As the fighting continues in Gaza, the usual cast of foreign leaders and talking heads are evaluating the peace fallout–that is, the question of how Israel’s incursion into Gaza will affect Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects. Indeed, there seems to be an unwritten law on Israeli-Palestinian discourse: every diplomatic statement and cable news segment on the conflict must reference the constant illusion of elusive peace at least once, however awkwardly.
In this vein, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has undertaken a “freelance” peace mission, which apparently means gunning for the number-of-Middle-East-leaders-met-in-their-respective-capitals-in-a-three-day-period world record. (Don’t be too optimistic regarding Sarkozy’s chances: longtime CONTENTIONS readers will recall that Sarkozy previously failed in his attempt to tie the all-time Middle East Money Shot record.) Meanwhile, British-lord-child-turned-Israeli-official-turned-American-leftist-bloviator Daniel Levy insists that the incoming Obama administration inject “bold ideas”–such as the not-so-bold 2002 Saudi peace proposal–once a truce is secured in Gaza. And Cold-War-hawk-turned-War-on-Terror-dove Zbigniew Brzezinski contends that Israel’s attack on Gaza has undermined governments that are “helpful to the peace process”–such as Jordan and Egypt (?!)–thus requiring Obama’s foreign policy team to “engage seriously” in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Somehow lost in this chatter, however, is the possibility that the current fighting in Gaza has no consequence for Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects whatsoever. Indeed, no matter how many times the word “peace” is bandied about, an Israeli-Hamas truce will not lend itself to reinvigorated Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations; nor will it provide a new opening for rehashing old paradigms for long-term peace promotion (including “serious engagement,” whatever that means).
Rather, so long as Israel pursues its limited goal of stemming rocket firings, the end of conflict in Gaza will yield a continuation of the Israeli-Hamas stalemate that has existed since June 2007. Of course, if Israel is successful, life will be more bearable for Israelis and Palestinians alike: Israelis won’t live in fear of regular Qassam attacks, and Palestinians will have no reason to anticipate future Israeli incursions. But so long as Hamas retains political power, there can be no reasonable expectations for peace: Hamas’s opposition to negotiating with Israel remains as unshakable as ever, and even its former offer of a ten-year truce appears totally empty. (Chalk up another diplomatic failure for Jimmy Carter.)
In short, no matter the outcome of the current fighting in Gaza, Israeli-Palestinian peace remains a hopeless enterprise. A glimmer of hope will only emerge if Hamas loses unambiguously, leading Palestinian voters to turn on it in the 2010 parliamentary elections. In turn, if talking heads and diplomats insist on peace process optimism, they should be rooting for a swift and decisive Israeli victory: any other outcome would ensure the perceptual success of Palestinian rejectionism, thus making future rounds of deadly Israeli-Palestinian fighting inevitable.