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No Peace in Sight

Lee Smith’s latest column should be read by all those who are fixated on a two-state solution. In his conversation with Dore Gold and his review of Israel’s Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace (“essays about security and diplomacy by leading figures in Israel’s security establishment”), Smith provides some useful context for those obsessed with the “peace process”:

[E]veryone in Washington who believes that they know what Israel’s vision of a final settlement looks like is in for a surprise. Israel will have to retain security control over the Jordan rift valley, which means not just the river bank but the eastern slopes of the West Bank hill ridge. It is important to remember that the West Bank overlooks Israel’s coastal plain and 70 percent of the country’s population. If the Hamas rockets fired from Gaza were launched from the West Bank on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, it could bring Israel to its knees, disrupting the country’s economic and social life on a massive scale and shutting down Ben Gurion Airport. Moreover, Islamist militants from all around the region would attempt to transit through Jordan into the West Bank to launch attacks against the Zionist entity, destabilizing the Hashemite Kingdom.

To sum up, there is no peace partner for Israel to negotiate with and no territorial compromise that is currently feasible. But the Obami push on, oblivious to all of that — or perhaps intentionally filling the time as they fail to craft an approach that could thwart Iran’s nuclear program. But Smith finds a silver lining in the Obami’s cluelessness:

There is no going back to Oslo, no matter what the Obama Administration believes or hopes. Perhaps the only thing saving Netanyahu from having to fight with a U.S. president and thereby unnerve the Israeli electorate is the incompetence of the White House. Had Obama not pushed Netanyahu so hard on settlements, twice, he wouldn’t have pushed Mahmoud Abbas into a corner where it was impossible for the Palestinian president to be less intransigent than the United States, thus freezing the diplomatic process.

The paradox of the U.S. president’s sympathy for the Palestinian cause and lack of sympathy for Israeli territorial and security claims is that he has managed to fulfill the dreams of hard-liners on both sides and turn back the clock 20 years to before the ill-fated Oslo process even began. For the first time in two decades, the Palestinians and Israelis are not in direct negotiations. A final Palestinian-Israeli agreement couldn’t be further away, which means that Netanyahu can smile for the cameras and shake the president’s hand and breathe easily, now that he doesn’t have to explain that a peace deal, if it happens, won’t look like what everyone in Washington thinks it will.

We can understand the incompetence and utter unseriousness of the Obama team, but what is the excuse for Jewish groups? They mouth the same platitudes without answering the central dilemma: how is there to be peace with those who have not renounced terrorism, and why is “land for peace” still a viable approach? In some sense, Jewish groups are trapped in a paradigm that was central to their organizations’ missions for decades. The world has changed, the president is a change (from anyone who has previously occupied the Oval Office), and yet America Jewry is stuck in the Oslo time warp, championing a two-state solution that is not remotely attainable.

It is not only the administration that has to rethink its entire approach to Israel, but American Jewry as well. It’s time, I would suggest, to concentrate on what matters: preventing a nuclear Iran, enforcing UN resolution 1701 (regarding Lebanon), continuing support for economic development on the West Bank, and beating back attempts to delegitimize the Jewish state. As for the “peace process,” American Jewish leaders should stop pretending there’s any there there. And if they think there is, American Jewry needs savvier leaders.


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