Walter Russell Mead, the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy at the Council of Foreign Relations has written a paper called Change They Can Believe In: To Make Israel Safe, Give Palestinians Their Due.
I am going to tell you what I think about this paper.
Mr. Mead starts by calling the Middle East peace process a "necessary evil" for US administrations -- "evil because it is costly and difficult."
No. That is not why it is evil. It is evil because US administrations must always arrange the phony "peace process" in a way that subverts justice for the Palestinians. Why? Because that is what Israel demands. Everything else about this situation flows from this core truth. You will see that Israel constantly demands and whines about security. It is the ever elusive goal, always just out of reach. Why is that? Because there is no security without peace, and more importantly, there is no peace without justice. This is the real problem -- the problem of justice. The problem to be avoided, and failing that (you are here now), finessed. So the conversation always revolves around Israel's security, keeping the cart in front of the horse at all times; because when the conversation turns to justice, the burden falls squarely on Israel's shoulders. And naturally, since Israel was literally founded on a grave injustice and refuses to concede that point -- nothing will ever be resolved. This CFR paper outlines an attempt to buy off the Palestinians and to internationalize this problem, but this is simply a clever way for Israel to finesse the demand for justice without actually having to make a real sacrifice. Here we go...
This is a dispute that deserves respect; old, inflamed, and complex, it does not suffer quick fixes.I beg to differ. Mr. Mead tries to legitimize the fact that Israel was a mistake from the beginning. The world's biggest mistake.
But the conflict is about more than land; many people on both sides feel profoundly that a compromise would be morally wrong. A significant minority of Israelis not only retain a fervent attachment to the land that makes up the Eretz Yisrael of the Bible but also believe that to settle and possess it is to fulfill a divine decree. For these Jews, it is a sin to surrender land that God has given them. Although most Israelis do not share this belief with dogmatic rigor, they would be reluctant to obstruct the path of those seeking to redeem the Promised Land.This is what we can call the tyranny of the minority. A few Zionists with their myths terrorize everyone who disagrees with them. Their myths are shot full of holes by Jewish historians, but does that stop them? Oh no. Everybody cowers before these rabid Zionists or has been paid to look the other way.
He next writes an extensive apologia of Israeli society: they are confused over secular and religious matters, they have existential anxieties, they have a fractured culture, they have been traumatized by the Holocaust, betrayed, victimized, discriminated against....they can't trust anybody, and they have failed to assimilate.
As for the Palestinians, well, they apparently lived in relative peace for several thousand years until Israel came along, but he tries like hell to spin that so that the Palestinians have "surprisingly similar" mental/emotional problems getting along with other people as the Israelis, which is a lie.
Israel's creation caused the Nakba, the Catastrophe, for the Palestinians, which he glosses over without naming until much later.
After this [meaning the roughly 700,000 refugees created by the Nakba and formation of Israel, destroying half of Palestinian society], Palestinian society grew even more complex....Partly because of this history, Palestinian society has splintered into many different political, religious, and ideological factions.Imagine that. You may have missed the part where all this destruction and complexity and splintering and political chaos was caused by the formation of Israel.
In the absence of a state -- or, rather, in the presence of so many different states, none run by Palestinians -- Palestinian political life is chaotic.
And here comes the "problem," Israel's security.
Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria and in the broader diaspora will be essential constituencies when the time comes to enforce the security guarantees Israel will need once a Palestinian state is created.Israel destroyed half of Palestinian society and made it nearly impossible for them to function as a political entity, which the Palestinians understand completely. This injustice was done to them, and it has not been corrected, and that is why Israel needs security guarantees: because Israel wants to "get away" with this injustice which has been chasing it for 60 years and will continue to do so until it has been satisfied. That is why modern Israel has mental problems, and existential difficulties, and group psychosis. We have a word for it: GUILT.
And who made it possible for Israel to do this thing? Why the US and UK did, of course, after being effectively persuaded by Zionists Chaim Weizmann and Louis Brandeis. The important point here, however, is that the guilt must be shared, along with the responsibility of course.
Like the Jews, the Palestinians experienced the twentieth century as a time of betrayal by the international community. The League of Nations awarded Palestine as a mandate to the United Kingdom under terms that explicitly called for the establishment of a Jewish national home but required no consultation with the people of Palestine. The United Nations authorized the territory's partition in 1947 -- again making fundamental decisions about the future of Palestine over the heads of its inhabitants. Since then, the Palestinians have been exploited at virtually every turn, not least by various Arab leaders.Please note that the fundamental decisions made did not include the Palestinians, but they did include the Jews, another guilty fact glossed over. From there it was only necessary for the Jews to ruthlessly consolidate power and influence to protect their ill-gotten gains, a process greatly simplified by the Talmud, which explicitly sanctions ruthless and murderous behavior, including lying, toward non-Jews as a matter of religious indoctrination.
The Jews clawed their way out of the ruins of Europe to build a state and then turned it into a regional superpower despite repeated efforts by others to destroy it. The Palestinians created a national movement in the face of disaster, asserted themselves by armed struggle, defended their independence in the harsh world of Middle East power politics, and succeeded in placing their cause on the international community's agenda.And here we are today. Now what? Are you ready for another bailout? That's what this CFR paper is all about: the US, the international community, and (Israel), paying the Palestinians off. And like all the other bailouts we've had crammed down our throats so far, this one, too, is a waste of US taxpayer money that will never work.
The incoming U.S. administration of Barack Obama faces a daunting task. It needs to develop a Middle East peace strategy that makes a clear break with the past, that is politically sustainable at home and abroad, that offers real hope for a final resolution, and that in the meantime can bring benefits to the two peoples, the wider region, and the United States itself. But Washington will have only limited options. American public opinion strongly and consistently favors a pro-Israel orientation for U.S. foreign policy, and Israel's friends in the United States can mobilize broad support on short notice. Decades of intensive diplomacy and scholarship have already delineated the possible solutions to the dispute. The outlines of a settlement -- regarding borders, security, refugees, and water rights -- are reasonably well understood by all parties, and Obama cannot do much to change them.First off, it's interesting that he uses "clear break," which so evokes the "Clean Break" document.
It’s just an idea, a recommendation, written by a group of passionately pro-Israel Americans for a particular Likud candidate [Netanyahu] in 1996. Who knew? - Karen KwiatowskiIndeed. And lo and behold, he's up for election as we speak.
Still, Washington can change the way that a peace deal is framed and thus make it more appealing to both sides. The Obama administration needs to accomplish a kind of Copernican shift in perception: looking at the same sun, moon, planets, and stars that others have seen, it must reconceptualize the relations among them. In the past, U.S. peacemakers have had an Israel-centric approach to the negotiating process; the Obama administration needs to put Palestinian politics and Palestinian public opinion at the center of its peacemaking efforts.I'm suggesting to you right now that this "Copernican shift" will be accomplished by allowing Israel to massacre so many Palestinian civilians that people around the world will beg Obama to make it stop.
This will fall well short of a revolution. The United States' goals, and many of its policies, will not change. Its relationship with Israel will stay strong; if anything, it will deepen. But despite their military weakness and their political factiousness, the Palestinians hold the key to peace in the Middle East. And if the United States hopes to create a more secure and stable environment for Israel, it must sell peace to Israel's foes.Lies. Why would the relationship with Israel deepen? Perhaps in the CFR offices this makes sense, but here in the trenches we live in reality. And the Palestinians do not hold the key to peace in the Middle East. That is an obnoxious statement deflecting responsibility away from Israel, who has been the aggressor in this conflict for 60 years, as the maps of Palestine clearly show. And again with Israel's security, a subject we never escape, the need that can never be filled...
And Mr. Mead puts the onus on the Palestinians. Where is the discussion of the illegal settlers? How are the Palestinians, who have been crippled politically since the Nakba, to conjure up the solid majority necessary to give Israel "the security it craves and deserves?" So many expectations of the Palestinians, so few of the Israelis. So typical of the foreign policy establishment.
Only clear support for a peace treaty by a solid majority of Palestinians -- in Gaza, the West Bank, and the diaspora -- will bring Israel the security it craves and deserves. When, as will inevitably happen after a deal, armed gangs seek to disrupt the peace, much in the way that Irish ultranationalists continued to fight the British long after Ireland achieved independence, the Palestinian public will have to condemn the violence and support crackdowns by Palestinian authorities. U.S. negotiators during the Clinton administration, assuming that Yasir Arafat, then chair of the Palestine Liberation Organization, controlled Palestinian public opinion, reduced the matter of clinching Palestinian support for peace to getting Arafat's signature on the dotted line. This was a very damaging mistake. Now, the United States must focus on swaying Palestinian public opinion in favor of peace -- especially since current Palestinian leaders have none of Arafat's power or prestige.Then follows several more paragraphs obsessively wondering about Israel's security, and how can it possibly be assured. For as we all know by know, Israelis are truly the most insecure people on earth. Their need for security is a bottomless pit, and yet they never drop the shovels, but keep digging themselves deeper by committing injustice after injustice against the Palestinian people, among others. Naturally, they are miserable and want somebody to fix this (not them).
When he reiterates the United States' support for an independent, viable Palestinian state with borders based on the Green Line, that is, the pre-1967 borders (with minor and mutually-agreed-on modifications), Obama must go further than his predecessors. He must overcome the skepticism created by the Bush administration's empty rhetorical support for a Palestinian state. He must declare that the United States is committed not only to an independent Palestine but also to acknowledging the wrongs the Palestinians have suffered, compensating them for those, and otherwise ensuring a dignified future for every Palestinian family.Aha! Obama. Of course. HE will acknowledge the horrible wrongs the Palestinians have suffered (by Israel), and HE will compensate them for those wrongs (done by Israel), and HE will ensure a dignified future for "every Palestinian family." Brush your hands together now. This big mess will all be swept up shortly. But first, let us be clear about this injustice thing...
Do you have that? Do you get it? It's not Israel's fault!! They HAD to kill those Palestinians!! It was SELF-DEFENSE when they ethnically cleansed all those villages!!! YOU WOULD HAVE DONE THE SAME THING, they insist!!! And what does Mr. Mead say, "They are right." It is just as simple as that. He just takes every self-serving excuse for Israel's crimes and accepts them. That is why he gets paid the big bucks at CFR. And that's how the US foreign policy establishment works. Whatever Israel wants, Israel gets. A little acknowledgment from Israel, and everybody else pays up.
What the Palestinians want from peace is, first of all, an acknowledgment of the injustices they have suffered. Israeli and Palestinian scholars have documented many incidents during Israel's War of Independence in which massacres or threats of violence caused Palestinians to flee. Most Palestinians who left their homes and villages to protect themselves and their families were never allowed to return, and much of their property was confiscated by the new Israeli government. It is not a crime for civilians to flee combat, and international law recognizes the right of such people to return to their homes. Enforcing that right has been a centerpiece of U.S. policy in Bosnia, so why, the Palestinians ask, should they be treated any differently? This is a legitimate grievance, and the United States must lead the international community in reckoning with it fully and frankly. Any diplomatic effort hoping to build a secure peace with the Palestinians' support must address this issue.
That said, it would be as unfair to place all responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem on Israel as it is to overlook the injustices the Palestinians suffered. The Israelis argue that the War of Independence was a fight for survival: here were survivors from Hitler's death camps suddenly facing not only the Palestinians but also the armies of five Arab states. Self-defense, the Israelis argue, justified their actions during and after the war. And although most Israelis acknowledge that wrongs were committed, almost all charge that, faced with similar choices, their critics would have done the same or worse. They are right. The responsibility for the nakba cannot simply be laid at Israel's door.
Modern Israel should acknowledge and account for its part in those tragic events, but the international community at large must accept the ultimate responsibility for the nakba, solemnly acknowledging the wrongs done and sincerely trying to compensate Palestinian refugees today.Literally. Pay up. And while you're paying, don't forget that some Jews suffered, too.
The U.S. government should build on this historical reality to craft an international body that can assume all claims arising from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adjudicate them in accordance with existing international precedents and law, and pay appropriate compensation to the claimants. Claims would include the losses suffered by Palestinians as well as those sustained by Jews forced to flee their homes in the region, but the system should be set up so that Jewish and Palestinian claimants do not compete for limited funds. This entity should be funded by the international community, with Israel making a substantial payment as part of whatever negotiated legal agreement creates the new body.And now, for the crux of the matter, the right of return. Correcting the injustice means more than giving the Palestinians money. It means giving them their land back. And "neither side is likely to make an official final offer until very late in the process," meaning: when the Palestinians can be blamed for the failure of the "peace" process.
The expense will be significant; according to the Aix Group, an economic forum comprising Israeli, Palestinian, and international economists and policymakers, the total potential costs of compensation to Palestinian refugees can be estimated at $55-$85 billion. The Obama administration should work with U.S. allies and partners to fund the claims authority. The United States' contribution should be appropriately large, in order to demonstrate Washington's renewed determination to lead the effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....Under this program, the United States would make the largest contribution of any single country (with the possible exception of Israel), but the burden would also be widely shared among the many states that are concerned with stability and justice in this vital part of the world.
Logically, Palestinian acceptance of a two-state solution would imply significant limits on the exercise of the right of Palestinian refugees (and their descendants and heirs) to move within the pre-1967 borders of Israel; if five million Palestinians entered Israel, the Jewish state would have an Arab majority. But it is one thing to draw logical conclusions and another for the Palestinian nation to make a deliberate and serious judgment that painful compromise on this point offers the best road to a just and humane future for the nation as a whole.You see, it's not happening. The Palestinians just need help to "make their decision," meaning: come to the right conclusion. That help will come in the form of money, paid by the US and the international community, with the parenthetical "(including Israel)" thrown in there for good measure. The Palestinians are to gracefully go away so that the Jewish state can live in peace and security with no Arab majority. This is somebody's idea of justice.
As the Palestinian nation grapples with these choices, the United States and the international community can take a number of steps to help the Palestinians make their decision. The key is to assure the Palestinians that the refugees and their heirs will be given several viable options. Palestinians who choose not to exercise their right of return or whose right is in some way restricted in the final Israeli-Palestinian agreement should be substantially compensated by the international community (including Israel) to acknowledge that the right to return is indeed a right and that its loss or restriction entitles the holder to just compensation.
Programs need to be designed to integrate Palestinians in the diaspora into the communities in which they now live, allow them to emigrate within or from the Middle East, and ensure appropriate opportunities for them.And how will this happen since the US is not an honest broker? Well, it can't. There are simply too many powerful Jews in the US government throwing their weight around -- way out of proportion to their 2% of the general population. So the Palestinians must be set up to fail by tying them to Israel's impossible demands for security without delivering justice.
Another goal should be to further assuage Israeli concerns by making payments and benefits to the Palestinians conditional on the Palestinians' full implementation of the agreement's terms. This means that a future Palestinian state would have to meet its security obligations in order to continue to benefit from the provisions of the accord.No security, no payments. Unspoken: no justice, no security. And there is no justice here. So it is all just a big fat ruse.
And then finally, more Israeli-centric hagiography at the end. It's all about Israel, all the time. Just like the sun is at the center of our solar system, so is Israel at the center of Washington's attention. The Israelis must always be assuaged and reassured that the US lives for them and them alone. Anything for you, dear.
Even when Copernicus put the sun at the center of the solar system, he did not forget that he was living on earth. In the same way, shifting Washington's attention toward the Palestinians' concerns would not -- and should not -- mean turning away from Israel. A refocusing of the United States' approach to the peace process would also offer Israel substantial long-term benefits. A decision by the international community to assume the ultimate moral and financial responsibility for the Palestinians' plight would give Israel an opportunity to close the book on Palestinian claims once and for all. Developing and helping fund a mechanism that would also compensate Israeli refugees from the Arab world would address the impression widely shared among Israelis that many states have a one-sided approach to refugee issues. And by making the Palestinians' commitment to peaceful coexistence a key test of the peace process, the Obama administration would be placing the focus where many Israelis think it belongs.This is just so difficult for them. So they must know that support runs so very, very deep. They just want their Jewish state, their own private Idaho.
The Obama administration should engage with Israel seriously and candidly to determine what else the United States and its allies can do to help Israel take the risks and make the sacrifices required to give peace a chance. Support for Israel runs very deep among Americans, and it is likely to increase as Israel moves closer to a settlement with the Palestinians. The Obama administration needs to harness that support to help the Israeli government take steps on the sensitive questions of the status of Jerusalem and the status of the territories, steps that an increasing number of Israeli politicians acknowledge must be taken.What costs? What costs to Israel? Notice how throughout this elaborate policy paper, that point remains undefined and parenthetical. That is the definition of these costs to Israel: parenthetical.
The prospect of a just settlement for the Palestinians and an end to the occupation would also open the door to a new age in European-Israeli relations. The United States is not the only country with a stake in bringing this dispute to an end. Washington should work with its EU partners to come up with major new incentives that would convince Israel that the benefits of peace outweigh the costs. The United States should press its NATO allies for conditional assurances that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would open the alliance's doors to the Jewish state.
There will be no security without peace, and there will be no peace without justice. How can anyone negotiate justice with people who start with the premise that they are superior and chosen by God? It is not possible. Justice is blind, but we can never be blind around Israel, because Israel requires that the whole world acknowledge its specialness. There is no justice that can be negotiated with such a partner. And so there will be no security, no matter how much Israel claims to "crave" and "deserve" it.