Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Re: George Mitchell Gets It Wrong

Max, your view that a renewed peace process is premature as long as Hamas and Hezbollah have not been beaten is supported in a comment by Philip Carl Salzman at Middle East Strategy at Harvard.

Salzman argues that deterrence is a prerequisite for any negotiation and that Israel’s experience in the West Bank demonstrates that “[c]onquering attackers is the most robust peace process.”  But in both Lebanon and Gaza, the “international community” has prevented a similar result:

While condemnation is never heard against Arab invasions and terrorist campaigns against Israel, whenever Israel strikes back the “international community” demands it cease, giving commitments for guarding the peace which are never fulfilled. So the options available for Israel are either “weak and failing victim” or “cruel conqueror.” I would suggest that the latter is preferable, and that surrounding adversaries will be more reticent in attacking the “cruel conqueror” than the “weak and failing victim.”

Unfortunately, there is a third category:  weak and failing conqueror.  It is a country that prosecutes a war against those who attack it, but is forced by the “international community” to withdraw before a definitive conclusion, leaving the surrounding adversaries in place and relying instead on a UN resolution (as in Lebanon) or a “memorandum of understanding” (as in Gaza) that reads like a UN resolution.

The problem will only be compounded by premature “engagement” by the Obama administration, operating on a misconceived view that the obstacle to peace was the alleged “disengagement” of the Bush administration.

There is a certain hubris in thinking that, after the failures of Bill Clinton and George Bush, the solution is a new “engaged” president, or that a special envoy whose success in Ireland depended on the defeat of the IRA can succeed where Hamas and Hezbollah remain not only undefeated, but effectively protected by both the Arab League and the “international community.”


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