Right Analysis, Wrong Advice

Over at the Atlantic, Robert Kaplan gets to the heart of the problem with the Palestinians. After reading a piece by Jakub Grygiel in Policy Review, Kaplan understands that not all of the blame for the Middle East’s problems can be put on Israel.

Instead of actively seeking statehood to address their weakness, as Zionist Jews did in an earlier phase of history, groups like the Palestinians now embrace their statelessness as a source of power … But the most tempting aspect of statelessness is that it permits a people to savor the pleasures of religious zeal, extremist ideologies, and moral absolutes, without having to make the kinds of messy, mundane compromises that accompany the work of looking after a geographical space. … The Palestinians may never have a state, because at a deep psychological level, enough of them—or at least the groups that speak in their name—may not really want one. Statehood would mean openly compromising with Israel, and, because of the dictates of geography, living in an intimate political and economic relationship with it. Better the glory of victimhood, combined with the power of radical abstractions! As a stateless people, Palestinians can lob rockets into Israel, but not be wholly blamed in the eyes of the international community. Statehood would, perforce, put an end to such license.

Exactly right. But this realization does not cure Kaplan of his fixation on bullying Israel; the country which even he understands had offered Palestinians a state on a silver platter in the summer of 2000. Even though the Palestinians don’t actually want a state and, as he also acknowledges, further land given to them will be used (as Gaza has been since Israel gave it up in 2005) as a terrorist launching pad, Kaplan still wants the United States to pressure the Jewish state.

Even if Grygiel’s theory is right, the United States should apply ample pressure on the new Israeli government to compromise with the Palestinians—ratcheting up the rhetoric and slowing down arms deliveries if necessary. It should do this because it is the right thing to do, and because it will help the U.S. to reestablish credibility in the Muslim world.

But it is not the right thing to do. A more isolated and vulnerable Israel will only encourage Palestinian extremists to more violence. The only result of such a policy would be more bloodshed on both sides. Nor will it, as Barack Obama has learned during his apology world-tour, “reestablish” U.S. credibility in the Muslim world. America’s credibility rests on its willingness to loyally back its allies and restrain its enemies through strength. Abandoning an ally to terrorist attacks and asking it to make concessions to terrorist entities that have no interest in peace or statehood is unprincipled and illogical. But that’s the corner that people like Kaplan have painted themselves into on this issue.

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Right Analysis, Wrong Advice

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