By Barry Rubin
There’s a saying that goes something like this: When things are bad, a Jew cries. When they get even worse, a Jew cries more. And when they even get worse, a Jew laughs. As indelicate as this may seem, the current situation makes me want to laugh.
That’s so because things are more ridiculous than they are scary. As the advice and claims of others get increasingly absurd, you have no desire to listen to them. You just have to do what you know is right and stop having any doubts about it precisely because the arguments on the other side are just so historically inaccurate, factually false,.and illogical.
For those joining the story late–a group that seems to include Western politicians, media and academic “experts”–here’s a little background. In 1993, Israel made an agreement with the PLO to try to achieve peace. It turned over the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank to a Palestinian government. Israel accepted the establishment of large security forces, the supply of guns, and the transfer of billions of dollars of aid.
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Israel made major offers of territory and concessions to Syria and the Palestinian Authority in 2000, after almost a decade of negotiation. The other side rejected those compromise solutions. The Palestinian leadership instead launched a five-year-long war of terrorism. They lost. Then Israel was attacked by Hizballah. The world intervened and made promises to Israel. These were broken. Then Israel was attacked by Hamas. It defended itself. Again it won, but the world rushed in to save Hamas and to condemn Israel.
Of course, you can say that Israel did mean things and didn’t keep every commitment it made. Yet any balanced and honest assessment has to acknowledge the basic accuracy of the preceding summary. And any that doesn’t is basically worthless as a guide to policy or education.
Now, what are the latest developments? Well, let’s see:
–Turkey’s government has gone beserk (in fact, a product of its Islamism and a celebration of breaking the armed forces that posed the last barrier to their total control of the country) and has started acting as if it is at war with Israel. There is a real possibility that Turkish naval vessels will escort ships organized by terrorist groups to violate a legal blockade to strengthen a regime in the Gaza Strip that openly talks about killing all of the world’s Jews. That government, behaving as if it is at war with Israel, is simultaneously being used by the U.S. government to help direct Syria’s future and lead its main new counterterrorism project.
Feel the chuckles coming on yet?
–The Palestinian Authority, allied with the aforementioned antisemitic, genocidal Hamas, violates all of the agreements it made during the last 18 years—after refusing to negotiate for 2 years—by seeking unilateral independence in the UN. This would mean it will never have to negotiate with Israel or compromise in any way. Thus, this stratagem will kill any chance of negotiations.
Nevertheless, countries are lining up to vote in favor of this proposal. It’s the ultimate embodiment of “social justice” and endless entitlements. The Palestinians “deserve” a state and don’t have to do anything at all to obtain one except to demand it.
–Egypt’s revolution is baying for Israel’s blood. Palestinian-Egyptian terrorists cross Israel’s border and kill Israeli civilians; a mob attacks the Israeli embassy as the authorities stand by and do nothing. Hysteria returns to the country as if the Camp David peace agreement never happened. The Muslim Brotherhood—which we were told is weak and not Islamist—is now heading toward either a takeover or at least becoming the country’s most powerful force.
–What is the reaction in much of the Media, Universities, and Governments? Let’s use the appropriate acronym for this trio—MUG. Guess who is getting mugged?
Let me limit myself to one example of the genre. The former failed and minor Jewish organizational politician Seymour Reich writes in the NewYork Times:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gained nothing—except placating his right-wing coalition — by rebuffing President Obama’s proposal in May for negotiating Israeli-Palestinian borders based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, although some reports indicated that he may have later softened his stand.”
This is an amazing paragraph, if only for the fact that Reich attacks Netanyahu for taking a position that Reich admits he didn’t actually take! And after many occasions on which Netanyahu did precisely what Reich wants failed. Of course, there’s no mention about years of Palestinian intransigence or of the previous risks and concessions made by Israel and even by Netanyahu.
I do not mean this as a direct reference to Mr. Reich but as an observation to the current institutional set-up. In Biblical times, one sold out for a bowl of stew (“mess of pottage”) while today one does so for a New York Times op ed piece, or perhaps a tenured professorship, or admiring media coverage of oneself. Christians speak of “the wages of sin.” Well, those salaries are at all-time highs, with great fringe benefits, and extremely low unemployment.
Reich continues. “Mr. Netanyahu must step back from the brink. He should cast aside his far-right coalition members, form a government with moderate parties and add a freeze on settlement construction to an offer to negotiate without preconditions. This would demonstrate seriousness.”
Why does Israel or Netanyahu need to show at this date that they are serious? Doesn’t the virtually daily efforts of Netanyahu to restart negotiations show seriousness? The nine-month-long settlement freeze? The quick acceptance of Obama’s proposal for a summit conference at the end of 2009?
I will pay no more attention to these people. They are not serious. They are deaf to what we say and blind to what we do. They are not dealing with reality. As our next-door neighbors say: Let them go drink the Nile!
They only have one note: It’s all Israel’ fault! If it only had offered more and accepted a Palestinian state everything would be fine. If it gave everything and demanded nothing—since the PA is unwilling to make any concession—then everything would be fine.
As to everything else in the region from Palestinian intransigence to the alliance with Hamas to events in Egypt and Turkey, there only response is to say that it’s not really happening! The Muslim Brotherhood was real sorry about the attack on the embassy (then how come it endorsed the assault?) The moderate secularists will win everywhere. Turkey is just miffed that Israel didn’t capitulate totally.
Israel is isolated! So rather than be isolated it should make every concession demanded of it? And then everyone will love it and give up the war against it.
The fact that this is what we have been told repeatedly and it hasn’t happened means nothing! Oh, no. This time, once Israel goes back to the pre-1967 borders, recognizes the Fatah-Hamas regime, and doesn’t make trouble over little things like the Palestinians refusing to end the conflict even under those conditions; the military build-up in Palestine; and the demand that a few million Palestinians can come live in Israel then everything will really be great!
Are we supposed to take this seriously? Starting to understand why I’m laughing?
Let me take one example out of hundreds to show the absurdity of the situation. The sufferings of which Palestinians so upsets and animates Egyptians, Turks, and the Western left? Those in the Gaza Strip. What is the strategy of the Gaza Strip’s government? Kill the Jews. It is more openly radical than the policy of the PLO in the 1960s and1970s. How many Israeli soldiers and settlements are in the Gaza Strip? Zero. How many rockets from the Gaza Strip are in Israel? Thousands! So this is why I’m laughing.
First, the claims, arguments, and demands being made against Israel are ridiculous.
Second, they have become so ridiculous that maybe people should start to notice.
Third, since there is no alternative in the face of this nonsense, we know that our course is a correct one. We know that more risks, concessions, and apologies will have no positive effect for Israel’s interests or security. We know that courting death and disaster will not even win applause or sympathy.
Please listen very carefully and I will put the following conclusions in boldface:
The Palestinians and Arab regimes have given us no reason to believe that more concessions and risks will bring us any closer to a stable and secure peace. They have given us every reason to believe that they will quickly forget what Israel has done and go back to their default goal of wiping Israel off the map.
The Western democracies have given us no reason to believe that more concessions and risks will bring us greater support and more help from them if and when those actions backfire against Israel. They have given us every reason to believe that they will quickly forget what Israel has done and go back to their default position that it is all Israel’s fault
Today, Israel gives up south Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai, and most of the West Bank as well as offering all of the Golan Heights to Syria. Tomorrow they will say that Israel has done nothing. The radicals claim that Israel does not want peace; the relative moderates that Israel hasn’t shown that it wants peace.
Consequently, with full good conscience, we can justify our laughter on pragmatic realpolitik or on spiritual terms. Regarding the former, an idiotic analysis fails; the truth comes out; those who follow foolish policies fall.
And for those of you who are spiritually inclined: “The wicked plot against the righteous, and threatens him with his teeth. The Lord doth laugh at him; for He sees that his day is coming.” –Psalm 37
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com