Foreign Policy

No miracles in Cana

The U.S. cannot force Israeli-Palestinian peace

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A determined refrain heard among those thinking about or dealing with the Middle East is that the Gordian knot of the region is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Cut it and conflict will recede everywhere, because the frustrations engendered by Arab-Israeli animosity will evaporate.

Maybe. The Bush administration partly adopted that logic several months ago when it sponsored a regional peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. President George W. Bush promised that a final agreement would be signed between Israelis and Palestinians before he leaves office in January. Some don't buy into that deadline; many accuse Washington of being insincere in its efforts. But the real question is whether the United States can actually do anything when it comes to altering the outcomes.

The Palestinians complain that the Bush administration leans too heavily in Israel's favor, and is therefore not a credible mediator. Most egregiously, the U.S. is allowing Israel to create facts on the ground in Jerusalem and the West Bank, complicating prospects for peace. As the Palestinian-American journalist Rami Khouri has written: "There is now only one real test of progress, or criterion of political seriousness, in the Arab-Israeli conflict in the short term: Can the United States make Israel stop expanding its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories? If not, talk of peace is a cruel hoax that will only raise and then dash expectations, leading to unknown consequences when the backlash occurs."

The Israeli argument is that the Palestinians, divided between Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, pose a persistent security threat to Israel. Unless there is a Palestinian interlocutor who can guarantee a positive outcome in negotiations, there is little need to offer vital concessions at present. The Palestinians respond that such an attitude only strengthens Hamas by discrediting the Palestinian Authority—which supports a peace deal with Israel—making a resolution even less probable. The Israelis come back that if the Palestinian Authority is so frail, then Israel has even less of an incentive to negotiate. And on and on the exchange goes, descending into proliferating circles of disputation—all of it very logical, all of it tightening further the Gordian knot.

But what can the United States do? The reality is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so replete with minefields that even a concerted American push would almost certainly fail in the end.

Yet no one can deny that there is a need to break out of the sterile cycle of rhetoric afflicting Palestinians and Israelis alike. Israel's obtuseness in dealing with the Palestinians, its uninterrupted expansion of settlements, and its reluctance to dismantle even those settler outposts successive governments have declared illegal, has strengthened its most dedicated enemies. Yet no Israeli government today is likely to survive the kind of concessions needed to revive the Palestinian Authority. At the first sign of dramatic change, the right-wing parties, perhaps even cabinet ministers, would oppose major concessions. This would likely lead to early elections that could bring about the victory of Likud, which is even less enthusiastic about giving up land. We would soon be back where we started. But then even the ruling Kadima and Labor parties don't believe in the Palestinian Authority enough to conduct serious business with it.

On the Palestinian side, the situation is even more dysfunctional. The Palestinian leadership is divided between two rival governments, one dominated by Fatah, the other by Hamas, each claiming legitimacy. The president, Mahmoud Abbas, refuses to speak to Hamas unless the Islamist movement first reverses its takeover of Gaza last summer. Yet Abbas' control over armed Palestinian groups, even those opposed to Hamas, is tenuous. The international community, particularly the United States, supports the Palestinian Authority, but all that does is discredit Abbas in the eyes of his own people, because such support has not even allowed him to end Israel's physical and economic strangulation of Gaza. Everyone regards Abbas as weak, so that now even Western pundits, former officials, and think-tank mavens are calling increasingly on Israel and the international community to talk to Hamas—a step that would all but destroy what remains of the Palestinian Authority

The thing is, Abbas happens to be the one Palestinian partner willing to give up land to achieve a mutually acceptable peace pact with Israel. Hamas has no such intention and has never committed publicly to the idea. However, this hasn't prevented Israel from taking measures that, intentionally or not, have facilitated the emergence of an Islamist mini-state in Gaza, headed by a movement that considers armed struggle against Israel a quasi-religious duty. In fact, Hamas' charter tells us "that the land of Palestine is an Islamic waqf [religious endowment] consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day."

The Islamists believe history is on their side, and see a region shaping up in their favor. In Egypt, the government faces a potent and rising challenge from the Muslim Brotherhood, as does the monarchy in Jordan. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is deployed along Israel's northern border with tens of thousands of rockets in its arsenal. Hamas, observing the heightening of contradictions all around, but also sensing that it may be close to overwhelming its rivals within Palestinian society, feels it can wait Israel out and one day push for victory in collaboration with its allies elsewhere. The movement's charter also outlines steps toward this end by asking "Arab countries surrounding Israel…to open their borders to the fighters from among the Arab and Islamic nations so that they could consolidate their efforts with those of their Muslim brethren in Palestine."

Faced with this mess, the Bush administration has few ways to succeed. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is today a perfect storm of unfeasible diplomacy. No one wants to give up the fight, because a vacuum may be far worse than keeping up some kind of dialogue, whatever the results; but no one has much of a clue about how to reach the endgame either.

When in a stalemate, the theory goes, try something new—anything. Take the idea of talking to Hamas, now all the rage. No one has defined what Israel or the international community should talk to Hamas about, let alone what Hamas would agree to discuss, given that the movement refuses to even recognize Israel's right to exist. So, the prevailing outlook is that Israel and Hamas should avoid the matter of recognition now and agree to a long-term truce, allowing a revived peace process to kick in. But giving precedence to the gesture of talking over the substance of recognizing the other party means that Hamas has everything to gain from continuing to deny recognition. The signs are that it hopes to do just that while imposing a ceasefire during which it could rout its Palestinian foes and rearm for a final showdown with Israel in future decades.

How can the U.S. address all this? Trying to stifle Hamas isn't working. Talking to the movement will go nowhere, but will kill Abbas politically. Forcing Israel to make serious land concessions would bring down the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert—to be replaced by one bound to be even more intransigent. And expecting the Palestinian Authority to impose its will on all Palestinian factions is laughable. So the short answer is that the U.S. has little to offer any of the parties. Blame Bush for many things; blame him for acting too late on the Israeli-Palestinian front. But don't seriously expect him to produce a miracle.

reason contributing editor Michael Young is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon

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  1. “The United States, alas, has little to offer any of the parties”…other than the billions we already dole out to the Arabs and Israel.

  2. It’s sort of nuts that something like 90% of the Palestinians approve of the massacre in the Jewish seminary.

    I don’t know how the hell you make peace with that.

    There’s never going to be peace until the cradle-to-grave death cult brainwashing of the Palis stops.

  3. Hamas is run by a secretive cadre of gay men… not that there’s anything wrong with that!!

  4. The people of the Middle East are determined to kill each other. Nothing the US does will change that. Nothing anybody does will change that.

    Israelis and Palestinians could make peace and start intermarrying tomorrow and the people who put on their left sock first will start killing the people who put on their right sock first the day after.

  5. The only way that the US can truly solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to nuke the region. That is why I prefer staying out of this stupid conflict fueled by differences in imaginary friends and old fable books.

  6. Whatever may be said about Michael Young’s position on the Iraq war, he has some insightful (and depressing) analysis of the Israel-Palestine situation.

  7. Put some colbalt-45 on the temple mount and say whoever gets there first can have it.

  8. If these people want to kill each other over what Voltaire would’ve called “a few acres of sand,” let them.

    And let us stay out of it.

  9. Michael Young looks at the prospects of a United States-brokered Israel-Palestinian peace deal and is predictably discouraged…

    Of course Michael Young is discouraged. The deal requires Israel to compromise and allows the Palestinians he doesn’t like to remain alive.

    That said, I’m with the general consensus of staying out of it.

  10. There’s never going to be peace until the cradle-to-grave death cult brainwashing of the Palis stops.

    Thank goodness Israel and its leaders have never done anything wrong in this equation.

  11. It’s laughable to think that America can act as a moderator in a peace deal between Israel & the Palestinians. The Palestinians know the American gov’t is biased in favor of Isreal.

    People keep trying to think of this conflict in political terms when it’s really a religous conflict between three different religions. When religion & politics become mixed together rational thought is nowhere to be found.

  12. Obviously we need to stage a Iranian attack on US naval ships. This should sway public opinion enough to allow us to bomb Iran. Once we start bombing Iran, Israel should just let loose and destroy whatever targets they deem most troublesome. Complete genocide of the Palisteneans seems to be palatable, it could always be justified as “not being as bad as what the jews suffered”.

    The false-flag attack has proved to be very useful in our arsenal so I’d look to see it used again. As long as we keep giving billions to the Saudis and Israel then Michael Young will be satisfied.

  13. Oy! Michael gets one right!

  14. Of course Michael Young is discouraged. The deal requires Israel to compromise and allows the Palestinians he doesn’t like to remain alive.

    WTF madpad?
    I have been very critical of Michael Young’s work. I have repeatedly called upon Reason to stop publishing it. But at least I read it first.

  15. People keep trying to think of this conflict in political terms when it’s really a religous conflict between three different religions.

    I don’t think it’s about anything other than people who are determined to kill each other. Politics, religion, which sock you put on first, they’re all just pretexts to justify the killing.

  16. The US has been brokering peace deals in the Middle East for my entire adult life, none have had any more affect than the old guy praying for peace at the Wall in Jerusalem who when asked by the CNN reporter how it felt replied: It feels like I’m talking to a fucking wall.

    You’d think our Fearless Leaders would Get A Fucking Clue and Butt The Fuck Out. But, noooooo-oooohhhhh, every one of those useless pinheads from Kissenger to GWB wants to be THE ONE who goes down in the history books as THE MAN who solved the Middle East crises.

    Sorry, I get like this toward April 15. Screaming and ranting and mostly just pissed off when I see how much money the government sucks out of everybody’s paychecks (I am the Tax Man).

  17. Who are these “Israelis” and “Palestinians”? I thought they were all Semites. Since I am sick of their endless fucking bullshit, does that make me an anti-Semite?

  18. Chill out, Warren…it was just a dig on Young’s typical attitude.

    Not every slam has to be based solely on the article immediately in front of me.

  19. Forcing Israel to make serious land concessions would bring down the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

    Setting aside the bit about “forcing,” I’m not sure that’s true. Israelis were very supportive of Barak’s and Peres’ willingness to trade and end to settlements and even some redrawing of maps – as part of a fair deal with the Palestinians.

  20. TWC,

    Let’s not overstate things. The US has, in fact, brokered lasting peace deals between Israel and Eqypt, and Israel and Jordan, in your lifetime. They came close with Syria last time, too.

    Just not the Palestinians. Which is, indeed, a bit of a downer.

  21. When religion & politics become mixed together rational thought is nowhere to be found.

    Too true. And I think thats a large part of why this is such a fucked up situation.

    I don’t think it’s about anything other than people who are determined to kill each other. Politics, religion, which sock you put on first, they’re all just pretexts to justify the killing.

    You don’t think that is a bit of an oversimplification?

    Why is it that sometimes humans are able to establish a situation where they can have peace and prosperity; and sometimes societies get caught up in perpetual tribalistic wars, carrying grudges across generations, and other bullshit?

    Are there ideological/sociological factors involved? Does human nature itself change? Is it the weather?

    Saying “People are always killing eachother” doesn’t fully explain things.

  22. You are correct, Joe, but the deal we made with Israel and Egypt involves a rather significant bribe that is paid to each government every year as a condition of not going to war. I know that is an oversimplification………..

  23. I don’t think it’s about anything other than people who are determined to kill each other. Politics, religion, which sock you put on first, they’re all just pretexts to justify the killing.

    You don’t think that is a bit of an oversimplification?

    Nope, the history of the past four thousand years has led me to that conclusion. It ain’t about politics or money or religion or culture. It’s about the fucking Judean People’s Front. Splitters!

  24. We really have no moral authority to negotiate a peace deal since we aren’t a neutral country.

    I think the nations that should be negotiating peace deals should be countries like Switzerland and Sweden who truly don’t have a dog in anyone’s fight.

  25. In the discussion of Gaza, the continuous rocket attacks from the strip and Hamas’ (coordinated and covert operation of blowing up the fence into Egypt the other month were conspicuously absent.

  26. Thank goodness Israel and its leaders have never done anything wrong in this equation.

    I don’t know that they’re blameless, but they’re a relatively free society genuinely interested in peace.

  27. It ain’t about politics or money or religion or culture. It’s about the fucking Judean People’s Front.

    Exactamundo. The Palestinian leadership and the Arab leaders that fund them don’t really care what happened a thousand years ago or even ten years ago. They need the Jewish bogeyman as a scapegoat in order to divert people’s anger and shame away from their own abject failure to build anything resembling a prosperous, free, and decent society.

  28. Well, there’s a chicken/egg problem there.

    How exactly does one build a prosperous, free, and decent society in a series of isolated refugee camps surrounded by barbed wire?

    Or course the Palestinian leadership (if that’s the right word for Arafat’s rule) was awful – but then, Arafats don’t manage to come to power in places like New Hampshire and Belgium, do they?

  29. I don’t know that they’re blameless, but they’re a relatively free society genuinely interested in peace.

    I think they all want peace — under their own chosen conditions. But they’re galaxies apart on what they consider just conditions.

  30. What we need to do is deal with the Russians, Euros and Chinese to all keep out of the area, and then wall the fuckers off. If something goes wrong, we can always send in Snake Plissken.

  31. Joe,I think he meant the Arab nations[ Saudi Arabia,Syria,ect].They are repressive and have helped keep the Palestinians in poverty and camps.Gaza and the west bank belonged to Egypt and Jordan as you know.They have done nothing to relieve the suffering.The Gulf states are awash in petro-dollars and sit on the sidelines.I doubt these countries want a democratic Palestinian state as an example to their subjects.

  32. Scooby, I say nuke the place from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  33. How exactly does one build a prosperous, free, and decent society in a series of isolated refugee camps surrounded by barbed wire?

    Well, “refugees” is a thorny issue in and of itself. They make up some 4 million and get little real assistance from the Arab countries that ‘host’ them. And there’s no way Israel will ever let them come back.

    That leave over 5 million still in Israel – the majority of which would rather conduct business than blow stuff up.

    The reality is that for all the faults of everyone else, the Palestinians have been ill-served by their leaders – first and foremost, Arafat.

  34. How exactly does one build a prosperous, free, and decent society in a series of isolated refugee camps surrounded by barbed wire?

    Well, you start out by defining certain basic rights: free speech, freedom of religion, property rights, free trade, peace with your neighbors. Societies that do that generally succeed.

    One might just as well ask “How exactly does one build a prosperous, free, and decent society in a tiny isolated state surrounded by countries that openly plan your destruction and send rockets and suicide bombers into your buses, malls, and temples?”

  35. Part of the problem is that it takes at least two effective parties to make a deal. Any alleged Palestinian government that we or the Israelis deal with has no real ability to control what happens on their side of the line.

    Whatever my thoughts about the situation, my paramount concern is that my tax dollars not go to support or encourage anyone over there. Let them deal with it how they will–it simply does not affect us.

  36. One might just as well ask “How exactly does one build a prosperous, free, and decent society in a tiny isolated state surrounded by countries that openly plan your destruction and send rockets and suicide bombers into your buses, malls, and temples?”

    Easy, it already exists in your society from living in western Europe for two thousand years, so you import it to the new place you’re staying.

  37. Although, I should point out this statement:

    They need the Jewish bogeyman as a scapegoat in order to divert people’s anger and shame away from their own abject failure to build anything resembling a prosperous, free, and decent society.

    was actually directed more at Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, etc.

  38. Easy, it already exists in your society from living in western Europe for two thousand years, so you import it to the new place you’re staying.

    That is the easiest way, but places like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea have managed to implement Western ideas pretty successfully.

  39. You know, this is the Jews’ fault in that they only allow being Jewish through matrilineal heredity*. They need a religion that allows anyone to belong easily. Then they can have a much larger number of members and we can get some new religious wars seriously underway. “The Crusades Redux: Jews vs. Muslims” sounds like a blast.

    * Yes, you can convert, but will you ever feel like a real Jew? Did Sammy Davis Jr.?

  40. Israel – Palestine = same swarthy DNA yet different Holy Books?

    No doubt – the superior Gawd will win out.

  41. Israel – Palestine = same swarthy DNA yet different Holy Books?

    No. They were already separate groups a couple thousand years ago, before Jews started mixing with Europeans. Religion plays a role, sure, especially on the Muslim side (most Israelis are not believing Jews), but other factors – cultural, political and ethnic – are more important in the conflict.

  42. Easy, it already exists in your society from living in western Europe for two thousand years, so you import it to the new place you’re staying.

    I wonder what the point of that is? Are you saying that Israelis aren’t playing fair to have had a tradition of liberal values to draw from? If the fledgling Palestinian entity lacks democratic and liberal values because of Arab history and culture, well, yeah, sure, I’d say that’s the most plausible explanation. I haven’t noticed anyone arguing it’s because of anything else! Have you? Anyway, such values have to start in a society somehow, and advocating that Palestinians adopt them is probably as much as we outsiders can do. As the last person who responded to you made clear, it’s not quite impossible.

  43. As one of those danged humanists I am trying to emphasize the humanity in the region over the religion…

    Seriously – I happen to be listening to “Take a walk on the kosher side” by Gefilte Joe and the Fish.

  44. Nope, the history of the past four thousand years has led me to that conclusion. It ain’t about politics or money or religion or culture. It’s about the fucking Judean People’s Front. Splitters!

    Well than I think this question from my previous post still stands:

    “Why is it that sometimes humans are able to establish a situation where they can have peace and prosperity….?”

  45. “Why is it that sometimes humans are able to establish a situation where they can have peace and prosperity….?”

    Enlightenment values, i.e. freedom and reason.

  46. As long as we keep giving billions to the Saudis and Israel then Michael Young will be satisfied.

    Pardon me, but when did the US ever “give” Saudis money? If you are talking about purchasing oil from Saudi at market value, then, Saudi pays much more in arm purchases (above market value) that they never use.

  47. Barak’s and Peres’ willingness to trade and end to settlements and even some redrawing of maps – as part of a fair deal with the Palestinians.

    Joe, there were more settlements built under labor governments than Likud governments.

  48. TallDave,

    One might just as well ask “How exactly does one build a prosperous, free, and decent society in a tiny isolated state surrounded by countries that openly plan your destruction and send rockets and suicide bombers into your buses, malls, and temples?”

    I disagree. Even given the threats – and that’s what they have been, threats, not the real thing – faced by Israelis, they have enjoyed the ability to live normal lives. To go to work and come back home again without being patted down by foreign soldiers. To visit one’s relatives, to go to the store, to have jobs available at something roughly comparable to the size of the working-age population.

    In other words, they were able to live as a normal society. That hasn’t been the case in Palestinian communities for many decades.

  49. Er, I should say, by MOST Israelis. Most Israelis haven’t been attacked by suicide bombers. Most Israelis haven’t had their homes overrun by the armies of Israeli’s neighbors. Obviously, there have actually been Israelis who’ve suffered those things.

  50. anon,

    I think you might have been led astray by my typo.

    Barak’s and Peres’ willingness to trade and end to settlements

    S/b Barak’s and Peres’ willingness to trade AN end to settlements…

    I didn’t meaning “their willingess to engage in trade” and “their policy of ending settlement activity.”

    I meant, their willingness to offer an end to settlement activity as a concession.

    My bad.

  51. Why on earth would anyone beleive that “significant land concessions” by Israel would satisfy the Palestinians? The Israelis gave back every inch of Lebanon, and still catch rockets from there almost every day.

    Unless by “significant land concessions” you mean 100% of Israel, of course.

  52. Most Israelis haven’t been attacked by suicide bombers. Most Israelis haven’t had their homes overrun by the armies of Israeli’s neighbors.

    So that’s all right, then. Those Jews, what a bunch of crybabies.

  53. I think you’ve put your finger on it, RC. It wasn’t the thorniness of the issues or the impossibility of finding a middle ground that doomed Clinton’s peacemongering.

    Arafat didn’t want a deal. He wanted to keep fighting, because someone like him can only be a big shot in a situation of war. If Arafat had wanted a deal like Barak and Peres wanted a deal, they could have worked one out.

    I’d be a little cautious about attributing his stance to “the Palestinians” as a whole. Most Palestinians would have been thrilled if Arafat had announced a “just peace” had been achieved.

  54. So that’s all right, then. Those Jews, what a bunch of crybabies.

    I don’t know why I still bother trying to talk to you like an adult.

    That wasn’t my point, and you know it.

    You really don’t give a flying fuck about ideas or truth, do you?

  55. through most of human history, immigrant groups that outcompete and displace resident groups have exterminated and/or enslaved the old residents. the result: the new group lives in peace on their new land.

    The UN, however, came up with a more civilized version of this time-tested process by simply disenfranchising the Palestinians. 60 years of bloodshed and acrimony (with no end in sight) have been the result.

    Isn’t world government a wonderful thing?

  56. “The Israelis gave back every inch of Lebanon, and still catch rockets from there almost every day.”
    Yeah, when you invade a nation and occupy it, twice, tends to leave hard feelings, eh RC? Ignore the invasions and occupations, we should give Israel a metal for “giving back” Lebanon.

    I’d love to see what libertarian principle you have to justify the occupation of a people against their will denying them self-government. That would be very interesting…

  57. Mr. Nice Guy,

    The answer to your inquiry would be “self-defense.”

    Unfortunately, that’s both sides’ justification.

  58. I think Bush & Co. have already done quite enough, read the “Gaza Bombshell” story:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/04/gaza200804

  59. Dang, joe whiplashed in 1 minute there. From

    I think you’ve put your finger on it, RC.

    to

    You really don’t give a flying fuck about ideas or truth, do you?

    You were clarifying this remark:

    Even given the threats – and that’s what they have been, threats, not the real thing – faced by Israelis, they have enjoyed the ability to live normal lives. To go to work and come back home again without being patted down by foreign soldiers. To visit one’s relatives, to go to the store, to have jobs available at something roughly comparable to the size of the working-age population.

    With this remark:

    Most Israelis haven’t been attacked by suicide bombers. Most Israelis haven’t had their homes overrun by the armies of Israeli’s neighbors. Obviously, there have actually been Israelis who’ve suffered those things.

    Your point, I guess, was that being a tiny country surrounded by hostile countries, with millions sworn to your destruction carrying out daily attacks on your country, really doesn’t affect Israeli society, because, let’s face it, only a few Israelis actually bullets or shrapnel.

    Wasn’t that about it? And you think my mockery of this point was uncalled for?

  60. Again, with fewer italics:

    Dang, joe whiplashed in 1 minute there. From

    I think you’ve put your finger on it, RC.

    to

    You really don’t give a flying fuck about ideas or truth, do you?

    You were clarifying this remark:

    Even given the threats – and that’s what they have been, threats, not the real thing – faced by Israelis, they have enjoyed the ability to live normal lives. To go to work and come back home again without being patted down by foreign soldiers. To visit one’s relatives, to go to the store, to have jobs available at something roughly comparable to the size of the working-age population.

    With this remark:

    Most Israelis haven’t been attacked by suicide bombers. Most Israelis haven’t had their homes overrun by the armies of Israeli’s neighbors. Obviously, there have actually been Israelis who’ve suffered those things.

    Your point, I guess, was that being a tiny country surrounded by hostile countries, with millions sworn to your destruction carrying out daily attacks on your country, really doesn’t affect Israeli society, because, let’s face it, only a few Israelis actually bullets or shrapnel.

    Wasn’t that about it? And you think my mockery of this point was uncalled for?

  61. Yeah, when you invade a nation and occupy it, twice, tends to leave hard feelings, eh RC?

    Well, the Germans and the French seem to have gotten over it.

    I’d love to see what libertarian principle you have to justify the occupation of a people against their will denying them self-government.

    In the case of Israel and Lebanon, try “self-defense.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Israel has made plenty of mistakes (first and foremost being the stupid settlements). But too many of the people who love to hammer on Israel do so in (apparently) complete ignorance of the context in which Israel operates, and who the aggressor is (and isn’t) in the periodic unpleasantries along Israel’s borders.

  62. It’s self defense for me to punch an attacker in the face. It’s not self defense for me to go over to the attacker’s house and keep his wife and kids from going to work the next day (or forty years)…

    As Locke pointed out long ago in his Second Treatiste it may be just to even enslave members of a force that attack your nation, but it is plain immoral to occupy that persons lands. The lands not only include women, children, old people, etc., that had nothing to do with attacking you (and collective punishment is a tad unlibertarian, or uncivilized even), but the person’s lands belong to their kids and such.

    The PLO or Hamas or Hizballah shoots rockets into Israel, they have every right to hit back those groups. But to bomb the shit out of Lebanon, including parts not loyal to Hizbollah, and to militarily occupy a huge chunk of Lebanon for years and years when the majority of the folks there were not sympathetic to the attackers, is plain wrong. There’s collateral damage and there’s collective punishment, or indiscriminate lashing out. The latter two are wrong.

  63. Fuck off, RC. Whether you’re actually this dumb, or just playing at it, you’re useless for anything but cheap shots.

    If you want, you can go back through the comments and see if you can do a better job grasping my simple, obvious, and clearly stated point – maybe you could sound the words out letter by letter – but I doubt it would do you any good.

  64. I disagree. Even given the threats – and that’s what they have been, threats, not the real thing – faced by Israelis, they have enjoyed the ability to live normal lives. To go to work and come back home again without being patted down by foreign soldiers. To visit one’s relatives, to go to the store, to have jobs available at something roughly comparable to the size of the working-age population.

    In other words, they were able to live as a normal society.

    What could that possibly mean? Other than “do joos got it easy?”

  65. Many people are unaware that when the Jews first took over Palestine, they not only moved the people off the land, but in one case liquidated most of an entire village, in much the same way that the Nazi’s machine gunned Polish Jews in WW II.

    That does not justify the current attacks against innocent Israelis, but Israel has not yet honned up to their crimes. To at least acknowledge them might help.

    The fact that so many Palestinians feel that attacks on Jews are justified has nothing to do with Islam, but mainly is the result of a very deep seated political animosity.

  66. What’s ridiculous about these constant debates over the Pals and Israel is that no one seems to care that the Pals still haven’t recognized Israel’s right to exist.

    How can you possibly expect Israel to give concession before its enemy refuses to drop its call for genocide? It would be irresponsible. It’s mind boggling that the Pals get so much good will from bleeding hearts when the notion of genocide is still their primary objective.

    There shouldn’t be any discussion until the Palestinians publicly acknowledge Israel’s right to remain in the region. Sadly, I don’t think this will ever happen.

    So, the U.S. needs to drop out, and let the chips fall where they may. The M.E. is such a clusterfuck of irrationality that I’m not sure that the region can ever recover.

    These M.E. extremists run the show, and they kill for sport. If it’s not Israel to fight against, it’s their own people.

  67. “The fact that so many Palestinians feel that attacks on Jews are justified has nothing to do with Islam, but mainly is the result of a very deep seated political animosity.”

    And that animosity overwhelmingly has to do with the fact that there are Jews amongst them.

    Trying to make it sound any more complex is giving human beings far too much credit, and ignoring the roots of the conflict.

  68. “And that animosity overwhelmingly has to do with the fact that there are Jews amongst them.”

    Mortimer-to be fair, it has to do with the fact that the Jews are not only amongst them, but that they are living on land that the Pales were living on for centuries before those Jews came. People hate it when you plop down in the middle of their homes and declare a state that has been non-existent for 2,000 years to be back in the game…Funny that?

  69. “I’d love to see what libertarian principle you have to justify the occupation of a people against their will denying them self-government. That would be very interesting…”

    I would love to see where calling for genocide at all costs is a Libertarian principle.

    Do you think publicly stating that Israel has a right to exist, and that you would like to develop a means by which the two of you can exist is too difficult of a position to hold? It seems to be for the most important people involved.

    You don’t seem to understand, it would be irresponsible at best to give concessions, particularly strategic lands that were confiscated in an attack on you, when your enemy still wants to try and destroy you.

    They’re still in a state of war.

    Israel is not obligated to protect the Palestinian people from the blunders of their own leaders, and citizens. It’s most important obligation is to its own citizens.

  70. Mr. Young is right but he has noting new to say. He simply recycles the same tired wire news trivia we have seen or heard before. As someone from the region, I have no problem with what he says, the problem is, have we not heard it before?

  71. Way back when the British formed a commission under Lord Peel to study why there was this trouble between the Zionists and the Arabs in the land they came to the conclusion that it had nothing to do with any deep seated religious or cultural animosity and everything to do with the fact that the Zionists wanted to take land that many Arabs were and had been living on and turn it into a state, a state that would deny said Arabs a voice at self-determination (any state formed had to be majority or fully Jewish in the Zionists eyes). The hatred of the Arabs towards the Zionists and Israel is of course unfortunate, but it’s just not that remarkable or unfathomable. It was quite naturally understood in the 1930’s and quite naturally understood now. People hate to have their land taken from them. And “because we used to live here 2,000 years ago” seems like a weak justification to a normal rational person who hasn’t already chosen sides.

  72. “Mortimer-to be fair, it has to do with the fact that the Jews are not only amongst them, but that they are living on land that the Pales were living on for centuries before those Jews came. People hate it when you plop down in the middle of their homes and declare a state that has been non-existent for 2,000 years to be back in the game…Funny that?”

    People hate a lot of things about history.

    However, if you have an ounce of sense, and maturity, you learn to move on from it, and stop fighting about it. Israel is not going anywhere, nor should it have to go anywhere. So, the most sensible thing to do is to give up any idea that you can “push them into the sea.”

    Since when did the destruction of Israel become an acceptable resolution in this debate?

  73. Mortimer-In a way you are right that it comes down to this “recognition of the right to exist” thing. In fact I would say that Israel has a very tenuous “right to exist” in the sense that it was completely immoral for a bunch of Europeans to plop down on land their ancestors had not seen in 20 centuries and declare a state. The people displaced by that effort (called Zionism) are certainly the wronged party. This does not excuse many of the horrible things they do of course. A case can be made for the 1948 borders Israel, but beyond that it is a tough sell. This is morally I’m talking. What’s possible is another thing, and the Pales should not hope for more than the pre-1967 borders and a viable autonomous state.

    Moritimer, are you arguing that once a significant majority of Pales accept Israel’s right to exist Israel is morally bound to grant them full and actual autonomy (which would be much greater than the Palestinian Authority)? I can’t imagine a libertarian or civilized position contrary, but I’d love to hear your argument for that.

  74. “Way back when the British formed a commission under Lord Peel to study why there was this trouble between the Zionists and the Arabs in the land they came to the conclusion that it had”

    Way back? What does this shave to do with what is occurring now?

    The Palestinian groups have made statements that compeltely contradict what you have just said, or are we supposed to treat those comments like the Ron Paul newsletters?

    I’m quite sure that they don’t like have to share their land, but the fact that there are Jews on it sense their blood pressure into the stratosphere. The reality is, if they ever want to have a state of their own, they must share the land with Jews, and they must refuse calls for their destruction. That concession has not been made, so until it is, the ball is in their court.

    Your casual dismissal of the role of religion, and tribalism in this conflict suggests that you have a dog in this fight.

    Past transgressions do not excuse calls for genocide.

  75. Mortimer,

    I don’t recognize that Lakota Sioux Nation’s right to exist. Nor am I calling for the genocide of Lakota Sioux. Those are two different issues. One is about a political entity, and the other is about human lives.

    And that animosity overwhelmingly has to do with the fact that there are Jews amongst them. You do know that there were Jews living in Palestine for centuries before the European Zionists began moving there, right?

  76. “People hate a lot of things about history.

    However, if you have an ounce of sense, and maturity, you learn to move on from it, and stop fighting about it.”

    People should get over history. For instance, a group of Europeans whose ancestors were pushed off their land 20 centuries ago should just let that land go, right? Organizing a campaign to move into the region, then using political mobilization and terrorism to compel the trustees of the land to give it back to you, then pushing the people who had been living ont he land off of it, then occupying them for 60 years to keep your land and fight multiple wars to that effect, that would be nuts to do over a historical grief, right?

  77. Look, man. That money that’s been sitting in those Swiss and German bank accounts since the early 40s? That’s history, man. Why can’t people just, like, let it go already?

  78. “Moritimer, are you arguing that once a significant majority of Pales accept Israel’s right to exist Israel is morally bound to grant them full and actual autonomy (which would be much greater than the Palestinian Authority)? I can’t imagine a libertarian or civilized position contrary, but I’d love to hear your argument for that.”

    I would say that Israel would have little choice but to do otherwise. Although, the specifics are far outside of our knowledge.

    The overall point that I am trying to make is that a refusal to accept Israel as a nation in the region allows Israel to rationalize the occupation. If you take that away, stress levels will fall, and the idea of negotiation becomes much more tangible.

    At least for me, I would expect much greater concessions from Israel (in particular, land) than I do now, and it would make the cries against Israel seem slightly more rational.

  79. Moritimer
    No dog in this fight. I can equally condemn either side. I’m Irish, not Jewish or Arab.

    But I’m also sensible. If one people plop down into another people’s land and call it their own state, that second people is going to be awful mad about it. I think its crazy to say “hey, all that happened 60 years ago, why can’t they get over it?”

    Joe-And you do know that the majority of the Jews in the area declared to be the state of Israel in 1948 were European born, right?

  80. “You do know that there were Jews living in Palestine for centuries before the European Zionists began moving there, right?”

    How does that compare to a nation state of Jews?

    Are you also suggesting that Jews were not discriminated against during that time?

    Once again, these attempts to rationalize the crimes of the underdog simply refuse to acknowledge the fact that, regardless of any hatred over land, calling for the destruction of Israel is not a just, or viable option.

    So, you can keep rationalizing Jew hate, but it doesn’t address the issue of genocide, which should absolutely be taken seriously.

    Religion is the prime mover in this issue. If it wasn’t in the beginning, it certainly is now. Pretending that it’s nothing more than a civil rights movement is sweet, but utterly naive.

  81. “Look, man. That money that’s been sitting in those Swiss and German bank accounts since the early 40s? That’s history, man. Why can’t people just, like, let it go already?”

    So speak clearly. Do you think Israel has a right to exist?

    If the answer is yes, then they must get over it. Randomly blowing people up is what we have received from people not being able to get over it.

    It’s called compromise, and trying to seek peace. Otherwise, the war will continue, and the Palestinians won’t get anything.

    So far, it seems as if they are content killing more of their own people, than the enemy.

  82. Mortimer-I took joe’s comment to be directed at me (it was mine that he quoted).

    You know, various Palestinian leaders have acknowledged Israel’s right to exist quite publicly, and they never got a fully autonomous state out of it, as you said would be the morally right thing to do.

    Let me ask you, if you were a Palestinian, and your ancestors had been forced off their land and denied self government for decades by the creation of Israel, would you find the “destruction of Israel” (which could mean as a political entity and not genocide of the folks currently living in Israel) to be unjust? It strikes me it would seem like the only just resolution to one who has lost his land in that way…

    I agree with you its unfeasible. I also think it might ultimately be morally incorrect (especially in reference to the initital 1948 borders). But it would not strike me as either obvious or even easily achieved by a Palestinian…

  83. And you know, up until very recently the Israeli line denied the right of Palestine to exist (heck, they even said there was no such thing as a Palestinian). So both sides have only recently recognized the other sides “right to exist” as a political entity, and to be honest each side right now doesn’t really…

  84. How does that compare to a nation state of Jews?

    Not very closely. Those are two very different things. I’m glad we cleared that up, because someone upthread conflated opposition to Israel’s right to exist with a desire to kill Jews.

    So speak clearly. Do you think Israel has a right to exist? Yes.

    If the answer is yes, then they must get over it. Nope. Recognizing the legitimacy of a government does not, in any way, preclude you from decrying its abuses, even those that took place during its founding. Not in any way, shape, or form.

    It’s called compromise, and trying to seek peace. As is agreeing to work towards a resolution without making Palestinian recognition of Israel a precondition to be met before talks begin.

    Arbitrarily declaring that one of the things you want from your opponent must be conceded BEFORE you will even open negotiations, on the other hand, is NOT compromise, and trying to seek peace. It is the purposeful sabotage of the peace process, by those who don’t want it to go forward.

    In an ideal world, the Palestinians would recognize Israel, Israel would stop all settlement activity, and on and on, each one doing the right thing out of the kindness of their hearts.

    In the real world, when you want peace, you deal with people against whom you still hold grievances. Saying you won’t negotiate until your grievances are settled is a rejection of the very idea of peace talks.

  85. But most of all Moritmer, do you see how ridiculous it is for anyone taking the side of Zionism to say that anyone should just “let history go?” Zionism was all about never forgetting, never forgetting that the Chosen Land once belonged to them and wanting to, after all those centuries, get it back. And even now Israel often points to another historical event, the Holocaust, and “never forgetting” it, as a reason to push for Israel’s existence. So to say the Pales are nuts for not letting go what happened to them because they need to “get over history” seems strange.

    But practically, I fully agree with you. Palestinian terrorism, that is military activity aimed at civilians is morally despicable. It also does show a lack of compromise that is necessary for a Palestinian state.

  86. It also does show a lack of compromise that is necessary for a Palestinian state.

    It certainly does show that about those carrying it out.

    What seems to be happening now is that intransigent elements among the Palestinians – Hamas, at least some faction of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – are carrying out attacks because they don’t want a peace process, know that Abbas does want one, and know that they can sink it by hitting Israel and giving its own intransigents – like the religious parties – the excuse they’re looking for to spike the peace talks.

    This “we don’t talk to evil” stance, which is supposed to be a show a strength, thus becomes a tool for the worst elements of the Palestinian political swamp to manipulate Israel.

    There are lots of people who think God told them to conquer the land from the River to the Sea with M-16s and Merkava tanks, and they don’t want no stinking peace talks.

  87. In a way you are right that it comes down to this “recognition of the right to exist” thing. In fact I would say that Israel has a very tenuous “right to exist” in the sense that it was completely immoral for a bunch of Europeans to plop down on land their ancestors had not seen in 20 centuries and declare a state.

    In a way you are right that it comes down to this “recognition of the right to exist” thing. In fact I would say that The United States, Canada, and many countries in Latin America have a very tenuous “right to exist” in the sense that it was completely immoral for a bunch of Europeans to plop down on land their ancestors had not seen ever, until there was an established civilization there and declare a state.

  88. So BG, if you were living in that time, would you have said it was right or wrong for the Europeans to plop down in those nations? Right? I’d love to hear why. So it just became ok, over time? How much time? Israel has 60 years (declaration of statehood) or 40 (1967 border change). Is that enough? How much is? Give us a general principle my friend, to judge all cases by. C’mon, you’re up to it…

  89. Mr. Nice Guy

    If I were a Native American villager at that time; I would have strongly objected to Spanish, British, French or US armies ordering me to move to make room for their colonies/expansion. However if I had been born to desendants of Native Americans in the twentieth century, I hope I would have had the good sense to refrain from calling for the dissolution of the US, Canada, Mexico, etc.

    Which brings me to the point I was trying, maybe not so clearly, to make. Most countries now existing (maybe all, but I wasn’t a history major) came into existence, and reached their current borders, through a process that was less than morally pure. If that kind of thing makes abolishing the state of Israel morally desirable (not sure whether or not thats your position) then it makes abolishing most countries morally desisreable.

    The question of “How should we uphold the rights of those now alive in the Palestinian territories (or anywhere else)?” is seperate from the question of “What violations of people’s rights occurred during the creation of Israel (or any other coutry)?”. The situation is made a bit more complicated by the fact that a few people who were personally harmed during the 1948 war are still alive in the Palestinian territories. I think you can make a reasonable argument that those people should be compensated somehow on an individual basis. To uphold the rights of those born after 1948 (the vast majority of Palestinians) I am in favor of creating a Palestinian state in which they will have full rights as citizens. I also think a halt to settlement activity, and a massive uprooting of existing settlements, will be necessary to allow freedom of movement within the West Bank.

    On the quetion of “Should this country continue to exist?” we should consider the amount of hardship/injustice that said country’s abolition would impose on innocent individuals. So in this case, if Israel were abolished what would happen?

    There are millions of people who were born in Israel, made their lives there, and don’t have citizenship status anywhere else. They would no longer have a justice system and security force protecting their rights, and its not clear what their legal status would be after the Palestinian Authority (or whoever) took over. Also, Israeli citizens currently enjoy a high degree of personal and political freedom that would not be likely to continue in an Islamic state – a plausible outcome if Israel ceased to exist – or even a moderate tyranny. These are some reasons I oppose the abolition of Israel.

  90. Wow. I guess it is physically possible after all for Michael to write something I agree with.

    ~Jon

  91. “But most of all Moritmer, do you see how ridiculous it is for anyone taking the side of Zionism to say that anyone should just “let history go?”

    I don’t know how much more clear I can make myself.

    I believe that Israel has the right to exist in the region, and the only way that peace can ever be attempted is if the Palestinians supporters, and those who back them acknowledge that Israel has a right to exist.

    Whether letting go of the past is difficult or not, it must happen for there to be peace in the region for any meaningful amount of time.

    This has not happened. I doubt that it will ever happen, and the majority of the current blame for it not happening, lies at the feet of the fledgling Palestinians state.

  92. “Arbitrarily declaring that one of the things you want from your opponent must be conceded BEFORE you will even open negotiations, on the other hand, is NOT compromise,”

    If one of those concession is acknowledging your right to exist, period, then it is a very basic, and important compromise.

    There shouldn’t even have to be a negotiation over Israel’s right to exist. That’s assumed, and has always been the biggest roadblock to peace talks. Why in the hell would a nation responsible for protecting tis citizens make any concession to a group of people who insist on trying to eradicate them no matter what?

    The moral bankruptcy in your thoughts is shocking.

  93. There shouldn’t even have to be a negotiation over Israel’s right to exist.

    There should even have to be a negotiation over whether Israelis can steal land that isn’t theres and build settlements on it.

    And yet, here we are.

    The moral bankruptcy in your thoughts is shocking.

    Standard state-side Zionist: so passionate about patting himself on the back that he doesn’t care if the bombs keep going off in Israel for another century.

  94. I used to have to put up with chickenhawk American “Zionists” all the time at college. What a conteptible bunch!

    “Go, IDF! Not one step back! We’re behind you!”

    Yeah, 6500 miles behind them, congratulating themselves for their superior morality.

  95. Yes, I’m a stateside “Zionist” because I believe that a longstanding group of people have to right to exist where they’re at. How absolutely cultish of me. Let me guess paleo-lib? It certainly sounds like the same kind of ad hominem reasoning.

    And people wonder why the discussion cannot proceed with maturity, when you get anyone who doesn’t treat the Palestinians like helpless zombies, screaming slurs.

    I witnessed the same kind of blind following in Universities as well.

    More importantly, there wouldn’t even be a discussion over a land occupation if the Palestinians, and their sympathizers (virtually the entire region) had not attacked Israel from such points, and then refused to not do so in the future.

    You act is if Israel ended up in these territories without reason.

    Apparently, it’s more convenient to simply indulge the underdog, and oppose those meddlesome Jews, than to look at the issue with any degree of common sense.

    Again, it shouldn’t require any prodding to get those in charge to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and have negotiations proceed from there.

    Until that happens, Israel will never trust the true intentions of the Palestinians, and their neighbors, and rightfully so. It has people to protect.

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