Foreign Policy

Unraveling the Middle East’s Zero-Sum Cultural Mindset

By doing so, they are furthering the myth re-stated time and again by the American and European Left that Jews are “foreign occupiers” and “imperialists” who have no legal or historical claim to “Palestine”. For that reason alone, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton remarked recently: “Negotiating with the Palestinian Authority has less substance than negotiating with a hologram.” All this makes resolution of the conflict a political impossibility given the current Arab cultural mindset and explains why there can be no lasting peace until this zero-sum cultural mentality changes.

Thus, the paradigm floated by Secretary of State John Kerry, the State Department and the Europeans of “two states for two peoples” is not only naive but dangerous because it is inconsistent with current Middle East Arab culture and realities and is therefore fatally flawed. Western policies in the Middle East not only fail to acknowledge that the Arabs will not make peace with a dhimmi Jewish state they can neither dominate nor destroy, but they refuse to see that any Palestinian state established on the West Bank and Gaza would merely be a subterfuge for the phased destruction of Israel.

Landes makes one more point. “Successful Zionism in the heart of the Islamic world”, he writes, “represents not only an indignity (but) a shame so staggering, that it could only herald the death of the dominant culture that allowed it to happen.” In effect, the success of Zionism illustrates both the power of modernity (technology, democracy, mass education) and underlines the impotence of Islamic and Arabic culture in the modern world. Although Israel is the only nation to go from third world status to first world status in the course of the 20th century, the ruling Arab elites prefer their peoples living in misery and poverty rather than sharing in the wealth that would flow from recognition of a Jewish state.

In short, the Palestinians cannot recognize Israel without suffering an unbearable, catastrophic loss of honor; while Israel cannot cede any further territory without absolute security guarantees and its recognition as a Jewish state. Given these two opposing realities, the idea floated by the US and the Europeans of “two states for two peoples” is a fantasy reinforced by recent polls that continue to show most Palestinians support a zero-sum solution to the “problem” of Israel. A recent poll of Palestinian public opinion in the West Bank and Gaza released by Arab World for Research and Development in Ramallah asked: “If Palestinian negotiators delivered a peace settlement that includes a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, but had to make compromises on key issues (right of return, Jerusalem, borders and settlements) to do so, would you support the result?” 12% responded “yes”, while 85% responded “no.” 65% said it was “essential” that any peace agreement include historic Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

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