“Israel obviously cannot be asked to negotiate with a government that is the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appearing with a surly President Obama at a joint press conference today. He even had to gently remind the President that Hamas had denounced the “assassination” of the “Arab holy warrior” Osama bin Laden, which Obama authorized.
That really cuts to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? An encounter in which one party declares itself absolutely, unalterably committed to the destruction of the other is not a “negotiation.” Negotiations cannot even begin until we get past the genocidal hatred.
One of the sacred tenets of liberal internationalism is the belief that all conflict is caused by misunderstanding. People who really get to know one another do not fight, because hatred is based in ignorance. A liberal President cannot deal with the idea that Hamas’ leadership “understands” the Israelis, and still wants to murder them, or that one reason the borders of Israel are staying put is that Netanyahu does understand his adversaries perfectly.
One of the few forms of rational, freely-chosen evil recognized by liberals is colonialism, which is why calling your hated enemies “occupiers” is a good way to get their attention. The actual conduct of the governments involved in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute matters much less to the Left than the narrative of authentic “natives” resisting imperial oppression.
“A peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality,” said Netanyahu, while Obama frowned like an angry student listening to the teacher explain why his term paper deserved a failing grade. The first rocky chunk of reality Netanyahu set before Obama, and the Palestinians, was that “while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible.”
I’ve always found the demand to pull back those borders curiously insulting to Israel. The implication is that Netanyahu’s belief in their security value is either mistaken, or dishonest. Exactly what else do Israel’s critics think they’re getting out of the land they captured by repelling Arab invaders in 1967? It’s not exactly rich, pastoral real estate, so their interest is difficult for any fair-minded observer to interpret as greed.
As to the possibility Netanyahu is wrong about the connection between territorial integrity and security, hasn’t anyone in the Obama Administration noticed that every piece of land Israel surrenders is instantly transformed into a launch pad for rocket attacks on civilians?
The Israeli Prime Minister described the 1967 borders as “not the boundaries of peace, but the boundaries of war.” He is objectively correct. The war he’s talking about did happen. Looking at the current situation in the countries surrounding Israel, is there any reason for him to think it’s not likely to happen again? What was that I heard the new masters of Egypt saying the other day, about shredding the Sadat peace treaty? What just happened on Israel’s border with Syria last week?
Sometimes I think the Obama Administration gets its information about the world by reading its own press releases, written by the bumbling incompetents who think the Muslim Brotherhood is a “secular” organization.
Netanyahu smacked down the widely peddled fiction that Israel has been uniquely awful to the Palestinians. “The Arab attack on Israel in 1948 resulted in two refugee problems,” he explained. A similar number of Palestinian and Jewish refugees were created, and “tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees.” How come those guys are never asked to give up any “land for peace?”
Accepting the “grand-children and great-grand children” of the 1948 refugees would “wipe out Israel’s future as a Jewish state,” Netanyahu explained to a President who has been vigorously attempting to remodel his own electorate, by importing voters he likes better. “It’s not gonna happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen.”
That is how the influence of a mighty nation is squandered: by making demands of its allies that cannot be met, and therefore stoking the frustration and resentment of its adversaries.