Halpern: The real question behind peace


I'm thinking

by Micah D. Halpern

Issue of September 22, 14 Tishrei 5771
The content and direction of the direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders are now being discussed, dissected and evaluated. The first question: “Did we get enough?” is immediately followed by the second, burning question: “Did we give too much?” Both sides, same questions.

The question being asked by the United States is: “Is there is any real traction for continued dialogue?”

Away from American, Israeli and Palestinian ears, in the halls of leadership and corridors of power around the world, another question is being asked: “Why has Israel added a condition to any agreement?” Why is Israel inserting the caveat that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State? Is that not a significant stumbling block? And why now, why add that clause so late in the game?

The answer is simple: Israeli leadership wants to avoid ambiguity.

Until now, Israeli leadership assumed that the entire process of negotiating an agreement obviated the need for such a declaration. Obviously, they assumed, the Palestinians accept Israel if they are engaged in a peace deal with Israel. Obviously, they assumed, the Palestinians know Israel is the Jewish state.

Well, the truth is that is obviously not the case. If anything was learned at the talks at Sharm it is that for the Palestinians the notion of negotiations and agreements, dialogue and treaties, are all about real politik — and not at all about recognition.

In other words, while the Palestinian leadership and most of Arab world leadership recognize that Israel exists as an entity, they do not recognize Israel as a state, certainly not as a sovereign state.  Israel is a reality to be dealt with, reckoned with and confronted — and even recognized.

Israel is accepted as a fact. But Israel does not have the right to exist.

Israel tramples upon the rights of Arabs and Muslims by creating a simulated European colonial state in the Arab Middle East. In the end, Israel must be destroyed and eliminated. In their end game, Israel will go away.

Israel is still around, Israel has not yet been destroyed, because  -—and this is first and foremost in understanding the Arab world’s attitude towards Israel — Israel has a strong, powerful, formidable army. The Israeli army cannot be removed and therefore, Israel still exists.

In their eyes, Israel has no right to exist.

Israel exists, but it is an immoral existence. Israel stands in the place where Palestinians should rightly live. And if there is any place at all for Jews in the Middle East it is as a tolerated minority, not an as autonomous Jewish State.

This is the prevailing mindset among almost all liberal Arab thinkers. The idea is that Israel cannot be destroyed right now so make peace with the idea for now. Regroup and fight again later.  It is the modern version of the classic story of Muhammad and the treaty of Hudabiya. When Muhammad knows that his army cannot defeat Hudabiya, he signs a peace treaty as a means to buy time in order to reorganize, re-arm and then attack.

When the Netanyahu government added the point about Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel he was making certain of two things. First, that this peace agreement would be the last peace agreement between the states. That there would be no more negotiating and no more conflict. Second, that the Palestinian state and the Arab and Muslim world recognize Israel as the Jewish State. That they recognize Israel’s right to exist in the ancestral home of the Jewish People.

The Palestinians are dumbfounded. What seems so obvious and easy to the United States and the Europeans and even to the United Nations is not at all obvious to the Arab world. De-facto they must recognize Israel, but they oppose Israel’s right to exist.

This is not a small issue. It is not a trivial intrusion on the part of the Israeli prime minister. Recognition of the Jewish State of Israel is central to future discussions about peace; it is essential before any agreements can be signed.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. Read his latest book THUGS. He maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com.