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November 2, 2015 11:30 am

What Rabin’s Eulogizers Get Wrong About the Future of Mideast Peace

avatar by Adam Levick

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Yitzhak Rabin. Photo: Sgt. Robert G. Clambus via Wikimedia Commons.

Yitzhak Rabin. Photo: Sgt. Robert G. Clambus via Wikimedia Commons.

Guardian executive editor Jonathan Freedland published an op-ed at The Jewish Chronicle about the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin on the 20th anniversary of his assassination by Yigal Amir (An assassin’s bitter legacy, Oct. 29th).

While Freedland correctly notes that Amir’s intention was to kill the peace process, he gives the far-right Jewish extremist way too much credit in suggesting that the two bullets fired into the back of Rabin were indeed the cause of the subsequent failures of Oslo.

In suggesting that Rabin was “the only Israeli leader who has genuinely seemed both willing and able to solve the…endless conflict,” Freedland fails to acknowledge that both Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, in 2001 and 2008, demonstrated a “willingness” to solve the conflict by offering the Palestinians what Rabin didn’t even consider: a sovereign, contiguous state in most of the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem.

Palestinian leaders — Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas — rejected these offers. Indeed, Arafat not only refused to take yes for an answer, but then proceeded to launch a violent intifada that left thousands of Israelis and Palestinians dead.

Prime Minister Sharon’s subsequent withdrawal from Gaza resulted in the rise of Hamas, thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli cities, and three major wars.

Freedland’s omission of these inconvenient truths is significant, because it allows him to maintain that it was the assassination of Rabin, and not Palestinian rejectionism and violence, that killed Oslo — or, at least, eroded the Israeli belief in the peaceful intentions of Palestinian leaders and the logic of land for peace.

Tellingly, Freedland only mentions the word “Palestinians” once (in passing) in his entire op-ed.

However, Freedland is far from alone in ignoring the important role that Palestinians play in the ongoing conflict. In following the tweets and news reports from Israelis in attendance at the Rabin memorial Saturday night (marking 20 years since the assassination), the absence in any of the speeches of any reference to what Palestinians can do to advance peace was quite glaring.

Typical was the address by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who told the crowd of 100,000 that Rabin “gave his life so that [Israelis] could live in peace.” He then added: “Now that is up to you... all of you now must decide when your leave here tonight… how to finish the last chapter of his story.” Rabin knew, Clinton said, that “the risks of peace are not as severe as the risks of walking away from it.”

“Those who loved him and love your country,” he emphasized, “are praying that you make that decision.”

Of course, by “you,” he meant Israelis and only Israelis. Palestinians — and their responsibilities — were invisible. Suggestions as to what Palestinians could do to inspire Israeli confidence in their peaceful intentions were not offered.

Indeed, it’s inconceivable that Clinton (or any major Western leader for that matter) would ever implore a massive crowd of Palestinians to end the culture of incitementantisemitism and the glorification of violence, or to make the risky moves necessary for peace.

Peace advocates within Israel, and their political allies abroad, continue to get the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict wrong because they don’t see the Palestinians as moral actors who are at least partly responsible for their own fate. Of course, the intellectual corollary of this denial of Palestinian agency is that they similarly fail to understand Israeli fears predicated upon often destructive Palestinian behavior since Oslo.

The reason why the Israeli peace camp has died is not — as the Guardian is always suggesting — because the country has “moved right.” And, it’s not because Israelis reject the idea of a two-state solution. Polls indicate that a majority of Israelis still support the idea of a Palestinian state. Rather, the reason why most Israelis aren’t waxing eloquently anymore about peace is that most no longer believe that ceding land to the Palestinians will necessarily bring about peace.

This sober conclusion — within the broad Israeli center — was reached because of many factors. These include Palestinian leaders’ rejections of Israeli peace offers, the results of the country’s withdrawals from South Lebanon and Gaza, and the failure of even putatively “moderate” Palestinian leaders to end demonizing rhetoric about Jews and prepare their people for peace.

Most Israelis — even those who don’t support the settlement enterprise — don’t believe that continued construction across the green line (the overwhelming majority of which is in areas that will likely become part of Israel in a future peace deal) is as important as the answer to one question: What will happen the day after a “peace deal” is signed?

Will Palestinian leaders and citizens of the nascent state truly drop all historical claims against Israel and get on with the messy business of statehood?

Will they work as hard at building democratic institutions and nurturing a culture of peace and tolerance as they did towards “resisting the occupation?”

Will they defend their new state against a potential takeover by Hamas or other extremist groups?

Unless Western leaders and those within the opinion elite are prepared to take these questions seriously and hold Palestinians responsible for decisions that are inimical to co-existence, Israelis aren’t going to be moved by empty platitudes about “peace” to make irreversible decisions that may actually make terror and war more likely.

Yigal Amir was deluded in many respects, the least of which was his idolatrous belief in the supremacy of land over life. However, there was one other delusion of grandeur he embraced: that he could single-handedly kill not only Rabin, but the peace the prime minister sought and for which his nation so passionately longed. Though Amir succeeded in the former, he couldn’t — even in carrying out his despicable deeds — succeed in the latter.

Rather, Rabin’s dream will only be defeated — and Yigal Amir’s victory achieved — if we forget one fundamental principle: though the Palestinians arguably ‘deserve’ a state, Israelis certainly “deserve” peace.

If Israelis can’t be convinced that the former will result in the latter, no amount of lofty, soaring and soothing rhetoric about peace will convince them of the supremacy of hope over the sober reality born of the Israeli experience — and indeed the broader lessons learned from thousands of years of Jewish history.

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  • William C. McKee

    Now is the season to find truth in Matthew Ch 5, the so-called “Beatitudes”. Without those words in your thoughts and actions then you have no hope.

    Look up a dull and boring, peer reviewed article. The dull and boring suggests that it is quite true.

    “Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability” by Jeremy S. Pal and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir. Essentially the heat and humidity in what might be thought of as the Holy Lands will be so great in an average day of 2071 (or even before that occasionally) that even the strong and healthy will die from heat stroke before making it once around the black cube of the Hodge. Doubtlessly before then, the entire ME (likely including Israel) will have its population exit the region. Of course never to return. The Bible mentions a time of increased solar heat, if anyone took it at all seriously.

    The alternative to all of the above is to actually live out The Beatitudes. Your call to make.

    The science needed to tame The Sahara Desert, and make it a fertile garden (able to feed hungry billions of people) exists within Israel. Doing that, plus applying the US Navy’s gasoline from sea water program in conjunction with thousands of Molten Salt Thorium Reactors should allow the saving of the Holy Lands, and maybe the earth.

    The Navy, making all the usual engineering assumptions, came up with a projected price of gasoline of 3 dollars per gallon. Their assumption was a 250 C Boston Marathon Giant Pressure Cooker Reactor, operating at about 30% efficiency. The pot of boiling rice type Thorium salt reactor operates at 1000 C and about 50% efficiency.

    Assuming the costs of fuel and equipment to be about the same for both reactors — a not necessarily true assumption. Then roughly the cost of gasoline in the second reactor would be:
    (3 dollars/gallon)*(30%/50%) = (1.80 dollars/gallon).

    If 1000 degree C nuclear heat were employed to crack water into hydrogen then gasoline costing less than 1 dollar/gallon might be possible.

    Such low cost gasoline might gain the rightful anger of Mohammad against me for having made the value of the sea of oil below Saudi Arabia instantly go > poof! <. Maybe so. But I would make of his people to be farmers rather than gas station attendants. This by highlighting simple methods to bring in rain to his part of the world. And maybe Mohammad could forgive me, for if I did nothing, both his beloved land and people would by boring science simply and surely die. That is "The Handwriting on the wall".

    It is the several million Palestinians that will save the region and the world. I love the idea that they would inherit all the land of the Sahara desert. How much honor to give to the vision of "The Beatitudes". Are not sages and prophets to be honored?

    There might be a hundred cities, fit for millions of people constructed in the Sahara — with lots of roads and "highways" of course. These cities would have constructs within them, designed to bring regional rains, as foretold by the prophecy of "The perpetual celebration of The Feast of Booths". A very OT idea. And it was evidently intended for the whole planet. A mystery though. It normally doesn't rain in deserts, but other places do normally do have rain. Isn't it easier to just go to places where the rain is normal? Note, the prophecy suggests, that even in these normal places that there otherwise wouldn't be rain without these necessary constructs. Could the rain be shut off. How or why?

    I have yet to locate a pile of boring peer reviewed science articles to support the following. But once the Frankenstein monster and his mate are released into the world, and found to be hardier and more adaptable than we are, then they might become dominant. About 1 in 10,000 bacteria in the wild are what is called ice nucleating bacteria. It was old school thinking that clay particles from decomposing granite nucleated ice crystals in rain clouds to eventually become rain drops. But today, the weather channel shows micro photographs of ice and snow that prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is in fact ice nucleating bacteria that are doing this function. The warning from the Bible is clear. Something will turn off the rain. Not the actions of a deity. But rather people acting as a deity. Even in the mythic garden story of Moses, wasn't that the temptation. In fact God gave man the right to act thusly — in owning the right to name all creatures as he saw fit. To rule over it all. But Satan got man to not trust God, but instead to trust him. Adam and Eve did not eat of ALL of the limitless garden, just the part that got them in trouble. Likewise the bio-firms that concentrated intently on the total elimination of certain plant pathogens rather than to seek a balance of living with them. They may have released monsters, or changed normal plants into being monsters. They had that right. But it may not have been wise. Better that they would have left that one plant alone in their garden, rather than to breed it with great proliferation.

    Consider the following article: "Atmospheric dysbiosis: is the loss of rainmaking bacteria causing the drought in the Western US?" by Sayer Ji and Keith Bell. The above is a powerful hypothesis, as we now know of the great benefit of these pestilence bacteria. Essentially one micron sized IN+ bacteria might be responsible for bringing down a one millimeter sized rain drop. That is a multiplication factor of:

    (1E-3/1E-6)^3 = (1E3)^3 = 1 billion fold.

    Just a simple rain drop, is proof enough that the universe has forms of miracles. God allowed us to turn off the rain. It was our right. But if it gets turned back on, is something that we might have to elect to do. To in various ways put the IN+ bacteria back into the clouds. Deserts often do not have clouds, thus we may have to make some. That, or like the sage of long ago, wait for one to come in from the sea.

    Project Cloud of CERN details how to make clouds from elements that might be grown in green houses or produced in chemical labs. The 100 cities in the Sahara, laid out and designed with say the greatest TLC by Donald Trump to honor the efforts of the Palestinian heroes might house all that is needed to nucleate clouds into existence and nucleate these clouds to then rain.

    To power all of this up, we might develop large arrays of solar trough thermal collectors. These operating at 500 degree C and 40% efficiency to convert solar heat into electricity. Operating at this temperature, it is reasonable to design thermal updraft towers to radiate the waste heat away, without the necessity of wasting valuable pumped in water in evaporator towers. What is more the thermal driven towers would provide a powerful air flow to distribute skyward the specified CERN chemicals and natural or synthetic substitutes for the ice nucleating bacteria. [All one needs is mass produced IN+ bacteria proteins placed on the surface of a micron sized drop of water with a phospholipid bi-layer membrane jacketing it. The very same bio-firms that turned off the rain, might be employed to turn it back on. I like that idea.

    The bill to do all of this would of course be massive. But to not pay the bill would be problematic. That is why God made people like Trump who can work out such things. The entire Christian Church might chip in to save essentially the Muslim World — and the universal Holy Land(s). Plus about 7 billion additional people that would need to be fed. They could enjoy the special blessing given to those that do good to even those that despise and hate them. A very much Jesus expounded idea. To him, the great and good rabbi, and his "Beatitudes" all honor given.

  • Russell Mollot

    The Arab “Authority” has already (in the last couple of weeks) repudiated the Oslo Agreement in its entirety. Why Israel continues to uphold its end of the “bargain” is beyond me.

    The solution to the “Palestinian” problem is:
    (a) Israel should recognize “Palestine” as an Independent state;
    (b) immediately declare war upon the new state of Palestine, drive the PLO-Nazi residents of the eastern (“West Bank”) area into Jordan; and drive the Hamas-Nazi residents of the western (“Gaza”) area into Egypt. Those two countries will know what to do with them (i.e., segregate them in refugee camps, with no rights, and supported by the U.N.R.W.A., for the next 60 years); and,
    (c) Annex the newly-liberated lands (Judea, Samaria, and Gaza) and open them for settlement by people who accept Israeli sovereignty.

  • Annie

    States are not created from nowhere. It takes a culture, tradition and roots of the core majority to develop a society. It takes hundreds, thousands of years. People who are actual Palestinians are very few to create this type of society. Majority are the runways from other countries who settled in Palestine some 60 something years ago. This is a gathering of different individuals, not a nation . They operate as mafia groups according to their logical historical development, and will continue to do so, as this is their natural development. Naming them a State, or giving them opportunity to have one, is stupid and asking for disaster.If this will happen, the region will be taken over by other Arabic countries, which are developed , which means end to Israel.The so called Palestinian people are in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Instead, this region must be dissolved, and they must be sent back to their countries of origin where they belong. That is lasting peace.

  • Robert Davis

    It is totally absurd to think that teritorial concessions to arabs would give peace by w”eakening Israel. It is naturally the other way around it would force Israel into another round and another until Tel Aviv becomes a citadel impossible to defend militarily with no airports for Israel’s aircraft nor enough soldiers. This is howConstantinople and many other stront places were lost in the past. Of course lefters don’t like the past and they twist History with their lies as they please. Ygal Amir did the right thing toç do he is a hero. Israel must be stronger toget peace not weaker of course and expel thoise arabs. Then arabs will beg to come to Jerusalem and this is HOW they will offer peace.

  • Elisheva

    The latest Israeli polls I have seen do not indicate that Israelis support the Oslo Accord or are in favor of giving any more land to the Palestinians. Many recognize that the Gaza withdrawal was a huge error. They do want peace but not if it means committing suicide. The Palestinians do not want a State and are not willing to recognize Israel. The first thing is that they must recognize that Israel has the right to exist. There will never be peace when they incite their youth constantly to hate Jews.

  • Geoff

    What is it about ex-Presidents, other world leaders and the so-called “experts” who know so much about how to resolve the Israli-Palestinian conflict yet none live in Israel or have experienced the almost daily occurrences that threaten the lives of the average citizen? When all the blah blah blah is boiled down to irs essence, Israel must negotiate a deal with the Palestinians without regard to the intended and unintended consequences to a two-state solution. Further, in every deal presented to the Israelis, they always come off with the short stick.

    It is tie that Israel do what is best for Israel and her people and ignore what others think, say and do which seems to come back and kick the Israeli squarely in the head.

    Israel has become an island in a sea of sharks who do not have her best interests.

  • nelson marans

    Yasir Arafat and now Mahmoud Abbas killed the peace process and not the assassin of Rabin. Demands made by the Palestinian Arab leaders that would lead to the demise of the Jewish state has made Oslo a farce, perpetrated on the Israel and its people.

  • Boris Kapilevich

    Clinton’s speech is a provocation. His desire is to help Hillary become a new president of United states.
    Existence of Israel – the last thing on his mind.

  • Nils

    There are four issues that need to be addressed:

    1) Rabin wasn’t enthusiastic about the Oslo process because he understood the Palestinians and Arafat for what they were: primarily focused not on peace or even a state for themselves but on the annihilation of Israel. Oslo came out of his camp and Rabin couldn’t reject it without tearing his party apart. Oslo was tainted form the git-go.

    2) Settlements may be the only leverage Israel has over the Palestinians. The threat of more land taken for settlements may provide the incentive for reaching a solution that all the moratoria on settlement construction never have. Palestinians should be told that what they lost before is gone, and the discussion is moving to what they will lose by continuing to reject peace. Making continued ‘resistance’ credible actually undermines the prospects for resolving the conflict.

    3) Palestinian leaders cannot agree to peace today for two reasons: The best they can get today is what they could have had in 1949, so an agreement today is an admission that their decisions for the last 66 years have been wrong and they are responsible for the suffering of their people. The other problem is that the Palestinian leadership is largely drawn from the descendants of the refugees of 1948, and peace offers them nothing, despite their having lived as refugees for three generations.

    4)The Israeli Left, and the wider Left around the world, cannot understand why sane people oppose the Left holding power. The Left is primarily about holding power and not about what it will do with it, so when the Left screws up, it invariably blames its victims. In the Middle East, that means blaming the Israeli Right for well, being right.

    • theo

      Nils ,your message is well reasoned but if point 1) pertains then the other points are superfluous
      If all the Palestinians want is the annihilation of Israel then nothing else can be considered Israel then should act for itself

    • Robert Davis

      The left knows and can do only ONE hing : destroy everything including themselves and vitify the whole lot. As to Israel it cannot end this conflict unless it ends up its INDEPENDENCE WAR by expelling arabs which will make possible peace with neghbouring nations. Fake “palestinians” do NOT exist politically they are JORDANIANS, no one can make peace with a ghost.

    • Reform School

      and 5) Their leaders tacitly understand that WHEN/IF the day arrives they defeat the Jewish State following a negotiated settlement, the following day their infant state will be destroyed by a joint attack by the entire MUSLIM world, as punishment for negotiating with the Zionist Entity. Such a fate faces Egypt and Jordan, for the same reason. Jizya is as basic to Islam as Taqiyya.

  • brenrod

    I see no mention of the fact that Rabin’s daughter stated that Rabin was considering ending Oslo before he was shot which renders this article moot.

  • Chris Rettenmoser

    The “Palestinians” DO NOT “deserve” a state !
    These Arabs can be lucky, to live inside a democratic Jewish state…

  • Chris Rettenmoser

    The two state solution is dead, because it always was self- destructive MADNESS !!!!!!!!!

  • The low-level expectations from Palestinians, which Levick presents very lucidly, should be obvious by now to anyone who is paying any attention. The big question is the psychology behind it. Israeli Jews, liberals around the world, conservatives around the world, Western leaders and the UN, to name a few, never demand that Palestinians take bold steps, and then often proceed to decry Israeli “intransigence.” Why is it that the demands imposed on the Palestinians always so minimal and the excuses and apologetics so profuse?