Nothing in history or current reality could possibly lead an honest observer to conclude that there’s a viable path to peace between Palestinians and Israel. Barring some dramatic exogenous event, this isn’t about to change. Give it up.
After the murder of five
Jews Israelis (three of them American citizens and one of them a Druze) this week, “people fired celebratory gunshots in the air … and praise for God and the attackers poured from mosque loudspeakers soon after the synagogue shooting,” reported The New York Times. Fatah officials in Lebanon chimed in to let us know that: “Jerusalem needs blood in order to purify itself of Jews.” There were congratulatory message on Fatah’s official Facebook page and festive post-murder spree sweets for the kids. This celebration of death—whether dead babies or dead rabbis, it matters not—doesn’t only illustrate the colossal moral gulf that exists between these societies, it reminds us that any Palestinian government inclined to entertain a viable agreement with Jews wouldn’t last long, anyway.
Fatah, the thin thread that any workable agreement hangs on, is only in power because it refuses to hold elections. (And, to be fair, when you lose a campaign in Palestinian territories, there are no comebacks.) But even this more moderate faction brings with it archaic menu of nonstarters to the table. Arabs will not have meaningful control over Jerusalem proper. Or any “right of return.” Or the ability to control their borders as Sweden or Argentina controls theirs. At least, not any time soon. These are intractable disagreements. Every time the sides revisit the negotiations, it ends in disappointment and, inevitably, violence. And with each round, Palestinian society devolves further, becoming increasingly radicalized and violent. So what’s the point?
Barack Obama wants peace. But as always, after a round of failed talks, there is terrorism. The tensions in Jerusalem today—and by tensions, I mean the indiscriminate killing of Jews over the past weeks—are driven, in part, by a conspiracy theory that posits Israelis are about to occupy the Temple Mount. Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas has used the tension to agitate his people, reportedly urging Palestinians to prevent Jewish “settlers” (and by settler he means any Jews) from entering the Temple Mount and “fierce onslaught on Al-Aksa Mosque, Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulchre Church.”
In a piece titled “What’s Really Behind Jerusalem’s Explosion of Violence?” Slate’s Joshua Keating writes that “hard-line Jewish religious activists have been pushing for the right to pray at the site, which Jews refer to as the Temple Mount.” Hard-line. Ultra-conservative. Ultra-religious. These are the descriptions media outlets use to describe activists who propose that all religious groups should be able to pray peacefully at their holy sites. None of these activists have suggested barring anyone from entering those sites. Sounds like a bunch of extremists, right? Those throwing deadly stones down at non-Muslims, on the other hand, are innocent bystanders. In any event, they’re also the ones who would be overseeing all Jewish sites in a new Palestinian State. The ones that are allegedly interested in peace.
Abbas, like Yasser Arafat before him, seems to believe inciting just a little bit of violence might make the situation untenable for the Israeli government. This reflects a deep misunderstanding of the dynamics of Israeli society and politics. With its technological, military, and economic power growing, Israel has become far less inclined to sacrifice security for “peace” today than it has been in the past. There is little internal political pressure to create an antagonistic anti-Semitic state next door—even from the Left.
It’s likely that the fallout from this latest round of U.S.-led peace talks will have made Israel less inclined to engage in any meaningful discussions about Palestinian statehood in the foreseeable future. Obama will have two more years to try and embarrass Netanyahu into compliance. Two more years of holding Israel culpable. The next president, though, whatever party that person comes from, will almost certainly have less antipathy and less driven to pressure Israel into concessions it can’t accept.
Anyway, we can do better. There are dozens of stateless minorities yearning for self-determination around the world that could use our moral and monetary support—such as the peaceful inhabitants of occupied Tibet or the Kurdish. So let’s advocate for peace where we can do some good. And let’s stop pretending that Palestinians are prepared for a state. It’s not going to happen.