Tom Friedman’s editorial in today’s New York Times has abundant errors.
It seems to be a piece more about Secretary of State John Kerry’s so-called original last-ditch effort to cement an Israeli/Palestinian peace agreement. Kerry’s effort is far from original. There hasn’t been an American government official—be it an ambassador, president, vice-president, secretary of state or any other political pundit or elected official who has not, at one time or another, proposed similar solutions. Freidman claims that “Kerry is daring to test a question that everyone has wanted to avoid…” In Friedman’s words, “Is it five minutes to midnight or five minutes after midnight or even 1AM” which signifies beyond diplomacy?
Everyone involved in trying to come to a mutual conclusion to the conflict has always dealt with the same dilemma when listing concessions from either side. And, those concessions have always focused, among other points, on the continued constructions of Israeli settlements, several Intifadas where both sides have suffered inhumane losses, or simply a division in political thinking in the Knesset (hawks versus doves) or a fight to the death between El Fatah and Hamas who has successfully taken over Gaza. Frankly, any effort to effect any kind of conciliation between the Palestinians and Israelis has always been a last ditch effort that has always ended in failure.
With all due respect to Secretary Kerry and his courage to once again define the terms that could possibly begin negotiations, he has not come up with anything particularly innovative. And, with all due respect to Tom Friedman, he is correct in writing that at this point, given Israel’s military power and the Palestinian’s fragmented leadership, he fears that it could be way past 1AM.
When Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin was alive and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was alive, they actually shook hands, albeit reluctantly, supposedly coming to an agreement to agree, and that pre-agreement went south in the time it took for Hamas to rear its ugly head and belittle the El Fatah “collaborators,” for even “settling” for anything less than wiping Israel off the map, as quickly as it took Prime Minister Netanyahu, then a right-wing candidate before Rabin was assassinated, to have his minions hold up placards of Rabin in a Nazi uniform.
Mr. Friedman writes about “core concessions” that would be the basis for any agreement—Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank based on the 1967 lines before the Six Day War, making East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian State, and of course forcing the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people.” Kerry’s plan even reiterates what has been proposed countless times before, that any agreement would not include the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to return to their homes which have either been razed or are now inhabited by Israeli families.
When I began to cover the Middle East back in the 1980s, I remember the keys. So many Palestinians that I interviewed or simply befriended and talked to presented the keys to their former homes as proof that they had once lived on a certain street within the 1967 borders or throughout the West Bank. It was a touching but pathetically useless gesture to ignore all the changes that occurred throughout the world and all the violence that took place in the region and that was ultimately exported to Europe. The only tangible surviving proof of ownership were those keys and the locks had long been changed.
There is no doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu realizes intellectually how crucial it is to have a two-state solution but pragmatically and emotionally, I believe he also realizes that it is impossible for Israel to trust that withdrawing from certain strategic depths by relinquishing land will result in suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks instigated perhaps not by El Fatah but certainly by the more radical Hamas. And, while it is probably correct that the Palestinians can no longer launch a successful Intifada, those uprisings are history and were only one form of rebellion the Palestinians launched against Israel. There were many more that took different forms and that were as bloody and in the end, unsuccessful.
There is also no doubt that Mahmoud Abbas also recognizes intellectually that a two-state solution is economically and emotionally best for his people. Unfortunately, he inherited a job formerly held by Yasser Arafat who never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. And, while Arafat was desperately trying to satisfy the sane and the insane within his people, the insane Hamas gained enormous power and support from other rogue Arab nations.
It was a losing battle for both sides of the conflict and that has not changed.
This entire conflict is not a question of negotiation or finding the perfect formula or even an imperfect formula to satisfy each side of the Green Line. This is a question of fear and anger on one side and hatred and resentment on the other. And, the tragedy is that that fear, anger, hatred, and resentment is in the DNA of a majority of Palestinians and Israelis both, handed down as a result of nurture as well as nature in equal amounts from generation to generation.
I commend Secretary Kerry for trying to leave the beleaguered President Obama with a positive legacy.
I commend Tom Friedman for watching the clock.
The problem is that the gilded coach has been a pumpkin for far too long, and Cinderella has resumed her housekeeping chores. Any other ending is pure fantasy which is why Cinderella is called a fairy tale.
The tragedy is that there will never be a civilized peace accord between the Israelis and Palestinians, which gets back to the thinking of their late leader, Mr. Arafat. He was successful in one way. He instilled in his people to live by his philosophy to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. As for the Israelis, trust has become a four letter word.