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  Muddled Middle East Policy
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 2/20/07

It is widely but incorrectly believed in the United States and Europe that the Israeli-Palestine dispute lies at the root of all problems in the Middle East and that the United States has an obligation to take the lead in resolving it. Resolution, presumably, would include the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

One of the obvious obstacles to this solution is the fact that the Palestinians are currently demonstrating that they are unable to live in peace with themselves, much less the Israelis. Nor have they yet demonstrated the ability to govern themselves. When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, the area promptly descended into chaos with members of Hamas and Fatah engaging in an orgy of kidnapping and murder.

Israel’s unilateral decision to withdraw from Gaza was made for reasons of its own security, but the Palestinians attempted to characterize it as a victory for themselves and an Israeli defeat. Europe and the U.S., meanwhile, chided Israel for acting unilaterally and not “coordinating” with the Palestinians.

Since then, rockets have rained frequently on Israeli cities, fired by Hamas in Gaza and Hezbolah in Southern Lebanon. Hamas, victorious in the last Palestinian election, recently renewed its vow never to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Few of the basic realities change much in this muddled Middle East. One of the realities is that most Palestinians still hate the Jews and blame them, along with the Americans who support them, for most of what is bad in their lives. It is naïve of us to persist in the belief that this fundamental fact will be much altered by the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. Such ingrained hatred requires generations to overcome.

Still we maintain the fiction that we can broker a solution to this problem by patient diplomacy and catchy-sounding programs like the Roadmap to Peace. In pursuit of this elusive goal, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was dispatched again recently to dust off the discredited roadmap to nowhere, hoping that the effort at least would raise our standing in the region. Forget about it. It was a poorly timed waste of effort, resulting only in another minor blow to America’s currently fragile prestige.

There is little to suggest that the Palestinians are remotely ready yet for self-government. Their election produced a victory for a party opposed to Israel’s very existence. Why would we possibly want to promote a plan leading to Palestinian statehood under these circumstances? Why should Israel agree to facilitate creation of another hostile state on its borders?

A bifurcated state consisting of the tiny Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank would come into existence as an economic basket case, dependant on foreign aid from whatever source it could obtain it. There is little reason to believe that it would not pose a continuing threat to the security of Israelis and a sanctuary for terrorists.

It is an almost instinctive characteristic of Americans and Europeans that diplomacy can solve all the world’s problems. But negotiating effective solutions requires good faith on both sides. Good faith on the Palestinian side has been notably absent since the Oslo Accords first promised land for peace. Peace, too, has been conspicuously absent.

Alongside our unrealistic belief that we can dissolve all the hatred by brokering another agreement, is the equally unrealistic notion that to be fair in this matter, we must either treat each side as if no one is at fault or as if both sides are equally at fault. The problem with this approach is simply that it is not fair and ignores principles of right and wrong and of degree. To be sure, the Israelis have not been entirely blameless through the years but they did not, after all, engage in jihad against the Palestinians or employ suicide bombers against innocent civilians. Far from denying the Palestinians’ right to exist, they offered them a sovereign homeland in exchange for peace. CRO

copyright 2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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