Everyone says that they want peace in the Middle East. The Obama administration and the European Union have invested a great deal of time, energy, money, and political capital in trying to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
And yet they often take actions that sabotage their own peace efforts. President Obama’s focus on the settlements pushed the Palestinians away from the negotiating table for years. Just when the Obama Administration seems to have learned from its mistake, the European Union repeats it with new anti-settlement guidelines that can only make the Palestinians more intransigent and Israel less inclined to make painful compromises.
How can these parties continuously sabotage their own stated goals, time after time? Unless peace, at least as we would define the word, is not their goal.
Let us define peace simply as the end of the conflict. That is what peace treaties have historically entailed. It is admittedly setting the bar low, as such a definition does not entail living in coexistence. But under this definition peace has been achieved between Israel and several of its former enemies, Egypt and Jordan. A cold peace without conflict is better than continued violence and death and can eventually become something more.
To be fair to the aforementioned outside parties that are trying to impose and create peace between Israel and the Palestinians, peace is a goal of theirs, both stated and intended. But it seems that it is often not their main goal.
The problem begins with what has become an international obsession with the Two-State Solution. The belief that two states for two peoples is the best way to achieve peace has given way to the dogma it is synonymous with peace. Israel already has a state, therefore all that is needed for peace is a Palestinian state. The conclusion these actors reach is that a Palestinian state equals peace.
The flaws in this ‘logic’ are obvious. Peace is peace. A state is a state. They are not in any way synonymous. The existence of a state is no guarantee of any sort of peace. The bloodiest wars in history have been waged between states.
It is this lapse in logic that has led to the unhealthy obsession with the settlements on the part of the Obama administration and the EU, and to their willingness to let the Palestinian side of the conflict get away with everything from racist incitement to murderous violence even as they blast Jews building houses in their own capital. The speedy creation of a Palestinian state has become more important to them than actually ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
‘Who cares,’ they think, ‘whether the Palestinians are still divided between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Who cares if Abbas is currently in the ninth year of his four year term in office? Who cares if anti-Semitic incitement is endemic in Palestinian society or if Abbas openly claims he means to emulate the many expulsions of Jews from Western European nations in medieval times? Who cares if violent attacks on Jews with the intention to intimidate and even murder continue? We have to have a Palestinian state as quickly as possible.’
As long as the ‘honest brokers’ equate the means with the ends, as long as they act as if they value a Palestinian state more than they value actual peace, they cannot hope to foster the creation of peace.