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May 6, 2014 12:17 pm

If Not Peace Now, When?

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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PA Negotiator Erekat Addresses Reporters With Secretary Kerry. Photo: State Depatment.

Israeli journalist Ari Shavit has abruptly shifted into reverse gear – for the second time in a week. Writing in Haaretz (April 24), he revisited his misguided faith in “peace now” under Palestinian negotiator Mahmoud Abbas from 1997-2014. “People as steadfast as us,” he wrote, “don’t give up on our dreams.”

Repeatedly blaming Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud party for the failures of the no-peace process, he evidently did not comprehend until last month that Palestinians (paraphrasing Abba Eban’s memorable observation) never missed the opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace. It took nearly two decades, but Shavit finally grasped the bedrock Palestinian principle: “the Palestinians must not be required to make concessions.” No longer, he wrote, would he be duped by Abbas’s claim to be “a serious partner for true peace.”

Yet less than one week later, in The New Republic (April 28), the old Ari Shavit abruptly reappeared. No sooner had John Kerry finally relinquished his prolonged, futile, and misguided attempt for peace now than Shavit launched his own “New (and Plausible) Plan for Peace” with paeans of praise for the failed Secretary of State. Kerry, he wrote, “is a hero,” indeed a “tragic twenty-first century Sissyphus.” Determined to succeed where so many of his predecessors had failed, he “marshaled his significant stamina, invested his precious time and risked his political capital to carry out the noble mission of bringing peace to the Promised Land.” Alas, he “rolled up the rock of Middle East Peace just to see it slip from his hands and roll down the slope into the abyss.”

Why “were the peaceniks mistaken,” Shavit wondered (yet again). We “solution-oriented liberal Westerners”  believed that the conflict began in 1967, when Israel responded to an imminent attack from its Arab neighbors by winning the Six-Day War and returning to its biblical homeland. But Shavit knows better: the “formative trauma” for Palestinians had occurred nineteen years earlier, when five Arab nations, joined by Palestinian militias, attempted to destroy the fledgling Jewish state.

It remains “highly unlikely,” he concedes, that Palestinian refugees would relinquish their demand for a “right of return.” But best estimates indicate that only 30-50,000 displaced Palestinians remain alive to assert that claim. Israel could easily admit all of them without any significant demographic threat to its Jewish majority. But there is a problem: nearly five million descendants of refugees also claim refugee status. The United Nations Relief and Works Administration, established exclusively to support their claims, effectively collaborates in their plan for the demographic destruction of Israel.

So Shavit returns to Square 1 of his Peace Now advocacy: “we who believed in Old Peace were totally right about the futility of occupation and the scourge of settlement.” He does not deign to consider whether a nation (Israel) can “occupy” its own historic homeland, where centuries of Jewish sovereignty once flourished. Nor does Shavit mention the right of Jews to “close settlement” of the land west of the Jordan River, guaranteed under international law since 1922 when two-thirds of mandatory Palestine was lopped off for Prince Abdullah’s new kingdom of Trans-Jordan.

Shavit proposes a “New Peace” to replace the failed “Old Peace.” But they sound remarkably similar. Israel will “freeze all settlement activity” and “initiate limited pullouts from the West Bank.” Nothing is required of Palestinians. Then the United States (presumably under President Obama’s leadership from behind) will oversee the establishment of Palestinian development zones, financed by the Saudis and Gulf States, supplemented by European “NGO activity and civil-society building.” Shavit’s inspiring principle of “interdependence and mutual economic interests” will eventually prevail, guided by “American behind-the-scenes thinking, planning and prompting.”

All “sensible middle-class individuals” on both sides of the border (Shavit modestly believes) would embrace his dream of New Peace. It “replaces the castle in the sky of formal peace with the tent on the ground of a de facto peace.” Palestinians, motivated by “interdependence and mutual economic interests,” will relinquish their unremitting hostility to “the very concepts of Jewish people and Jewish sovereignty.” For Shavit, the (briefly) disillusioned realist, Peace Now just takes a little longer.

Jerold S. Auerbach is author of the newly published Jewish State/Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy (Quid Pro Books).

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