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Contentions

Magical Thinking About Peace

Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute provided some incisive testimony last week to a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warning against the persistent belief that “there is a magical solution to the Israel-Palestine problem – some trick, some person, some formula that will make it all right.”

We have welcomed the return of the PLO to the West Bank and Gaza, the leadership of Yasser Arafat, the leadership of Abu Mazen, the responsible stewardship of Salam Fayyad, the participation of Hamas in elections (that worked out well), various truces and agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and more. We have rushed, serially, to worship at the feet of various Palestinians who we think can “deliver” without regard to their standing in Palestinian society or their actual accomplishments. . . .

American policy goals should be simple and straightforward: An end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict built on a stable edifice that may, but should not necessarily include a state of Palestine. A relationship with Hamas will not advance those goals, as the raison d’etre of the group is the eradication of the Jewish state. . . .

On the immediate question of aid to the Palestinians, there should be little doubt that UNRWA is central to the problem of manipulation of aid, though other NGOs are culpable as well. For decades, UNRWA has been an unapologetic advocate for Palestinian extremism and an unrelenting Israel detractor. . . . UNRWA schools foment extremism, its employees are not vetted for connections to terrorist groups, its aid has been hijacked . . . . In light of its history of failure – even when graded on pure aid and development scales – it would be wise to revisit its existence. . . .

I would like to be able to say that Abu Mazen and Salaam Fayyad represent a new Palestine, but rather they are the old Palestine that looks better only when compared to Hamas. In fact, the Palestinian scene offers little by way of political hope for the future of the Palestinian people. . . .

In the short term, we must push off the question of a solution to the Israel-Palestine problem until we find a solution to the Palestine problem. We must isolate Hamas, and help the Israelis to do so more effectively. . . . We must use the political, economic and military tools available to a great power to penalize Syria, Lebanon, Iran and others who arm and finance Hamas, and we must start any peace-building exercise at the beginning – with the understanding that the only stable peace in the Middle East rests upon a Palestine that is more concerned with jobs and education and less concerned with Zionists.

In the valuable Elliott Abrams interview that Shmuel noted yesterday, Ruthie Blum Leibowitz asked why he had been skeptical of Condoleezza Rice and Ehud Olmert’s optimism that a final-status agreement was in reach, given the conventional wisdom that both sides had long understood the outline of a deal.  Abrams responded in part as follows:

[I]t seemed to me that the opposite view was right: that if everybody knows what a deal has to look like, and year after year and decade after decade, it is not possible to reach it, isn’t it obvious that it’s because neither side wants that deal? . . . . [I]f everybody knows what the options are, and the most Israel can offer is less than the least the Palestinians can accept, the solution is not close at hand. . . .

It did not seem to me then – and it does not seem to me now – that we’re on the verge of a final-status agreement.

The Obama administration seems poised (calling Abu Mazen immediately, promptly appointing George Mitchell as negotiator, increasing Gaza aid, etc.) to push a solution. Pletka’s testimony and Abrams’s interview indicate such an effort will be not only premature but counterproductive.


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