Palestinians from doing this. They would surely get a great deal of (Western) funding to do it. And it would embody President Obama’s call for Arab governments that are “by the people and for the people.”

UPDATE: Noam, from the Blog Promised Land posted the following on my suggestion:

This idea is somewhat disconnected from the reality of the West Bank, let alone Gaza: one can’t really build anything – certainly not a city for hundreds of thousands of people – without Israel’s consent, and Israel doesn’t allow the Palestinians to do any significant work outside the major cities (which are overcrowded as it is). And in Gaza, Israel doesn’t allow any sort of building material in – amongst many other things, from books to pumpkins – so that the Palestinians there can’t even rebuild the houses that were destroyed during operation Cast Lead.

But if we leave all that aside, what is Prof. Landes really asking? The way I see it, he demands from the Palestinians to give up one of their major claims before Israel has even considered to end the occupation, and just in order to prove that their heart is pure. Why should they agree? I don’t support a return of all the 48′ refugees, but I do understand the Palestinian demand to solve this issue on the negotiating table, much in the same way Israel refuses to define its borders until its security concerns are dealt with.

(Having said this, I agree that from a humanitarian point of view, the refugees problem should be solved ASAP, but we are discussing here the political implications of the issue).

As for the “demographic suicide” – well, Israelis should certainly be worried about that, but not because of the Palestinian refugees, but due to the possibility that the ideas of those who oppose the two-state solution – like Prof. Landes – will prevail, and Israelis will be left with the entire land from the sea to the Jordan river, but also with the choice between an Apartheid state and a non-Jewish one.

To which I responded with the following comment:

    Thanks for the post on my suggestion.

    Altho you do have a “humanitarian concession” clause, I find your position on Palestinian refiugees as “bargaining chips” to be fairly horrific. Should Israel have kept their 800,000 refugees from 1948 in refugee camps for the last 60 years as a counter-bargaining chip?

    The Palestinian and Arab leadership’s treatment of their refugees — the camps are really prison camps — is nothing short of scandalous. It’s index of their malevolence: the misery of their own people is a weapon aimed at destroying Israel. it shows the Palestinian people as the sacrificial victim on the altar of Arab hatred.

    So i don’t think it’s “giving up one of their major claims” to start settling the refugees, i think it’s renouncing one of their most heinous policies. It doesn’t prove their heart is pure, it just proves its not black as night, it proves they’ve stopped the revolting practice of inflicting misery on their own people in order to attack Israel and plan her destruction.

    I think if Israel were to engage in anything even remotely similar to this — say not building shelters in Sderot so they could point to children killed by gaza qassams for international sympathy — you’d be outraged. So what I suspect is going on here is an example of a fairly widespread unconscious progressive racism in which the Palestinians are not expected to behave decently even towards their own people, much less Israel. It’s the soft bigotry of low expectations: just as you don’t scold your cat for catching a mouse, you don’t scold the Palestinians for abusing their own people.

    In the final analysis, getting rid of the refugee problem is not a bargaining chip, its an anti-bargaining chip. If the Palestinians renounced the claim to return, they would bring peace much closer, by reassuring Israel they were serious about real peace.

    Finally, on the subject of the two-state solution — I’m not against the idea, I’m against it now (i’m a member of peace-when, not peace-now). Eventually, when Palestinian leadership show signs of willingness to be a civil polity rather than a rogue and malignant state, I’m all in favor. (And this is something they can start doing right away.)

    Now, “two-states” is not a “solution” but a recipe for war. Does that matter to you, in your support of the ‘two-state “solution”‘?

His response is interesting. I encourage readers here to go to his blog and respond — respectfully. I don’t think the way to argue is to call names. His response to my almost calling him names shows a good capacity for self-criticism.

It is not a country, it is a weapon: Thoughts on creating a Palestinian State

Everywhere the mantra is “two-state solution.” The very term implies something not at all self-evident, that is, that creating a two-state situation — by the creation of a Palestinian state, will “solve” anything that those who use the formula might consider the problem. For those who think it will bring peace, that it will “solve” the Arab-Israeli conflict, there’s not much evidence to suggest that it will. To the contrary, most evidence suggests that it will only strengthen the hardliners among the Palestinians.

And yet, anyone who opposes Palestinian statehood is considered a racist and a bigot. It’s the kind of moral equivalence one find in a Roger Cohen who can’t understand why, if Israel has a bomb, the Iranians shouldn’t. Jews have a nation… why not Palestinians? Same, same, no?

No. On many counts.

Below the reflections of Sultanknish. See also:

Jeff Jacoby, Statehood for Palestine? Take a Good Look

Emmanuel Navon, How to Deserve a State

Caroline Glick, Welcome to Palestine

Hillel Fendel, PA Rep Says 2-State Solution Will Kill Israel

Elya Katz, “Palestine 2.0 is a monster with only one purpose, to create Holocaust 2.0.”

Some excerpts from Sultanknish below:

Who Needs a Palestinian State?

…Currently ruled by mutually hostile armed gangs loyal to either the Fatah or Hamas terrorist groups, Palestine 2.0 has already been a failed state for over a decade. Every attempt at foreign investment has failed. The ruins of industrial zones, greenhouses and even a casino, dot the landscape. Palestinian Arab Christians from overseas who returned to build up the economy fled quickly in the face of relentless shakedowns, kidnappings and militia gangs masquerading as law enforcement.

The vast majority of Palestinian Arabs work for two employers. The UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority… which in turn is funded by foreign donors. Work for the Palestinian Authority usually means belonging to a militia gang which is loyal to a particular figure in the PA leadership, who in turn passes that loyalty on to the current “government”. With little to do, the gangs spend their free time dealing drugs, carrying out terrorist attacks and collecting protection money from their town’s remaining stores.

For 17 years, Israel, America and just about every interested party has tried to build a Palestinian state. They provided weapons and training to build a modern Palestinian police force. They sent advisers and fortunes in economic aid, thousands per Palestinian Arab. They created industrial zones and transferred greenhouses. Billions in funds from the EU, America and various do-gooders were swallowed up to fund the lavish lifestyles of Arafat and his henchmen.

To those who argue that a Palestinian State will build regional stability, the rational person must ask, how in the world has any of this contributed to regional stability?