The Perils of Negotiating with Arab Dictatorships
Has it ever occurred to Israeli prime ministers that when a democracy negotiates with a dictatorship, and does so publicly, the dictatorship gains an enormous advantage, having thus been dignified and further empowered in the world at large?
Have Israeli prime ministers assessed the political and moral consequences of negotiating with dictatorships?
Are they unaware of the conspicuous fact that Israel invariably comes away as the loser in such negotiations—as England did after Munich, despite Chamberlain’s babbling about “peace in our time”?
More subtle and profound but hardly ever asked: Has it ever occurred to Israeli prime ministers that hobnobbing with dictators places in question their own character and may diminish their moral and intellectual integrity?
The present writer explored these unpleasant and embarrassing questions back in January 1992 a year before Israeli spokesmen met with spokesmen of the Palestine Liberation Organization and concluded the Oslo or Israel-PLO Agreement of September 1993—now recognized as a disaster.
Allow me to update what I wrote twenty years ago, if only because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so anxious to return to the negotiating table with Mahmoud Abbas, head of Fatah, the leading terrorist faction of the PLO-Palestinian Authority.
First of all, such negotiation places Israel on the same moral level as an Arab dictatorship. This moral equivalence corrupts public opinion throughout the democratic world. Moreover, it degrades the citizens of Israel and emasculates their fighting spirit.
A civilized society like Israel is further degraded when its Prime Minister negotiates with a dictatorship that has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state. Here I invite the reader to join me as I probe the depth of this issue. I ask: “Can you appreciate the ignominy and the futility of an Israeli Prime Minister like Benjamin Netanyahu negotiating—not to say pleading—with Mahmoud Abbas, the head of a transient and paltry terrorist organization, to obtain Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish nation-state: Israel, a nation with a glorious 4,000-year heritage; Israel, a nation whose Prophets and Sages have been the educators of mankind?!
Now, we can get to the heart of the matter by quoting the late Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi of the Hebrew University, a former head of Israel Military Intelligence. Harkabi was the mentor of Shimon Peres, the architect of the Oslo Agreement.
In his book Arab Attitudes to Israel, Harkabi goes so far as to say that mendacity is “second nature” to the Arabs; indeed, he regards “falsehood as an expression of [Arab] national character.” Yet Harkabi was all for negotiating with the PLO for the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state! As the mentor of Shimon Peres, Harkabi may be regarded as the godfather of the Oslo Agreement, which projected without mentioning the creation of an Arab state. It was as if Harkabi had forgotten his remarks about the mendacity characteristic of Arab culture, and what this implies for any negotiations between Israel and the Arabs.What has also escaped the attention of commentators is that Harkabi’s paradoxical, not to say schizophrenic, attitude toward the Arabs, compels Israeli prime ministers to utter glowing nonsense about the Arab-Israeli “peace process,” hence to deceive their own people! But this means that Israeli prime ministers must adopt the mendacious or Janus-faced character of Israel’s enemies! And so they have! Prevarication has been the modus operandi of one Israeli prime minister after another since Oslo 1993. Worse: this compulsive mendacity cannot be undone by Israel’s current prime minister without defaming his predecessors, that is, without exposing them as fools and scoundrels if not as traitors!