The lessons of the Munich Agreement

Despite the belief that history usually repeats itself, it is worth noting that even if this truism has a measure of truth to it – history never repeats exactly past events, as every reality has its own characteristics. The Munich Agreement of the 1930s allowed the Nazis to invade Czechoslovakia and annex the Sudetenland. During this explosive time, a terrified Europe made every effort to satisfy the hungry and threatening beast, believing that providing the wild animal with partial satisfaction would ensure the future peace of the world. The popular Prime Minister of Great Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who believed with all his heart in “peace in our time”, was, in the end, the architect of surrender. His policies eventually led to immeasurable destruction across Europe and beyond. The hero of peace in the end brought on only war, and left his post a defeated man.

Today, the threat of radical Islam causes terror around the world. All attempts to appease this hungry monster which seeks to impose dark regimes based on fundamentalism and Sharia law only increase the monster’s appetite. Radical Islam creates unexpected alliances between actors such as Qatar, Turkey, and Iran, a strange alliance of Islamic and Arab countries, some of which are Sunni and some Shiite, and yet form an alliance to support and promotion of Islamic forces throughout the world.

The increasing threat of radical Islam on one hand has awakened the West as well as moderate Arab countries, which have also become the enemies of radical Islam. The political map of the region has changed beyond recognition. The Kurdish state, which was first spoken of in 1917, only to be trounced by Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria throughout the twentieth century, has suddenly become a reality that cannot be ignore. Countries like Syria and Iraq have changed their face and boundaries beyond recognition, as their governments have little legitimacy or effective power.

The Palestinian entity has become more of a global problem, in part, due to Palestinian exiles that have become a major issue in states such as Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and even the Gulf state. Under these circumstances of an increasing radical Islamic threat, it is no surprise that Israel is being pressured to pay in “a pound of flesh” through concessions, similar to those given to Germany during the Munich Agreement of 1938, to placate their claims to the Sudetenland.

Israel must now clearly draw its “red lines” beyond which it is not willing to compromise. Today, we only hear demands from Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza, as well as from Mahmoud Abbas, who conditions his taking responsibility over Gaza upon future concession from Israel in final status negotiations.

The Egyptian-mediated ceasefire without preconditions adopted Israel’s position; however, it is a tactical position, which in the long term is meaningless, as the sides will be invited to negotiate on more significant issues in the near future. Following the cease-fire the parties will be invited to negotiate, and Israel will face the demand to return to the 1967 borders and divide Jerusalem. Israel will also face the demand to fully open the Gaza crossings and allow the construction of an airport and seaport in Gaza.

There is no mention in any document of Israel’s demand to end the conflict or to be recognized as a Jewish state, despite the fact that the last month has illustrated the lack of Palestinian willingness to accept a Jewish state’s right to exist. There is no mention that the establishment of a Palestinian state will be the end of the conflict between the parties or that the Palestinian “technocratic” unity government is responsible for war crimes committed against Israel or the constant violation of ceasefires.

With unprecedented cynicism, the Palestinian Authority threatens to charge Israel for war crimes at the International Courts in The Hague, as it washes its hands of the war crimes committed by its partners in government – Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.

Moreover, the financial supporters of the Gaza war, in particular Qatar, is a threat to world peace, which is trying to dictate the agenda of future negotiations. Qatar cannot be part of the solution, as it is a significant part of the problem.

When Israel attempts to raise its own concerns at the negotiating table, based on the experience of the recent conflict with Gaza, it will surely be accused of raising new issues meant to torpedo the negotiations. The Palestinian Authority is not immune from responsibility for hostilities against Israel, as it has an indirect role in enabling the armaments used against Israeli civilians.

When we look at history, we see that the Munich agreement resulted in a bloody war, genocide, and destruction across Europe. We must ensure that the Cairo agreement shall not constitute a precedent and incentive for terror organizations to initiate a war that the world wants to prevent. However, such agreements bring this possibility closer, and bring us to the threshold of danger and violence.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center