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The changing reality of Israeli Palestinian peacemaking, a response to Daniel Gordis

This is a cross post from Marc Goldberg’s blog at the Times of Israel

The cities of the West Bank are a seething hotbed of resentment and hatred towards Israel. This is because the people living there have been suffering according to the whims of an Israeli government that dominates their lives. This in turn is because if Israel didn’t there’d be terrorism on Israeli streets.

Right and left can argue over whether the occupation happens because of Palestinian terror or vice versa, ultimately it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is just how reluctant both sides are to enter into negotiations with each other. They should be chomping at the bit to get into the negotiating room and thrash out a deal. It’s the only logical way each side can get close to what it says it wants and yet it seems as though the Israelis and Palestinians are competing to be more reluctant than the other to sit down and talk.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post Daniel Gordis states that;

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not make a deal. He’ll never give up on the right of return. His refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is a symptom of the sad fact that the Palestinians hate Israel (and let’s be honest, the Jews, too) far more than they care about themselves.

The thrust of his piece is that although the reality is stark it is also impossible to avoid and those who do so are merely deluding themselves and ultimately doing Israel a disservice. He adds that:

The real divide is between those who can accept reality for what it is (with all the sadness thereunto appertaining), and those who cannot tolerate that bleakness – and therefore opt for delusion.

I disagree, I say that reality should never be “accepted for what it is”. If we had accepted reality we never would have created a state with our blood and our sweat. The reality when we eventually declared our state was that we were going to be crushed by 5 Arab armies and an internal guerrilla war. Did that stop us? We created our own reality, time and again we have proven ourselves to be limited only by our imaginations. Gordis says that we must accept reality, I say that refusing to accept reality, is the very attribute that has made us great. I say that building our own reality with determination and guts is exactly what has made Israel the thriving country it now is.

We don’t have to accept reality, we have to change it!

Even while negotiations continue the situation on the ground is changing under our feet. The Palestinians hate Israel because Israel is occupying them, but Israel can’t stop occupying them as it would open us up to threats of terror greater than those we currently face. By continuing our occupation we are running at full throttle down the rabbit hole.

Damned if we do, damned if we don’t and damned if we won’t.

The reason we are in this catch 22 is because both sides are convinced of the implacable “reality” of the other. The PA simply doesn’t believe that there is a deal to be had, they don’t believe for a second that Israel will ever withdraw from the West Bank. They believe this just as much as Israelis such as Gordis believe that the PA hates Israel and is hellbent on destroying it.

This is why, rather than each side taking measures to ensure trust and good feeling from the other they are doing the opposite. During negotiations that are supposed to result in the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank we are increasing the size of settlements, sending both Israelis and Palestinians a very clear message on the real intent of the government. The Palestinian refusal to drop the right of return and make statements as to the Jewish nature of the state of Israel, not to mention their disgusting praise for murderers who they revere as heroes are intended to show that they won’t budge under pressure.

Rather than talking to each other, Israeli and Palestinian leaders are actually speaking to their own bases of support. What they should be doing is looking for a new base. If they can’t find one they should be creating one.

No one wins from these feaux negotiations and everyone loses. Our tactic of occupying the West Bank and making raids into Palestinian cities keeps Israel safe on a day to day basis but threatens us in the long term with a Palestinian population that is seething with rage and frustration.

Is there anyone on either side who isn’t wondering when the next Intifada will erupt?

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We simply don’t have the luxury of making a half hearted attempt at peace and then walking away from the table with the excuse that it was all the other guy’s fault. If we can’t find peace with the Palestinians we lose.

This is the only reality that holds any meaning.