Commentary Magazine


Don’t Confuse Him with the Facts

Bernard Kouchner is “hurt” and “shocked” by Israelis’ “vanished” desire for peace. Israelis of all political stripes would undoubtedly be equally shocked at the French foreign minister’s ignorance — and at his willingness to hurl false accusations without even a minimal effort to check his facts.

“What really hurts me, and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel,” Kouchner told France Inter radio yesterday. “There was a left that made itself heard and a real desire for peace. It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it.”

Kouchner is, of course, half right: even most Israeli leftists have stopped believing peace is possible in the foreseeable future, which is precisely why the peace movement and the political Left have largely collapsed. But that is a far cry from saying that Israelis have stopped wanting peace. The desire remains as strong as ever; it’s just that most Israelis currently see no way of fulfilling it.

Nor is it really hard to see why Israelis have stopped believing. First, every territorial concession since the 1993 Oslo Accord has produced only more terror. Palestinians killed more Israelis in the first two and a half years after Oslo than in the entire preceding decade, and in 2000-04 (the height of the second intifada), Israel’s terror-related casualties exceeded those of the entire preceding 53 years. The withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 led to the Second Lebanon War, and the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 produced daily rocket barrages on southern Israel. To most Israelis, bombs and rockets exploding in their cities don’t look much like peace.

This has been compounded by the complete lack of movement in Palestinian positions since 1993, even as Israeli leaders offered ever-increasing concessions. Israeli leaders routinely tell their people that peace will require “painful concessions.” Palestinian leaders are still telling their people that peace will enable 4.7 million descendants of Palestinian refugees to resettle in pre-1967 Israel, thus destroying the Jewish state demographically. And Israelis find it hard to believe in a peace whose price, according to their supposed “peace partner,” is Israel’s eradication.

None of this is news; a simple Web search would produce thousands of articles by Israelis explaining why they have despaired. Or if Kouchner doesn’t like the Web, he could have picked up a phone: most Israelis would probably have been happy to enlighten him.

But Kouchner couldn’t be bothered with the facts; he preferred to simply accuse Israelis of not wanting peace. Perhaps it’s his background as a human-rights activist showing: hurling accusations at Israel without checking the facts is practically de rigueur among human-rights organizations these days.

Nevertheless, one would expect better of a foreign minister. After all, he has actual responsibility for setting policy. And policy works better when it’s based on fact rather than fantasy.

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