Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Change the Paradigm of Bias, Part I

This commentary was published in the Connecticut Jewish Ledger on May 18, 2007.

Many believe the influence of the Arabists in the State Department has waned, but its malignancy came through in a recent oped by David Ignatius in the Hartford Courant (April 24). Most obvious was the writer's usual blindness to the reality of terrorism and his antipathy towards Israel; more subtle was his blind acceptance of failed policies whose continuance virtually guarantees the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He is joined in this parroting of the State Department line by most journalists, even many sympathetic to Israel.

Consider the acceptance of the alleged need to give the Palestinian Arabs a "political horizon." This is balderdash.

Ignatius approvingly relates how Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "continues a dual-track diplomatic negotiation she describes with the somewhat nebulous phrase of 'the political horizon.' In practice, that has meant pushing Israelis and Palestinians to discuss details for administering the Palestinian state everyone says they want in principle."

There's no need to show the Palestinian Arabs a political horizon; they cannot fail to know it has only been their own actions which have prevented the establishment of an Arab state within the disputed territories.

Rice's recent diplomatic activity continues the counterproductive tradition of pressuring Israel to make concessions regardless of what its enemies do, even to the point of ignoring America's own policies.

It was the United States, in conjunction with the rest of the "Quartet," which came up with the road map calling for specified steps to be taken before negotiations for the establishment of another Palestinian state. Key among those steps was the minimal requirement which essentially amounted to an end by the Palestinian Arabs to the blatant violation of some of their previous agreements, such as their agreement to oppose terrorism rather than employ it.

It was the United States that decided it would not deal with a Palestinian Authority led by terrorists.

Not only does Ignatius ignore these facts when he misleadingly writes "Israel had argued strenuously against such contacts," but he and other journalists abdicate one of the most critical responsibilities of a free press, serving as a watchdog when the government violates its own stated policies.

The Secretary of State's current misguided diplomatic effort reflects the core misconception that the key to peace is getting Israel to give up enough to lure its Arab enemies into agreeing to give up their fight.

Thus, we always pressure Israel into making concessions, either on the pretext they are necessary to bring its enemies to the negotiating table or on the pretext they are necessary to keep the "peace process" going.

The result is the Arabs, including the Palestinian Arabs, know they can always count on us to pressure Israel, regardless of their own actions.

That paradigm needs to be changed, for the good not only of Israel but the Palestinian Arabs, as well. After all, it is the Palestinian Arabs who have suffered the most as a result of their drive to destroy Israel but have little incentive to change when we keep rewarding them for their intransigence.

Our proposals, and even Israel's proposals, have been based on trying to figure out what the Arabs may be willing to accept rather than on what would constitute a fair settlement. This has resulted in a perverse calculus that is patently absurd.

Consider the case of Israeli "settlements." It is accepted wisdom that they are an "impediment to peace."

One can reasonably argue about the wisdom of Israel encouraging or allowing Israelis to settle in parts of the disputed territory and one can certainly argue about the sanity of Jews choosing to move to certain parts of the disputed territory, but the settlements would not be an "impediments to peace" if the Arabs were actually interested in peace.

There are more than a million Arabs living as citizens within Israel. If there is truly to be peace, there is no reason tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of Jews should not be able to similarly live as citizens of a Palestinian Arab state. To argue otherwise is to argue the Palestinian Arabs are incapable of building a civil society.

Unfortunately, this absurd philosophy is at the foundation of American policy. It has been unthinkingly accepted not only by unfriendly presidents like Jimmy Carter, but even by generally friendly presidents like George Bush. This unthinking philosophy is parroted by a press that ought to be doing its own independent analysis. Changing this will not guarantee peace, but continued adherence to it does guarantee failure.

Our American government needs to adopt a truly balanced approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, balanced in the true sense of balancing the needs and merits of the parties involved rather than in the perverse sense "balance" is interpreted today.

No comments: