This week, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, threw in the towel on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It was a kind of “a plague on both your houses” statement, saying he has more important things to deal with in the Ukraine and elsewhere.
Personally, with the temporary exit of Kerry and Obama from the “peace talks” game, I think the chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace have just gone exponentially up.
The trouble with the American/European approach is that it’s historically blind. Sure, all these players are smart and have read all the “right” books. But that’s the problem. Along with the Tzipi Livnis of this world and the J Street crowd, they’re all too smart by half.
The Israeli-Palestinian problem is actually very simple — not the solution, mind you, but the identification of the problem. The Americans themselves touched on it when they were blaming Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, for the failure of the talks. One of Netanyahu’s key sins, according to the Americans, was to insist on recognition from the Palestinians of Israel as a “Jewish State”. According to Kerry and company, Netanyahu was essentially asking Mahmud Abbas, Abu Mazen to his friends, to buy into the “Zionist narrative”. This, according to the Americans, Abbas can’t do.
And therein lies the problem. Abu Mazen does not buy into the “Zionist narrative.” In fact, neither does U.S. President Obama, nor some of his Jewish advisors who are trying to “save Israel from itself.” Don’t get me wrong, all these people visit Israel, some of their best friends are Israelis and America has a long-standing strategic relationship with Israel. But the fact is that many of the people now handling American foreign policy, and many of the big players in the international media, don’t buy into the “Zionist narrative.” And what is that narrative?
The “Zionist narrative,” first articulated in political terms by Theodor Herzl in his book “Old New Land” (1902), basically states that Jews are not simply a religious community, but a “people” and that they have a fundamental right to have a “Jewish State” in their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.
That’s basically it.
The Arabs rejected this “Zionist narrative” and they have done everything in their power over the last 100 years to continue to reject it. Before WWII, they initiated pogroms in places like Hebron, during WWII, their leaders allied themselves with Nazi Germany and in 1948, after the U.N. partition of British Mandate Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state, five Arab armies invaded the newborn state of Israel.
Since then, after repeated defeats on the battlefield, various Arab leaders have tried a variety of political and media offensives to bring the Zionist state to its knees. Sometimes these tactics have involved terror, as in the 1st and 2nd Intifada, and sometimes they involved “diplomacy”, as in the latest round of “peace talks.” Many PhD theses have been written about every facet of this conflict. But there is a simple fact that you don’t need a PhD to understand. What all the Palestinian and Arab initiatives have in common is the total rejection of the “Zionist narrative.” According to the “Arab narrative,” the Jews are not a people but a religion. The Israelis are European colonialists who are not indigenous to the land of Israel.
So here’s the scoop Secretary Kerry: you never should’ve wasted valuable American time going into details of land swaps, subsidies and security arrangements. All that is meaningless until the two parties to the negotiations basically accept each other’s “narratives”. The Israelis have done that officially. Even though the Palestinian “people” are an invention, rejected by most Palestinians (e.g., Hamas, who are fighting for a pan world Islamic Republic and see all “states” as illegitimate Western inventions), the Prime Minister of Israel has accepted the idea of a Palestinian “people” that deserves its “own state” in the historic land of Israel.
Until a leader of the Palestinians says that he accepts the Jews as a “people”, who deserve their “own state” in the former British Mandate of Palestine, there will be no peace and all negotiations are a smoke screen for war by other means.
So here’s my message to Secretary Kerry and President Obama: Netanyahu’s insistence on Abbas accepting the “Zionist narrative” did not torpedo the talks, they saved them. They brought the negotiations down to basics — recognize each other’s legitimacy or step away from the table.
If America’s really interested in peace, maybe it should be focusing on keeping Iran from getting nuclear weapons. The Iranians don’t accept the “Zionist narrative” or the “American narrative”, for that matter. Once armed with nuclear weapons they will make 9-11 look like a Sunday morning picnic.