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February 8, 2015 8:39 pm

Obama’s Mistaken Assumptions About Israel and Peace

avatar by Caren Besner

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Cherie Cullen.

The American Heritage dictionary defines “victory” as the defeat of an enemy or triumph in a struggle against difficulties. “Peace,” on the other hand, is characterized by the absence of hostilities, or alternatively, a treaty to end a conflict that results in public security and order.

These two definitions do not necessarily conform to one another, especially in the super-charged atmosphere of hatred, hubris, and religious fundamentalism that defines today’s Middle Eastern caustic political scenario. The Palestinian Authority for its part, has repeatedly cited Israeli intransigence as the sole reason for the failure to achieve a settlement. This argument has been accepted as valid by the Obama Administration, which is eagerly anticipating the upcoming Israeli elections, in the hope that a new left wing labor administration will be able to make the necessary “concessions” in the name of peace.

Left unsaid is the fact that on at least three prior occasions Israel offered the Palestinians a settlement giving them almost everything they were, in theory, asking for, only to be re-buffed. The Palestinian response has been to unleash the previous two intifadas; the objective of which, was to sway world opinion to their plight. In this regard, they have achieved a great deal of success as manifested by Israel’s escalating isolation in the international community, the mushroom growth of the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement), and the support among all too many American Jews for a two-state solution at ANY price.

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If the current U.S. Administration actually believes that only a left-labor government will be able to make the necessary compromises to Israel’s security and that an Israeli-Palestinian accord will solve the problems of the Middle East, they are wrong on both counts. They also ignore the lessons of history. With the exception of the recently concluded war with Hamas and Israel’s 1982 incursion into Lebanon, ALL of Israel’s major wars were waged by left of center governments.

The left wing Mapai party of David Ben-Gurion fought both the 1948 war for independence and the 1956 Sinai campaign, while the Labor coalition governments of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir fought the 1967 and 1973 wars respectively.

In 2006, the Kadima government of Ehud Olmert, in response to the capturing of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah, and continuing rocket attacks from that group, launched still another campaign against Lebanon. Ironically, it was the Likud governments of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon that negotiated the peace treaty with Egypt and Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Israel’s thanks for the latter was the election of Hamas as Gaza’s governing body and thousands of rockets flying across her borders.

As for the idea of a more “peaceful” Middle East; would an Israeli-Palestinian accord actually change the realities as they exist? Would ISIS cease its depredations in Iraq and Syria? Would Iran suddenly decide it no longer needs nuclear weapons? Would the Syrian civil war come to an abrupt end? Would Islamic militias in Libya lay down their arms? Would the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan curtail their attempts to overthrow the central government? Would Hamas and Hezbollah end all offensive actions against Israel?

Would Boko Haram, Ansar al-Sharia, al-Shabab, and al-Qaeda all disband? Would the governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc., stop all funding of radical Islamic activity, and would fundamentalist Sheiks and Imams cease preaching hatred of the West and the need for Jihad? The answer is obvious.

According to a recent Pew Research Center Global Attitudes survey, some 97% of all Palestinians hold an extremely negative view of Jews. In this vitriolic atmosphere, ANY agreement Israel signs with the current Palestinian Authority would at best, only be a temporary cease fire. Israel, since its inception, has only sought to live in peace, which it defines as mutual recognition, an end to all terrorist activity, and defined security arrangements.

By comparison, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Hezbollah seeks victory, which they define as the complete annihilation of the Jewish state. As one can plainly see, these are two very different goals. Carl Von Clausewitz, in his military treatise Vom Kreig (On War), once observed that “Victory is the creation of a better political reality.” A better political reality in this sense would be for a new Palestinian leader to seek an accommodation with Israel.

Since all of the Gaza strip and the vast majority of the West Bank is already under the control of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority respectively, the Palestinian state, for all practical purposes, already exists. All that is needed is for the Palestinians to accept the existence of Israel and evince a willingness to live alongside it in peace. The impetus for peace therefore, lies with the Palestinians. It has always been so. It has also always been an Arab War against Israel, NOT an “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”

Perhaps, one day, they will produce a leader capable of recognizing this fact. He would be the rarest of all leaders; a statesman combining the courage and vision of Anwar Sadat with the political skills and acumen of Winston Churchill. He will also require a very loyal and dedicated bodyguard. Until such time as he arrives, the chimeric illusions of peace or victory will continue.

Caren Besner has written articles published by Sun-Sentinel, Jerusalem Post, Jewish Journal, IsraPost, the Jewish Voice, Independent Sentinel, The Times of Israel, San Diego Jewish World, and American Thinker.

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  • Paul

    Although couched in moderate, reasonable terminology, your arguments are not really valid.
    For instance, you cite as lessons to be learned from history that left-of-center governments waged most of the wars. And you state two “exceptions” – the recently waged wars (Olmert and Sharon, and lately Bibi who you left out). But what is actually happening is that the reality has changed and the historic reality is no longer valid – there is nothing to be learned there. The left-of-center governments fought against belligerent neighbors with standing armies, and the reality is now war against organisations without standing armies.
    Perhaps what SHOULD be learned from history are the lessons that Rabin and then Sharon learned – that this war can not be won on the battlefield or by force.
    Peace with the Palestinians would obviously NOT solve all the problems you state of fanatic Jihadist terror – but that is NOT why we should make peace. We should make peace to live in peace with those neighbours who are NOT fanatic Jihadist terrorists. So that this generation of Israelis will NOT be brought up into a moral atmosphere that is corrupting our society: what Ben Gurion warned of is what is happening – power and denial of rights to ANYONE corrupts. Decent young 19-year old soldiers end up pissing on the heads of Palestinians, beating up children or looking in laughter at women giving birth while stuck at the road-blocks. These are inevitable developments resulting from our holding other people at the end of our rifles – no matter how justified we may be. It is a BAD choice.
    It is true that the Palestinians are becoming more extreme – just as us Israelis are – because that is the result of the ongoing conflict. Our country is becoming more and more right-wing as a result of the conflicts.
    In all you say here, you seem to ignore the gigantic elephant in the living room: the single most damaging and destructive action on Israel’s part is the settlement on the West Bank. We try to justify by reference to God’s promise to Abraham what the entire world, friends and foe, and half the Israeli population see as unjust colonialism, that is an impediment to peace. Our actions are an official war crime. There are so many things our muslim enemies do wrong, but NOBODY pays attention to them because we are blatantly sticking our finger into the eye of the world.
    Is our settlement of the territories designed to bring peace ? BE HONEST ! So before we claim the other side is not interested, why not check our own side of the story.
    Arik Sharon said, “we cannot hold another people at the end of our rifles forever”, and changed from his previous beliefs to the realisation that we need to disengage. To abandon most of the territories, not continue building settlements in subterfuge.
    So, if you wish to display intellectual honesty and integrity when you write your articles, do not ignore our main problem – Israeli modern colonialism.
    Project into the future, as Sharon did. What will be the situation here in thirty years time ? One state ? Are the Palestinians going to be Israeli citizens ? With full rights ? Which means they will take over the country politically (since they will outnumber the Jews)? Or are they going to be citizens with reduced rights ? (this idea is called apartheid).
    And if in the future we will want to separate – why are we pouring all our resources into building settlements that will be abandoned (as in Yamit) instead of investing in what will be ours in the future ?
    Please explain this, because THESE are the real questions. Do you want peace or is holy ground more important ? BE HONEST !

  • Caren, this article is factually incorrect and you are using at least one logical fallacy to make your argument. The first of which is your claim that the PA asserts that Israeli intransigence is the “sole” reason that an agreement does not yet exist (that’s not the position of the PA), then you assume that the Obama administration agrees with your claim, and then from there you extrapolate that President Obama is hoping for a Labor government.

    (Truth be told it’s better that Benjamin Netanyahu get reelected. Israel will have to fall a lot lower before the message gets across.)

    Your logical fallacy rests on your dubious reasoning that President Obama “hope” for a Labor government leads him to believe that, “only a left-labor government will be able to make the necessary compromises to Israel’s security and that an Israeli-Palestinian accord will solve the problems of the Middle East.”

    Leaving aside for a moment that the leader of the free world can’t help but be briefed on such niceties of verifiable recent history, there’s also that incredible education that President Obama had, and his dinners with folks like Rashid Khalidi, that help inform his worldview. The information that a US President has at his (or her) fingertips is Google on steroids…

    President Obama as well as the rest of the world understands that no matter what government comes to power in the state of Israel, the illegal colonial project to expand the nation from the borders David Ben-Gurion agreed to under UNGA 181 will continue.

    Something more has to happen. Watching Benjamin Netanyahu will be painful because he has led Israel in such a poor direction, but it is clear that the reality of the situation has not set in yet.

    You are so complacent in your impunity that you feel quite comfortable making statements about President Obama, a US President who has done more for Israel than any other US President, you apparently believe you have the right to claim in public on the Algemeiner that President Obama would favor a peace settlement with the Palestinians that would make “compromises to Israel’s security” in the name of peace…

    It’s ludicrous that you are missing the real reason for Israel’s security problems and standing in the world. It is more than 600,000 “settlers” (colonists) who have been sent illegally by the state of Israel as a matter of policy into Palestine where the state of Israel holds no sovereignty that is the main cause of Israel’s security problems.

    Add to that an occupation army that enforces that illegal action, the massive violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention over a periods of decades, and it is self-evident where so much of the friction that turns into violence comes from.

    It’s not about whether Likud is more extreme than Labor, its about the entire planet being against the idea of expanding a nation at the point of a gun. It’s about continuing Israeli governments since at least 1988 who refuse to declare victory and be satisfied with cashing out with 78% of historic Palestine even as the Palestinians have made clear that they will make a durable peace based on the remaining 22%.

    The problem is not President Obama nor President George W. Bush before him who also said that the “settlements” must end. The problem is that Israel is not willing to stay within its internationally recognized borders and uses force to expand and protect the illegal occupation.

  • Jack Smith

    If you truly believe what you wrote then you are delusion

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