The Wall Street Journal today runs my article on the prospects for the Israeli invasion of Gaza. To sum up, I basically think that Israel has no choice but to strike back against Hamas, but it also has scant chances of eliminating Hamas or winning lasting peace. Hence the headline: “Israel’s Tragic Gaza Dilemma.” A year ago, in another Journal article I compared the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Anglo-Scottish conflict which ran for almost 450 years (1296-1745).
I hope I am not being too gloomy here. I realize my perspective runs counter to the typical American attitude that there is no problem in the world without a “solution.” Yet all attempts to “solve” the Israeli-Arab dispute have made, at best, limited progress–for instance with the cold peace that prevails between Israel and Egypt and Jordan. Notwithstanding those peace accords, which are deeply unpopular with the people of Egypt and Jordan, there is little reason to think that the Arabs as a whole, and the Palestinians in particular, have accommodated themselves to Israel’s right to exist. The more common view seems to be that, yes, perhaps Israel will exist for a few more decades, maybe a century or two, but eventually it will be wiped out just as were the Crusader kingdoms established by Europeans in the Holy Land during the Middle Ages.
Given this reality, Israelis have no choice but to get on with their lives as best they can while recognizing they will have to fight a constant, low-intensity struggle against groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. The real risk for Israel is not fighting these types of wars; it is the risk of complete annihilation which is raised by Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.
I am by no means suggesting that all diplomatic efforts to ameliorate the conflict should be abandoned, but even as the West continues the “peace process” it should be aware of how little chance it has of bringing real peace anytime soon.
Yet the prospect of somehow negotiating an end to the conflict is so irresistible and alluring that of course the Obama administration will try and try and try–just like the Bush administration, whose secretary of state once claimed that it would be possible to resolve all outstanding issues by the end of 2008! Conservatives are rightly skeptical of such talk, yet even they feel compelled to put forward “solutions.”
One of the more creative contributions comes from former UN Ambassador John Bolton in today’s Washington Post. He raises an old idea: returning the Gaza Strip to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan. This has been discussed in Israel for many years, but the prospects of it actually happening are nonexistent. The Palestinians would not put up with “foreign” rule because they have developed a national identity since 1967, and Egypt and Jordan have no desire to try to take responsibility for the Palestinians and all their problems. Bolton acknowledges all these difficulties, writing that his idea would be “unpopular and difficult to implement,” but he puts it forward nonetheless.
I don’t blame him. It would be nice if there were some negotiated solution that could end the Israeli-Arab conflict and allow Israelis and Palestinians to live peacefully side by side. It troubles me to think that such a solution may not exist; I wish it did. But at some point we should acknowledge the reality, no matter how unpleasant.