Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Palestinians are the obstacles to peace

Palestinians are the obstacles to peace

Dan Margalit

In his December 7 column, The New York Times writer Thomas Friedman made the strange if not delusional claim that Israel's separation fence and its Iron Dome air defense system are hindrances to Israel, because they allow our leadership to feel like it doesn't have to make efforts to advance peace.

Friedman's claim is perplexing, as both the fence and Iron Dome are defensive in nature. They save lives. By this logic, the prompt medical treatment of terror victims by Magen David Adom ambulances must undermine peace as well. On the contrary. The higher Israel's death count, the further away peace recedes. Operation Defensive Shield [in 2002] is testimony to that.

Friedman waxes on about two schools of thought in Israel. The first are the far-right ideologues under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The second school is that of Yitzhak Rabin, with Ehud Barak as its current spokesman. As The New York Times reported, Barak in the past warned against pessimistically and fatalistically reconciling ourselves to the absence of peace with the Palestinians. Except that Barak is the man who offered to discuss dividing Jerusalem with Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, both of whom ran away as soon as they saw actual peace in the distance. Barak then proclaimed that there is no Palestinian partner and the Israeli Left never forgave him.

Ehud Olmert knows this to be the truth. After all, he broke another taboo and agreed to allow Palestinian refugees to resettle in Israel, only to see Mahmoud Abbas flee from him as well.

What conclusion did Olmert reach as a result? That Netanyahu is to blame. Integrity is not Olmert's strong suit.

The Left makes two substantial claims concerning Israel. First, that it behooves Israel to always seek a resting place for the dove, to always pursue peace, even when there is no partner. Second, while it is true that Netanyahu adopted the two-state formula, it was never approved by his government. Both these claims boil down to a reasonable doubt that the government actually supports the two-state solution Netanyahu agreed to in his famous Bar-Ilan speech. If that is the case, it would truly be a pity. Certainly in the view of Israelis like myself who seek an Israel whose borders include the large settlement blocs, alongside a demilitarized Palestine.

Except that those on the Israeli Left making such claims ignore the fact that Mahmoud Abbas — not to mention Khaled Mashaal, Ismail Haniyeh and their ilk — never come under suspicion of not really wanting a two-state solution. Yet they have already solidly demonstrated that they have no interest in the most flexible peace that Israel could hope to offer. By casting suspicion on Netanyahu, the Left raises a legitimate point. But when it fails to accuse Mahmoud Abbas of the same, it is lying to itself.

Witness how fair-minded people like Dr. Yossi Beilin and MK Zahava Gal-On claim that even if Netanyahu wanted to work toward an agreement with the Palestinians, the Right of his party would stymie it. Perhaps, but there is no argument that Israel's extreme Right aside, Khaled Mashaal and Gaza's leadership have conditioned Palestinian national unity on the annulment of any hint of an agreement offered by Abbas, which he has no intention of honoring in any case. Mashaal made a murderous anti-Jewish speech on Saturday. Mahmoud Abbas remained silent. Meretz must concede that the central obstacles to peace in the Middle East are the Palestinians, not Israel. They lack the courage to say so on an ordinary day, certainly not during election season.