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An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

February 17, 2010

Pursuit of a 'peace process' for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a fool's errand: It's time to back away

Dear Friend of FLAME:

Last month a group of 54 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter urging President Obama to pressure Israel to end the blockade of Gaza. This is precisely the kind of misguided effort Israel---and the United States---do not need.

In fact, if the United States is to bring pressure to bear at all, it should be on the Palestinians.

First things first: Israel regularly---and voluntarily---ships tons of humanitarian supplies to Gaza on its own. Gazans are getting by, especially considering the choices they and their leaders have made for themselves. (Follow this link and scroll halfway down the post to see recent photos of markets in Gaza.) Israel is also aggressively supporting economic development in the West Bank---without pressure from the United States.

To focus on poverty in Gaza---an imagined humanitarian crisis---is to distract us from the real issue: Palestinian recalcitrance. For 60 years, Palestinian leaders have refused to recognize the state of Israel, refused to abandon their primary focus of removing Jews from the Holy Land, refused to spend money on finance and industry, instead choosing to spend it on weapons and terrorist militias.

Rafik Natsheh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, the ruling faction of the Palestinian Authority, recently stated: "Fatah does not recognize Israel's right to exist, nor have we ever asked others to do so." When asked in the same interview about the possibility of dropping the reference to armed struggle from Fatah's charter, Natsheh replied: "Let all the collaborators [with Israel] and those who are deluding themselves hear that this will never happen."

This week's Hotline article, by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe, highlights the futility of a "full-court press" effort to bring peace to Israel and the disputed territories. Not only are the Palestinians fiercely divided among themselves (Terrorist Hamas vs. Israel-denying Fatah), but even the most moderate Palestinians are unwilling to make basic concessions, such as recognition of the Jewish state.

In the face of Palestinian resistance to the very notion of Israel, let alone to embracing peace, President Obama squanders his international political capital by throwing high-level diplomats, like George Mitchell and Hillary Clinton, at the problem. Put more bluntly, it's unlikely the Palestinians will come to the bargaining table until they have been utterly defeated.

For now, however, the situation in Israel and the territories, while not ideal, is under control. The real problem---for Israel and the rest of the world---is Iran. That is where Obama needs to bring pressure to bear, where tough-minded diplomacy will be better expended.

Please enjoy this week's article by Jeff Jacoby, and pass it on to your friends and colleagues.

Best regards,

Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME


Have you seen the latest FLAME hasbarah message? It's titled "Myths About Israel and the Middle East (I): Do the media feed us fiction, instead of fact?" This piece tells the truth about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians---about the Palestinian claim to the Holy Land, about the so-called occupation, about the myth that Jewish settlements are an obstacle to peace. I hope you'll review it and pass it on to friends. If you agree that FLAME's outspoken brand of public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

P.P.S. President Obama has asked for input from U.S. citizens on his Middle East policies. To give him your opinion about Israel's need to continue the blockade around Gaza and the need for the Palestinians and other Arab states to recognize Israel now, please write the President---immediately.

Peace vs. the 'peace process'
by Jeff Jacoby; The Boston Globe, October 14, 2009

"WHOM THE GODS WOULD DESTROY," the late Irving Kristol once observed, "they first tempt to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict." Maybe "destroy" was putting it a bit strongly, but there is no denying that American presidents seem irresistibly drawn to the belief that they can succeed where others have failed and conjure a lasting peace between Israel and its Arab enemies. This diplomacy has gone by various names -- Oslo, the Roadmap, Camp David, and so on -- but time and again it has led not to the end of the conflict but to its intensification.

In his memoirs, former President Bill Clinton describes Yasser Arafat's refusal to accept the extraordinarily generous terms for a permanent settlement offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000. That refusal led to a Palestinian terror war, the bloody Second Intifada, and when Arafat called Clinton in January 2001 to tell him what a great man he was, Clinton was bitter. "I am not a great man," he told Arafat. "I am a failure, and you have made me one."

Of course, if Clinton was a failure so were the two George Bushes. Each made it his goal to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, each convened a grand international conference for that purpose (Bush 41 in Madrid, Bush 43 in Annapolis), and each left the situation worse than he had found it.

In his first nine months as president, Barack Obama has shown every sign of succumbing to the same temptation. Two days after moving in to the White House, he named George Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader, his special envoy to the region. He pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into endorsing a "two-state solution." He declared that "the moment is now for us to act" to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Unlike his recent predecessors, Obama has gone out of his way to signal a distinct coolness toward Israel and its interests. At a White House meeting with the leaders of American Jewish organizations in July, he suggested that because there had been "no daylight" between Israel and the United States when George W. Bush was president, there had been "no progress" toward peace.

In fact, there had often been "daylight" between Washington and Jerusalem during the Bush years. There had been plenty of movement too, from the adoption of the Roadmap to the Israeli "disengagement" from Gaza to the final-status negotiations that followed the Annapolis conference.

Still: Obama was right when he said there had been no progress toward Arab-Israeli peace under Bush. Nor had there been any under Clinton. Nor, as things stand now, will there be any under Obama. Why? Because the "peace process" to which all of them, their sharp differences notwithstanding, have been so committed is not a formula for ending the decades-long war in the Holy Land, but for prolonging it.

In an important article in the current Middle East Quarterly, Daniel Pipes reviews the terrible failure of the 1993 Oslo accords, and homes in on the root fallacy of the diplomatic approach it embodied: the belief that the Arab-Israeli war can "be concluded through goodwill, conciliation, mediation, flexibility, restraint, generosity, and compromise, topped off with signatures on official documents." For 16 years, Israeli governments, prodded by Washington, have sought to quench Palestinian hostility with concessions and gestures of goodwill. Yet peace today is more elusive than ever.

"Wars end not through goodwill but through victory," Pipes writes, defining victory as one side compelling the other to give up its war goals. Since 1948, the Arabs' goal has been the elimination of Israel; the Israelis', to win their neighbors' acceptance of a Jewish state in the Middle East. "If the conflict is to end, one side must lose and one side win," argues Pipes. "Either there will be no more Zionist state or it will be accepted by its neighbors."

Diplomacy cannot settle the Arab-Israeli conflict until the Palestinians abandon their anti-Israel rejectionism. US policy should be focused, therefore, on getting them to abandon it. The Palestinians must be put "on notice that benefits will flow to them only after they prove their acceptance of Israel. Until then -- no diplomacy, no discussion of final status, no recognition as a state, and certainly no financial aid or weapons."

So long as American and Israeli leaders remain committed to a fruitless Arab-Israeli "peace process," Arab-Israeli peace will remain unachievable. Let the newest Nobel peace laureate grasp and act upon that insight, and he may do more to genuinely hasten the conflict's end than any of his well-meaning predecessors.


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