Commentary Magazine


The Everyone-Knows Peace Process

The AP reports on a “surprising symmetry” between the U.S.-backed regime of Mahmoud Abbas (about to start the 69th month of his 48-month term) and the Iran-backed dictatorship in Gaza (h/t Seth Leibsohn):

Both governments carry out arbitrary arrests, ban rivals from travel, exclude them from civil service jobs and suppress opposition media, [Palestinian] rights groups say. Torture in both West Bank and Gaza lockups includes beatings and tying up detainees in painful positions.

Not only that, but the arc of history seems to be bending downward: “the crackdowns have become more sweeping in recent months as each aims to strengthen its grip on its respective territory.” It comes at an unfortunate time for the peace-processing industry:

With each incident, the wedge is hammered deeper and the hostility grows between the two halves of what is meant to be a future Palestine, just as the U.S. relaunches Mideast talks at the White House this week in hopes of getting an agreement within a year.

Those who threaten Israel with a one-state solution if it does not hand over land to the West Bank “president” and his unelected “prime minister” might consider that Fatah and Hamas cannot live in a single state, even with themselves. Those who believe the West Bank prime minister is building the institutions of a stable state might reflect on the fact that the regime has canceled not only two presidential elections but one for local officials as well.

Why anyone thinks a Judenrein state, with its headquarters in the capital of the Jewish one, with borders approximating the 1949 armistice line that ended the first Arab war against Israel (until the Arabs could regroup for another one), will produce peace, or why such a state should be a central goal of current U.S. foreign policy, is a bit of a mystery. In “Getting to No,” Donald L. Horowitz, professor of law and political science at Duke, has written an important analysis that challenges the conventional wisdom that “everyone knows” what a peace agreement entails and that majorities on both sides support it:

Like a strong majority of Israelis, a strong majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution, but if its boundaries are not the 1967 lines because of territorial swaps, support shrinks. If Palestinians must acknowledge the Jewish character of the Israeli state, only a bare majority agrees. If the borders are not the 1967 lines, the territory is smaller, there is recognition of the Jewish character of Israel, and Palestine must be demilitarized, approval declines by more than half to about 33 percent, according to surveys conducted by the authoritative Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

Horowitz identifies the conundrum of the everyone-knows peace process: “compromise facilitates agreement but simultaneously reduces popular support for it” — and such a “peace agreement could actually produce warfare.” The article concludes that it is a serious mistake to think that all that is needed are bridging proposals and U.S. pressure. Peace-processors, realists, and everyone else should read the article.