November 13, 2009

The Show Needn't Go On

This week the Israeli government announced will resume negotiations with Syria without preconditions, and the Syrians responded in kind.

Peace talks, if they ever actually start, aren't going anywhere, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows it. He's going through the motions so Western diplomats don't throw him and his country out in the cold. Syria's Bashar Assad knows it too. He's going through the motions so that he and his country can come in from the cold.

It has been years since I spoke to a single person in the Middle East who thinks the Arab-Israeli conflict will be resolved any time soon. Last time I visited Jerusalem with a half-dozen American colleagues, Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh bluntly told us to stop asking "What's the solution?"

"I don't see a real peace emerging over here," he said. "We should stop talking about it."

Some Westerners, though, can't stop talking about it and get bent out of shape when they hear comments like Toameh's from either side. As Evelyn Gordon pointed out here a few days ago, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner can't see the difference between Israeli disillusionment about the prospects for peace and an abandonment of the desire for peace in the abstract.

“What really hurts me," Kouchner said, "and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel. … It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it.”

It's not that people over there no longer want it. They've learned the hard way, repeatedly, that the Arab-Israeli conflict is no more stoppable right now than are plate tectonics.

Because supposedly right-thinking Westerners are appalled, Israel and Syria will pretend to hold talks while the more seasoned Western diplomats will pretend the talks stand a chance. It's like the old Russian joke about Communism: "We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us."

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 13, 2009 10:23 AM
Comments

Michael Totten:

I've pasted here this brief quote from the end of your article which sums up my own feelings....

"...We can't solve this problem right now, but we can try to make it less deadly by isolating and even blockading the combatants....".

Though I'd think that blockading the Palestinians/Syrians/Iranians and leaving all lines of access open to/from the Israelis is the way to go.
I don't know how Dennis Ross has put up with this circular labyrinth as long as he has. What a coup it'd be for you to score an interview with him.....but he's probably had more than enough by now. I'll bet his truly candid thoughts would be an instant publishing phenomenon. I wonder if he's ever talked with salmon Rushdie....oh, to be a fly on the ceiling for that revelation.
--------
Thanks for yet another interesting article.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at November 13, 2009 12:14 PM

...make that Salmon Rushdie...

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at November 13, 2009 12:16 PM

...yikes!, make that "Salman Rushdie"

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at November 13, 2009 12:24 PM

...yikes!, make that "Salman Rushdie"

Are you sure it isn't Saul Bass?

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer Author Profile Page at November 13, 2009 3:12 PM

Li'l Mamzer...

Enlighten me...I don't see the connection..what film did you have in mind? Gasp!...I thought I knew everything...!

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at November 13, 2009 7:15 PM

Triple Yikes.....

NOW I get the scent of fish.....Oh...Oh...Oh.....

...shall we call that "Hook, Line and Sinker"?

Tip o'me hat to you.....Madame...

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at November 13, 2009 7:20 PM

Well, the West could certainly help by promoting more Palestinian businesses who are willing to buy and sell to Israel.

It turns out market based economic deals are peaceful -- and are win-win for both sides (or else no deal; like is the case in most actual shopping).

Too much politics, not enough business -- organized, peaceful, cooperation/ contractual wealth creation.

Can't get a 'better Israeli occupation' out of my mind, tho. Next time Hezbollah fires, Israel invades, occupies, and holds some large chunk of S. Lebanon, and calls it Occupied Lebanon. Running it as a small, democratic, limited gov't canton. Planning to return it when there's a signed Peace Agreement with Lebanon.

Silly fantasy, I know.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at November 13, 2009 7:41 PM

It turns out market based economic deals are peaceful -- and are win-win for both sides (or else no deal; like is the case in most actual shopping).

Yeah that's probably true, but it seems like economic ties between Israelis and Palestinians have been going the other way for about 20 years now. Seems like the west is all about talking about "peace process" while the situation continues to progressively deteriorate.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at November 13, 2009 10:33 PM

"Plate tectonics" is exactly right: Israel has created a living fault-line between the 21st century and the Medieval period in human history.

"Feudalism Meets Democracy" is the ongoing drama in my part of the world. Westerners talking peace makes me think they are talking about birth as the "solution" to pregnancy!

Posted by: Savtadotty Author Profile Page at November 14, 2009 12:35 AM

"Plate tectonics" is exactly right: Israel has created a living fault-line between the 21st century and the Medieval period in human history.

"Feudalism Meets Democracy" is the ongoing drama in my part of the world. Westerners talking peace makes me think they are talking about birth as the "solution" to pregnancy!

Posted by: Savtadotty Author Profile Page at November 14, 2009 12:35 AM

Li'l Mamzer...

Enlighten me...I don't see the connection..what film did you have in mind? Gasp!...I thought I knew everything...!

It's a Seinfeld reference - Kramer is convinced that some guy at Jerry's health club named Saul Bass is really Salman Rushdie incognito.

Getting back to the topic at hand - I still can't get over the biggest and longest-running planetary delusion I know of: that Palestinian Arabs, and Arabs in general, want a real peace (i.e. accepting a Jewish-majority and sovereign Jewish national homeland to exist among them) but are somehow failed by "the process".........

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer Author Profile Page at November 14, 2009 6:23 AM

gaaah - formatting failed me the first time

Li'l Mamzer... Enlighten me...I don't see the connection..what film did you have in mind? Gasp!...I thought I knew everything...!

It's a Seinfeld reference - Kramer is convinced that some guy at Jerry's health club named Saul Bass is really Salman Rushdie incognito.

Getting back to the topic at hand - I still can't get over the biggest and longest-running planetary delusion I know of: that Palestinian Arabs, and Arabs in general, want a real peace (i.e. accepting a Jewish-majority and sovereign Jewish national homeland to exist among them) but are somehow failed by "the process".........

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer Author Profile Page at November 14, 2009 6:26 AM

"....It's a Seinfeld reference - Kramer is convinced that some guy at Jerry's health club named Saul Bass is really Salman Rushdie incognito."

...O sole mio!

...signed....Jonah.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at November 14, 2009 7:22 AM

Haven't checked in at this website for a while. I have to admit I've stopped following the "peace process" for some time, because it seems such a dead letter. In order for there to be a peace agreement, there has to be a substantial dismantling of settlements, and that will never happen as long as Netanyahu is prime minister.

I disagree somewhat about Syria. Both sides have an incentive to reach an agreement - Israel to regain credibility and indefinitely put off removing settlements, and Syria seems also to be at a crossroads. They have to wonder what possible future there can be in an alliance with Iran. Another interesting player in this whole thing is Turkey. I hate the garbage that comes out of Erdogan's mouth, but by distancing themselves from Israel and the U.S. they could position themselves as a non-aligned regional power and form a sort of Eastern Mediterranean bloc with Syria and Lebanon. This could be a net positive if they could help sort out the mess in these places, and push out the more radical players.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at November 16, 2009 2:10 AM

This could be a net positive if they could help sort out the mess in these places, and push out the more radical players.

I can't see how Erdogan's cozying up to Tehran will push out the radicals, and neither will his repugnant behavior to Peres - personally and on stage - and as regards the UN's Goldstone sham.

If anything Turkey is positioning itself as an enabler of radical rejectionist regimes. Remember its recent large-scale military exercises with Syria?

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer Author Profile Page at November 16, 2009 3:52 AM

Since Dennis Ross has been demoted I can only wonder if anyone in the State Department realized that Syria did have a set of preconditions. And those were that the US did not have any.

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at November 16, 2009 7:16 AM
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