May 6, 2002

YOU GOTTA KNOW WHEN TO HOLD 'EM :

Peace processes (Thomas Sowell, 5/05/02, Washington Times)
If Middle East negotiations - endlessly described as "the peace process" - actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be one of the most peaceful places on Earth. Nowhere have there been more negotiations, more countries involved, more agreements made (and broken) or more photo ops.

When will peace come to the Middle East? When neither side has anything more to gain by war. That is when peace comes everywhere.

The Israelis have already reached that point, judging by their willingness to make large concessions to Yasser Arafat two years ago. But Mr. Arafat obviously has not, given his rejection of those concessions, which most observers considered extraordinary.


As we've argued here before, by the time two parties sit down to negotiate peace, one side has already lost simply by sitting down. When the Afrikaaners sat down with the ANC, white rule was doomed. When the IRA sat down with the Unionists and the Brits, it marked the de facto end of its terror campaign and of its aspirations for taking over Northern Ireland. And when Israel sat down with the Palestinians, beginning in Oslo, it had in effect conceded that the creation of a Palestinian state was inevitable. But, perhaps not surprisingly, this concession proved inadequate. Having already gotten that far, the Palestinians decided they might as well hold out for more, and they got it in the almost suicidally generous offer that Ehud Barak made, but, since they kept winning concessions without making any, the Palestinians figured they may as well keep making demands. But this proved too much for even the Israeli Left to accept and so the best offer the Palestinians were ever going to get was withdrawn, and now they will have to eventually settle for little more than what they already have.

At this point, the next serious negotiation between the parties will only come when the Palestinians accept that they have all, or most, of the territory they're ever going to get from Israel and determine that their economic development is more important to them than their demand for 100% of the territory they desire. But that moment does not appear to be imminent (it could in fact be several decades away) and so peace negotiations are an exercise in the absurd. Rather than engage in this pointless bit of kabuki theater, Israel, as it should have done several years ago, must simply dictate the situation : declare the existence of a Palestinian state; announce what that state's borders are; and explain that if they want more land they'll have to take it in the traditional manner, through warfare between sovereign states. The U.S. will promptly recognize the newly minted Palestinian state and Arafat will be put in the uncomfortable position of having to either accept it or explain why he doesn't want an independent nation, however circumscribed its borders.

This might be called the Two Koreas solution, and like the situation that has obtained on the Korean Peninsula for the last fifty years (where no peace treaty was signed officially ending the Korean War), it would be tense and unsatisfactory, but it might ultimately work. It might provide an interval of relative, though heavily armed and frequently violated, peace during which the contrast between Israeli economic growth and Palestinian economic decline would demonstrate to the Palestinian people that they would be better served by admitting the inferiority of their system and moving toward a Western model, at which point a genuine peace and some degree of integration with even a historically hostile neighbor might prove possible.

(via Mike Daley)

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 6, 2002 8:27 AM
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