Israel-Arab peace is not on anyone’s agenda.
How’s this for an Israeli position at Annapolis:
“Tell you what, if you recognize Israel as a sovereign state in the Middle East, prove you are dismantling your terrorist infrastructures, stop sending your suicide bombers into our cities, towns and marketplaces, stop inciting hatred and spreading blood libels through your media, your mosques, your educational system and throughout your society, stop brainwashing your children into believing that the fast track to virgins in Paradise requires them to become human grenades, and stop firing missiles at us, then we’ll come to the table with a settlement offer that will bring both our societies peace and prosperity.”
Sound reasonable? Absolutely. Is that going to happen any time soon? Not until a new breed of Arab leadership arises.
Truth is, an Israeli-Palestinian peace is not on anyone’s agenda at Annapolis, and that’s why Annapolis represents a grave threat to Israel. The real motive for the conference is to solidify America’s anti-Shiite alliance against Iranian expansionism, shore up Arab support for a pending coalition air-strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, and secure American oil interests in the Middle East. And in this game of high-stakes political poker, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, Israel’s national security interests are of secondary importance.
In the world of realpolitik, Israel is viewed by Foggy Bottom as more of a bargaining chip than a strategic asset, so the guiding philosophy there is that all disputes and world problems can be resolved through negotiations, even if, as in this case, only one side is being asked to make any real concessions. With the US experiment in Middle East nation-building something less than a resounding success, other priorities have taken precedence.
Simply stated, if the Saudis and Syrians show up at Annapolis, pressure will be applied on Israel to make significant one-sided concessions for getting them there. For Syria, that means Israel will be forced to make concessions on the Golan Heights. For the Saudis, it means continuing a steady supply of oil in return for American protection and a continuing blind eye to the Saudi’s global propagation of Wahhabism/Salafism.
The US knows that Mahmoud Abbas is a weak leader heading a corrupt, incompetent organization that has failed to comply with one single precondition laid down in the Roadmap (most notably that relating to dismantling the Palestinian terror infrastructures). And it is common knowledge that Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad lack control over Gaza, have little loyalty within or control over their own Fatah militias on the West Bank, and can never be credible interlocutors for peace. Nonetheless, further concessions will be demanded of Israel if Annapolis unfolds as Secretary Condoleezza Rice desires.
That means that Israel will be forced to release more terrorists and surrender even more vital territory to hostile neighbors in return for more empty Arab promises. Given American pressure on the Olmert government to “take risks for peace” and make “painful compromises,” there is cause for genuine Israeli concern, since the current Palestinian leadership has never had any intention of preparing its people either for peace or for coexistence with Israel. One need only look at Hamas and Palestinian Authority-published textbooks showing maps of Palestine as encompassing present-day Israel, public statements (in Arabic), incitement in the media, and the toleration and encouragement of terrorist attacks, to understand that there is no common ground here.
As Melanie Phillips wrote recently in the Spectator: “This is not, as (the US) implies, a fight between two parties equally responsible for a terrible conflict. It is a war to exterminate the Jewish state that is being waged by Arabs and Islamists with differing strategies and agendas on the same continuum of annihilation – and with not one single credible interlocutor on their side who genuinely wants to live in peace with Israel.”
For the above reasons, Israel is continually being forced to make concessions, such as providing food, power and water supplies to its enemies in Hamas-controlled Gaza, and is continually being told by Secretary Rice to treat the secular terrorists of Fatah as “partners in peace,” even though that organization has not made one single effort to dismantle its terrorist infrastructures. The unfortunate truth is that Israel’s “goodwill gestures,” such as releasing terrorists, abandoning checkpoints, supplying services that should be provided by the PA itself, and releasing funds, are all seen as signs of weakness by Israel’s enemies. Those enemies have always understood that any recognition of Israel’s right to exist in the Middle East, under any circumstances, would constitute a death sentence. Anwar Sadat is the poster-child for any Arab leader who places the welfare of his own nation above the so-called “sanctity of the Muslim umma.”
Thus, Annapolis could represent a profound calamity for Israel, as the Arabs will expect everything in return for conceding nothing. It is that very reason why in 2000, Yasser Arafat could not bring himself to accept a Palestinian state only on 98% of the West Bank with Arab Jerusalem as its capital, and why Israel can never offer the current leadership of the Arab world anything short of its own extinction.
Forcing further Gaza-like “goodwill gestures” on the Palestinians on the West Bank and the Golan Heights will have the same effect as throwing red meat to a hungry lion. It will only whet their appetite for more. The record of Palestinian non-compliance with the Roadmap for Peace and their failure to stop missiles from being fired into Israel’s populated areas says something of true Palestinian intentions, yet there is no end to US pressure on the Israelis to bring down their West Bank checkpoints, create a corridor connecting Gaza to the West Bank, stop construction of its defensive barrier (that has proven to be successful against suicide bombers), or to stand in the way of creating another terrorist statelet on the West Bank.
So, what could possibly be the value of Mahmoud Abbas’s signature on anything coming out of Annapolis, except to further America’s other global interests at Israel’s expense? Based on the Gaza experience, Israelis believe that they have fought, negotiated and unilaterally withdrawn for nothing – and they are not wrong in this – so Annapolis promises further pressure on Israel to make more dangerous concessions as the price to be paid for other US global concerns.
Despite crossing so many “red lines” in the past, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Israel is being told privately by Secretary Rice to gamble once again with its national security – this time on the West Bank and on the Golan Heights. It is frightening to imagine the possibility of Israel abandoning its bedrock security interests in order to accommodate the Secretary’s dangerous pursuit of final agreements on borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, and limitations on Israeli forces on the West Bank, given that the Palestinians themselves have been either unwilling or unable to implement sustained, targeted and effective operations aimed at dismantling their own terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.
As Morris Amitay wrote recently: “No matter how desperately she will seek to achieve progress, Rice’s initiative is doomed to fail, as the stars are simply not correctly aligned. There is just too large a gap between Israel’s desire for a real peace and the Palestinians’ desire for the end of Israel.”
Sadly, this conflict is not even close to resolution. As a consequence, forcing further unilateral concessions from Israel would be a recipe for disaster.