In two sets of remarks, President Obama shared his concerns about what happens between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. He worries about the people of Gaza:
Long term, there has to be a recognition that Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world and incapable of providing some opportunity — jobs, economic growth — for the population that lives there…The question then becomes: can we find a formula in which Israel has greater assurance that Gaza will not be a launching pad for further attacks … but at the same time ordinary Palestinians have some prospects for an opening of Gaza so that they do not feel walled off?
About Israel, not so much:
I don’t worry about Israel’s survival. … I think the question really is how does Israel survive? And how can you create a State of Israel that maintains its democratic and civic traditions? How can you preserve a Jewish state that is also reflective of the best values of those who founded Israel? And, in order to do that, it has consistently been my belief that you have to [meaning Israel has] find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians… You [meaning Israel] have to recognize that they have legitimate claims, and this is their land and neighborhood as well.”
To the president, the problem is Gaza poverty and the lack of a Palestinian State. That being the case, Israel has to “find a way” to live in peace with the neighbors; the neighbors have no reciprocal obligation. Israel has to legitimate Palestinian claims to land for a country, but Israel’s claim to land for a state recognized as legitimate by the neighbors remains unaddressed.
Missing from the president’s understanding is that Israel still faces the century-long Arab determination to deny it as a permanent, legitimate part of the region. Israel’s independence, under terms the UN used to establish post-colonial states across the Middle East and Africa, prompted the Arab states in their entirety not only to object, but to use their armies to invade the nascent Jewish State. The wars of 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 were not about Palestinians; they were Arab attempts to destroy Israel.
Over time, peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and the exit of Iraq from regional politics after 2003 made Israel’s borders quieter. Syria was deterred by Israel’s position atop the Golan Heights. But smaller wars with non-state actors supported by Arab states — 1982 and 2006 in Lebanon, 2001-4 in the West Bank, and 2008/9, 2012 and 2014 with Hamas in Gaza — changed the impression of Israel from a small state facing large states to a militarily superior state facing ragtag guerrillas and poor refugees.
It was a major public relations coup for the Palestinians, for whom poor civilians are an excellent cover for hiding millions of dollars worth of weapons and private Swiss bank accounts.
From the despised of the Arab world — more than 200,000 Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait after the First Gulf War and no one paid any attention at all; tens of thousands have been displaced from Syria — they became the last bastion of resistance against Israel. Even the name of the war changed from the “Arab-Israel conflict” to the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” The “peace process” is no longer about making the Arab states meet the requirement of UN Resolution 242 [“Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”]. It is about making Israel cough up a Palestinian State.
Two long-time “peace process” devotees wrote in the Washington Post this weekend — the Post being the newspaper that most advances the Obama Administration’s positions.
Dennis Ross, a fixture in the “process” since Oslo, didn’t definitively slam Hamas. “Because Hamas is incapable of changing, it needs to be discredited.” Not defeated, destroyed, or ousted, just “discredited” in order that the Palestinian Authority (PA) take over the border crossings to permit the U.S. to organize “a Marshall Plan for Gaza contingent on Hamas disarming. If Hamas chooses arms over civilian investment and development, it should be exposed before Palestinians and the international community,”
“Exposed,” ooh, scary.
Hamas fought a short, brutal, and ultimately successful war against the Palestinian Authority in 2007. What makes Ross think the PA can “reestablish itself” in Gaza now? Presumably he means Israel should establish the PA as the authority in Gaza. Furthermore, Ross wants Israel to undertake a variety of activities designed to strengthen the PA on the West Bank as well: to expedite the movement of goods from Israeli ports; open Area C to Palestinian construction; freeze settlements except in major blocs. In exchange, the PA would be asked to forego movements in international organizations that would delegitimize Israel.
So, Israel’s obligation is to embarrass Hamas, hand over Gaza to the PA, shore up the corrupt and weak Abu Mazen — now in the 9th year of a 4 year term of office — flood Gaza with American-organized aid, and stop building houses for Jews.
In exchange for what? Peace? Recognition of the legitimacy of the Jewish State from either Palestinians or the larger Arab world? The PA would be “asked” to meet its Oslo obligation to forego unilateral activity in international organizations. Not “required,” just “asked.” Nothing would be “asked” of the Arab states.
The other “peace process” maven, Daniel Kurtzer, was ambassador to Israel. Kurtzer agrees that a “settlement freeze” by Israel is essential as well as the release of all the prisoners slated for release by Israel prior to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens. In exchange, the PA would “freeze” its activities in the UN and “intensify steps to curb incitement in media and education.” Kurtzer at least considers the question, “what if Hamas doesn’t agree?” but his response is, “Well, if there was an easier way, we would have thought of it already.”
The president and his minions need a quick course in the modern history of the Middle East. It is Israel that needs the legitimacy and security that ending the Arab-Israel war would provide. If the president could move the Arab states to that point, a Palestinian State would surely follow.