July 18, 2007

Long live the peace process

By Noah Pollak

President Bush's speech Monday about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reminded me of an old joke: A physicist, a chemist, and an economist are stranded on an island with nothing to eat, and a can of soup washes ashore. The physicist says, "Let’s smash the can open with a rock." The chemist says, "Let’s build a fire and heat the can first." And the economist says, "Assume a can opener."

The Bush administration, along with most of those who have been involved in promoting Palestinian statehood, have been assuming a peace process since Israel won the Intifada, Yasser Arafat died, and Mahmoud Abbas became the PA president. But the fundamental characteristic of the post-Intifada era is the peace process’s otherworldliness, its detachment from facts on the ground, its salience among internationalists, journalists, and diplomats, but not among the people of Gaza or the West Bank. This era has been for the Palestinians one of settling into a new reality -- one that has meant, for example, that the profound cultural and religious differences between the Arabs of Gaza and of the West Bank have at last imposed themselves as political realities. And this settling in has meant that the Palestinian territories are joining many other areas of the Middle East in being weak states, tribal regions where government authority is weak, corrupt, and disorganized, and the political leaders that westerners would like to work with have disturbingly little control over the factions within their territory. Palestinian nationalism and the Fatah mafia have never been weaker.

And so President Bush announced Monday that "First, we are strengthening our financial commitment." And second, "we're strengthening our political and diplomatic commitment" and "strengthening our commitment to helping build the institutions of a Palestinian state." Bush continued, declaring that in order for a state to emerge, Palestinians

must match their words denouncing terror with action to combat terror. The Palestinian government must arrest terrorists, dismantle their infrastructure, and confiscate illegal weapons -- as the road map requires. They must work to stop attacks on Israel, and to free the Israeli soldier held hostage by extremists. And they must enforce the law without corruption, so they can earn the trust of their people, and of the world. Taking these steps will enable the Palestinians to have a state of their own. And there's only way to end the conflict, and nothing less is acceptable.

This is a high bar, and given the track record of the kind of Palestinian governance that the world has witnessed since Yasser Arafat returned from exile in 1994, a preposterously, impossibly high bar. It is doubtful that President Bush or all but a few incredibly credulous people in his government believe that today, after what happened in Gaza last month, hundreds of millions more in aid money, or yet another international conference, will midwife a Palestinian state. Democratic nations are built from the inside out by single-minded, ambitious leaders working on behalf of a population that has internalized not just nationalist cultural beliefs, but the requirements of consensus-based majoritarian politics. Those characteristics have been evident among Palestinians in only the most desultory manner.

Thus it is difficult to believe that the administration's latest maneuvers and declarations are earnestly directed at state-building. They are necessary and expedient because they satisfy important diplomatic constituencies, will help America in its other Middle East projects, and represent a general continuation of American policy toward the Palestinians that Bush declared in his Rose Garden speech in June 2002. American goals since Hamas took Gaza must necessarily be modest, and directed at a new bottom line for the West Bank, a bottom line that America, Israel, Jordan, and even most Palestinians have a shared interest in protecting. And that is to prevent what happened in Gaza from happening in the West Bank, to ensure that Hamas' ambition, fueled by Iranian money and leadership, finds no foothold in a geographic area that is more populous than Gaza and much more difficult for Israel -- and Jordan -- to contain.

And so the money and political attention that the world promises will come rushing into the West Bank are not likely to bring us any closer to a Palestinian state, but they might help the Abbas government consolidate its power: Salaries will be paid, militias will be armed, jobs will be created, and patronage networks will be built. All of this will hopefully be sufficient to prevent the West Bank from sliding toward complete internal collapse, toward Islamism, or both. In this way Fatah and the West Bank may be kept, in some kind of messy and largely unproductive manner, in the western diplomatic orbit. The peace process is dead. Long live the peace process.

Posted by Noah Pollak at July 18, 2007 01:32 PM


And setting the bar high on one end, while undercutting the more deleterious actions of Hamas and other factions on the lower end, is precisely what needs to be done. Presently and in any immediately foreseeable future, it can only be a process, not a state. Hence Pres. Bush is setting almost precisely the right framework and guidelines, as judged by the speech Monday.

As to setting the goal of a two state "solution," that too is a process of diplomacy, statecraft and setting the necessary framework and guidelines. If the Arab refugees aka Palestinians, along with their Arab and Persian Muslim sponsors and "allies" begin to head in the right direction, well and good. If they don't, that will be their choice. It reminds, by analogy, of Reagan's Star Wars bluff, which in retrospect I suspect was more bluff than actual intention. Regardless though, I see Monday's speech as setting the right guidelines and standards, providing the right framework, despite some potential quibbles.

Posted by: Michael B at July 18, 2007 02:03 PM

By contrast with Pres. Bush's speech, note how the MSM fails to frame the conflict within minimal standards, much less higher standards (setting the bar high). The example highlighted in Normblog's post refers to the broader conflict against Islamofascism, Islamobolshevism or whatever label might be applied, but that's the same conflict Israel is facing, albeit across the broader panorama, the global scenario, vs. a more local scale as reflected in Israel specifically.

Posted by: Michael B at July 18, 2007 02:13 PM

Can you expand on the cultural and religious differences between the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank? Are they recent, or pre-1948?

Posted by: Joe in Australia at July 18, 2007 05:14 PM

Joe in Oz: Can you expand on the cultural and religious differences between the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank? Are they recent, or pre-1948?

YES! The ones in Gaza are EGYPTIANS. The ones in the "West Bank" are JORDANIANS. There is NO such thing as a "Palestinian."

(Just figured I'd spare someone the trouble of writing something to that effect).

Posted by: Edgar at July 18, 2007 05:34 PM

edgar is exactly right.

as to the "peace process", it is really a war process.

those who think that iran, hamas, hezbollah and aq will sit idly by letting abbas consolidate power and patronage, and stuff enough jizya in fatah's bank accounts have another thing coming.
and neither will the saudis and eu, who are pushing for reconciliation.

in the meantime abbas will ask for more and more concessions and either rice, blair and olmert will acceed, or they will have an impasse. now, which way do you think they'll choose?

Posted by: fp at July 18, 2007 06:23 PM

Good piece:


Posted by: fp at July 18, 2007 10:07 PM

Hamas: Rajoub Instead Of Dahlan As Palestinian Security Advisor

Palestinian sources have said that Hamas is demanding that Jibril Rajoub be appointed Palestinian national security advisor instead of Muhammad Dahlan, and that Hamas had agreed to hand over security apparatus headquarters to him.

The Hamas demand, which was submitted to the Arab countries, is aimed at finding a way out of the internal Palestinian crisis.

Souce: Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, July 18, 2007

Haniya Agrees To Private Oversight Of Gaza Crossings

Former Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya has expressed his agreement to representatives from the private Palestinian sector being in charge of the crossings into and out of the Gaza Strip.

Haniya aide Ahmad Yousef added that "the Haniya government" would welcome any international element that wished to take over supervision of the crossings.

Source: Al-Quds, Jerusalem; Al-Hayat, London, July 18, 2007

Fath Al-Islam Detainee Acknowledges Links With Syrians

The most senior Fath Al-Islam detainee, Ahmad Mar'i, has acknowledged connections with the Syrian intelligence apparatus, as well as planning attacks in Lebanon.

Among the targets of the attacks were tunnels, judicial system institutions, military camps, U.N. headquarters in Beirut, tourism sites, hotels, and UNIFIL bases in southern Lebanon.

Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, July 18, 2007

Posted by: fp at July 18, 2007 10:37 PM

Congratulations, Noah. At last somebody write these thing in English, instead of all the usual peace- mantras.
I recommend you and anybody else that reads hebrew to read Guy Bechor's article about Bush's actions in the ME here: http://www.gplanet.co.il/prodetailsamewin.asp?pro_id=425
Peace process indeed! I'm asking myself, when will we start giving Fath guns again, as part of "creating positive atmosphere"?

Posted by: yonatan at July 19, 2007 12:31 AM

The fascinating thing about 'Egyptian Palestinians' and 'Jordanian Palestinians' is how hard the governments of Egypt and Jordan work to keep the "Palestinians" out of Egypt and Jordan.

Noah makes a good point: there is no peace process in the Middle East. From the many failed prior efforts, everyone has learned to pose for pictures, issue sound bites, nod with solemn concern, and appeal to future historians rather than deal with present realities. Those realities include two distinct religions, two distinct and mutually antogonistic sociologies (rights/guilt versus honor/shame), and two distinct world-views (libertarian versus determinst) attempting to live on the same small piece of land at the same time.

Smile for the cameras, issue still another 'plan,' have another 'conference': nothing is going to happen, because polarity is endemic between the two distinct cultures.

Posted by: a Duoist at July 19, 2007 02:48 AM

Yonatan, Guy Bekhor compares Bush to Mr Toad in a children's book, to Mr Toad who puffs himself up and thinks he's very important. Unfortunately, our prime minister, the most hated and loathed prime minister since 1948, helped Bush to project his illusions. Shortly after Hamas defeated Fatah in Gaza, olmert said that this Hamas victory presented "an opportunity." Of course, olmert wittingly disregards the loathing for him because he's surrounded not by toads, but by toadies. Olmert collaborates in Bush's illusions. When are we going to get rid of this cheap crook??? עד מתי

Posted by: Eliyahu at July 19, 2007 06:05 AM

it's been quite clear for a long while that the political structure of israel allows political parties to stay in power even when they have 0 support. this is a major flaw which has usually had minor effects, but is now responsible for endangering the existence of the state.

the system has reached this point with the first major leadership crisis. the WHOLE current leadership is incompetent and quite corrupt, yet the system allows them to stay in power. olmert is doing everything that lieberman stands for, yet you barely hear a peep out of him. he's just happy he's a minister.

the israelis accept it, so there's a public crisis too. the country is in disarray.

that's why the notion that the pals should give up violence is absurd. why should they when the arafat strategy is finally paying off big time?

Posted by: fp at July 19, 2007 09:47 AM

correction: olmert is doing everything lieberman stands against...

Posted by: fp at July 19, 2007 09:49 AM

The UN claims that Gaza is on the verge of economic collapse. Not totally. The military industry is flourishing.

"IDF: Hamas is smuggling high-tech arms into Gaza" by Amos Harel for Haaretz:

A senior Israel Defense Forces officer said Thursday that in the past two years Hamas has made a significant leap in the level of sophistication of the arms it is smuggling into Gaza, which he said has reached "import" dimensions.

The officer said Hamas has been able to smuggle in large quant primarily because the border with Egypt has been completely porous following the militant group's takeover of the Gaza Strip.

According to the officer, Hamas recently smuggled 20 tons of explosives into the Gaza Strip in the span of one month. The IDF believes Hamas now possesses a small quantity of anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank rockets, which are most likely Sagger guided missiles.

While this is going on; Israel is being pressured to open the border crossings. If Hamas is so adept at smuggling, let them smuggle food as well.

--jihad watch
Israel has not yet even released the Palestinian terrorists and already, the Fatah promises are ringing false. Why delay the inevitable? "Palestinian military wings fire projectile and mortar shells at Israeli targets in Gaza" from Ma’an News Agency:

Gaza - Ma'an - Fatah's military wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, and Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility on Wednesday evening for launching two homemade projectiles at the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.

In a separate incident, the Al-Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility for launching two mortar shells at an Israeli military post near Nahal 'Oz, located east of Gaza City.

The brigades said in their statements that their operations came in retaliation for the Israeli "criminal acts" against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israel PM Olmert has just offered amnesty to nearly 200 hundred al-Aqsa terrorists. This is their thank you bouquet.

The amnesty was contingent on the terrorists laying down their weapons. That too, is apparently not happening. "Not all gunmen give up weapons in amnesty deal" by Ali Waked for Ynet:

Some members of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades refuse to disarm, despite PA deal with Israel for Palestinians not in official security forces to hand over weapons in exchange for being taken off IDF wanted list.

Israel has decided to halt negotiations to expand a list of wanted Fatah operatives eligible for amnesty, after number of members from al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades – Fatah's military wing – refused to sign a document renouncing terror activities, Palestinian sources said Thursday.
No disarming and no renouncement of terror are clear violations of the terms of the agreement. The ramifications of this violation are absurd. Israel won’t offer amnesty to more terrorists. The prisoners will still be released and amnesty will still be offered to many.

Whose side is Olmert on?

--dhimmi watch

Posted by: fp at July 19, 2007 09:54 AM

Here's the "peace process" at its best -- contrast this:


with this:


Posted by: fp at July 19, 2007 10:52 AM


Palestinians should be taking care of their own sick and injured. All Israel's charity will do is permit Hamas/Fatah/Insert-terrorist-group-here to run the place to the ground without being affected by the consequences.

Posted by: Jock Itch at July 19, 2007 11:28 AM


you're telling me? you're preaching to the choir.

my point was that if israel is not gonna be appreciated for its charity, it might as well not behave suicidally as it does.

the problem is that they are so desperate for peace that all they're doing is guarantee war in horrific circumstances. because such charity is interpreted in the arab world as weakness which invites pounding.

Posted by: fp at July 19, 2007 11:41 AM

I think that the long term plan is for Israel to "force" Egypt to take care of Gaza.
King Abdullah is married to Rania, a Palestinian. Thus, as clanish as the Arab world is, I can see parts of the W.Bank being given back to Jordan. A Palestinian state consisting of Gaza and the W. Bank is not viable.
It seems to me that the long term plans are as mentioned above.And the short term is killing and killing...........

Otherwise, I am personally getting tired of all the nonesense that these terrorists are creating, which translate into destruction. The Palestinians have lost both intifadas. If they don't understand that, maybe Israel should start blanket bomb the border, meter by meter. Yes, blanket bomb, and cause such devastation as necessary to make them understand that the Israeli state is not going to be thrown into the sea. We are not talking about justice. ..........Look at the mayhem in Gaza.....shame on Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinians who are bent into destroying instead of building. And shame on the people who accept such a disgraceful leadership. I am really sick and tired of the whole lot..........I am sorry for sounding so bloody............

Posted by: diana at July 19, 2007 03:21 PM

Eliyahu- off course I have not a single good thing to say about olmert.
But all the 26 mandates that voted Olmert could have expected thet, and they are the same people who will vote for a horrible person next time.
The book, BTW, is "The wind in the willows" and is alot more than just a children's book.

Posted by: yonatan at July 19, 2007 03:21 PM


i suspect yours is wishful thinking all over. the egypt/jordan solution won't happen, and israel won't do what's necessary to win. and the west will not rest until israel capitulates. the arabs lost fights but seem to be winning the war.


exactly right. what is more, there is NO good person they can vote for, even if they wanted to.
as i said earlier, the crisis in israel is not just of leadership, but of the public too. by now there should be a revolution like the one that toppled golda meir after yom kippur war, but there is none. instead, israelis seem oblivious to the acute dangers they're in, and olmert's contribution to them.

and they do and will pay for it.

Posted by: fp at July 19, 2007 04:50 PM


Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 10:03 AM


This speech is not tantamount to Kissinger in Paris, this speech reflects a type of rhetorical reckoning and equilibrium relative to the current situation - as it exists in its present state. The President (of the U.S.) cannot override Israel's own political will and the fact is, reflected in Israel's PM and otherwise, Israel's political will itself has not been resolute against Hamas, much less the Arab refugee, aka Palestinian, issue more generally.

I wonder, what exactly would you like to have heard from the President on the Israel/Arab refugee situation, the Israeli/Palestinian issue?

Posted by: Michael B at July 20, 2007 10:28 AM

aw, c'mon,michael, give me a break.

if it is not clear to you by now that bush, having utterly failed in everything he touched, has bought via the saudis rice into baker's crappola to push israel into capitulation, i dk what will convince you. olmert is in the same boat.

they both lack support and are desperate to show some sort of success. politicians in this situation are extremely dangerous each in his own right. the combination is lethal. worse, both political systems are structured to allow such failures to stay in power and to have gutless oppositions and inactive publics.

there was an israeli politician named shmuel tamir who was for years in the herut opposition to mapai govt. he kept criticizing the mapai policies, and he was finally challenged by the govt to come up with his solutions rather than just criticize. his reply was "i'm afraid that you've messed things up so badly for so long that i dk if there are solutions anymore".

the stark circumstances that bush and olmert find themselves now in are in large part of their own doing, due to utter incompetence. they messed up so badly that they are now left with very stark options. when incompetents fuck up in better circumstances, what do you expect them to do in worse circumstances, when they are cornered?

bush is making speeches and olmert is relying on the "goodwill" of the jihadis. the stupidity is mindboggling.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 11:09 AM

Israel may well have another military defeat coming at them . Already more Israelis are leaving than are coming from abroad. The ones that are leaving are the secular liberals who no longer see Israel as a good place to live or raise families.

Posted by: John Ryan at July 20, 2007 02:47 PM

that's the logical conclusion of suicidal policies.

however, that happens even more with the pals. except that there they issue fatwas against leaving. nevertheless, they have been leaving.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 03:30 PM

John Ryan:
" Already more Israelis are leaving than are coming from abroad. The ones that are leaving are the secular liberals who no longer see Israel as a good place to live or raise families."

Just by reding wha tyou say I can know you're an american and never lived in Israel. these terms, "liberal" bla bla, are not so relevant in the average israeli agenda. In many terms Israel is alot more liberal than USA, and anyway people who leave, like always, do it because they found better positions in the silicon valley or in sydney.

Posted by: yonatan at July 21, 2007 07:22 AM

fp, Olmert is Israel's problem and i don't support a state for the palis, certainly not within any forseeable future, but again the question was what would you like to have heard from the U.S. Pres at the present time, within the present circumstances?

Posted by: Michael B at July 21, 2007 11:15 AM
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