Commentary Magazine

The End of the Peace Process

The Palestinian victory at the United Nations on November 29 was timed to bring the world body full circle from its vote on that same date in 1947 that had called for the creation of Jewish and Arab states in what was then the Mandate for Palestine. But in voting to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to a nonvoting observer, the UN put its seal of approval on an effort to evade peace negotiations and allowed the Palestinians to act as if they had won an independent state in all of the territory Israel captured during the Six-Day War in 1967. The Oslo Accords of 1993 specifically forbid the parties to go outside the framework of talks to change the status of the dispute—but that is exactly what the Palestinians have done by going to the UN. The measure (which only eight nations joined Israel in opposing) put a semi-official end to the “peace process.”

That most of the world thinks nothing of this violation of the accords and chooses to blame Israel for the Palestinian betrayal of their pledge says everything there is to say about the Jewish state’s increasing isolation. Though the move gives the Palestinians the ability to annoy Israel in some international forums, the real problem is the false belief that only the Palestinians have rights to all of the land—including Jerusalem—covered by Resolution 242, which concluded the 1967 war. More than anything else, that is the most insidious aspect of the UN circus.

The Definition of a Bee Sting
The UN vote came in the wake of an Israeli counteroffensive against Hamas missile strikes on southern Israel. An exchange of fire across the border started by Hamas led to a massive barrage of missiles from the terrorist group that sent more than a million Israeli civilians fleeing to bomb shelters for several days. Israel responded with the assassination of the head of Hamas’s “military” wing and a determined campaign to take out the long-range missiles the group had acquired from Iran, some of which were fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Israel took its usual care to target the terrorists and not the non-combatants or schools and hospitals around which the terrorists hide. But by the time the fighting came to an end, there were still more Palestinian than Israeli casualties. This led to the usual chorus of unfair criticism of Israel for using “disproportionate” force. One such critic, the ombudsman of the Washington Post, defended the paper’s decision to highlight Arab casualties while giving relatively short shrift to the fatalities and wounds suffered by Israel. According to Patrick Pexton, the several hundred rockets fired on Israel were a mere “bee sting” when compared with the lethal force Israel used. And so Israelis were blamed for not allowing themselves to be killed in sufficient numbers to satisfy the blood lust of their enemies.

The Empathy Factor
During the course of Israel’s campaign to suppress Hamas’s rocket fire, the Obama administration supported Israel’s right of self-defense and neither criticized its targeting of Hamas leaders and weapons nor pressured it to stop fighting before the objectives of the Israel Defense Forces were achieved. The United States also stuck loyally by Israel during the UN debate. However, in the aftermath of these incidents, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reminded the country why so many people still worry about the future of the U.S.-Israel alliance. While condemning a decision to allow building in the E1 area (connecting Jerusalem to a Jewish suburb on land captured in 1967 that would remain inside Israel even if Jerusalem were divided in a peace deal), Clinton accused Israelis of lacking “empathy” and “generosity.”

That Israel continued to ship food and medicine into Gaza every day while Hamas shot missiles across the border isn’t enough to give the Jewish state credit for generosity or empathy. Nor are 20 years of peace deals mandating Israeli concessions and territorial withdrawals, in exchange for which Israel has received only terror.

The Brotherhood Delusion 
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was praised by the Obama administration for his role in brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, even though his support for the terrorists is what emboldened them to start the fighting in the first place. Morsi then repaid Washington for this praise by assuming dictatorial powers. It is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood is determined to seize absolute control in Egypt. It is equally clear that the administration has no intention of holding this recipient of massive U.S. aid accountable for its behavior. While Americans remain focused on the investigation of the murders of Americans in Benghazi, the White House has decided to accept the Muslim Brotherhood and to stick by it despite its betrayal of the hopes of the Arab Spring. The delusion that the United States can do business with the Brotherhood has already led to the strengthening of Hamas. Unless the policy is changed, more bloodshed will follow.

Blocking Tougher Sanctions
President Obama continues to insist that he will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon on his watch. But the continued reliance on sanctions and diplomacy to achieve that aim makes it questionable whether he can keep that pledge. Even more worrisome are the signals that the White House is preparing to block the efforts of Congress to tighten up the sanctions and remove some of the exemptions that have enabled the Iranian economy to go on functioning. Though the Iranian people have suffered under the sanctions, their Islamist government is unmoved and determined to push on until it reaches its nuclear goal. If the mullahs are to be stopped by measures short of war, then the loopholes of the sanctions will need to be closed. If the administration successfully guts new ones, it will be difficult to argue that the president has any intention of ever taking action on the issue.

About the Author

Jonathan Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY.

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