Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interesting but Nonsense, courtesy of the NY Times

The NY Times is out to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though its editorial writers will then have to scrounge for new subject matter. No matter, it forges ahead with two ambitious recent offerings. The first of these two articles has the confident title "How to Handle Hamas":
If Hamas cannot be uprooted, it might be convinced to not disrupt peace talks with violence and tone down its rhetoric. In order for Hamas to want a lasting cease-fire, Israel and its allies must change the organization’s decision-making calculus — a process that will require both incentives and threats.

One way to go about this would be for Israel to allow the regular flow of goods into Gaza with international, rather than Israeli, monitors manning the crossing points. Israeli intelligence would still watch what goes in and out to ensure that the monitors did their job, but symbolically the switch would be important.

In exchange, Hamas would commit to a lasting cease-fire and agree to stop all attacks from the territory under its control. Hamas would also close the tunnels and end its smuggling.

Such a deal would allow Hamas to claim credit for improving the lives of Gazans, and it could use the resulting increase in the flow of goods to reward its supporters. For Israel, the regular rocket attacks would come to a complete halt and the threat of renewed attacks would diminish. A cease-fire would also free up Israel diplomatically. If the problem of Hamas receded, Israel could take more risks at the negotiating table with Abbas.
And exactly why would Hamas go along with this? It isn't as if this could be our secret strategy. Hamas not only undoubtedly reads the NY Times, its leaders also occasionally contribute to the Washington Post.

What Hamas has said would entice it to offer a "lasting cease fire," if it is even being honest there, are the sorts of concessions that two-state-solution proponents envision as being made in exchange for permanent peace. The blockade (and the possibility of its cessation) is already a combination of incentive and threat. Hamas has a clear sense of its overarching goals and an advanced martyrdom ethic. The notion that it could be molded so easily with the ultimate end of defeating its long-term aims is condescending. They may be fascists, but they aren't children.

The Gray Lady also offers an odd bit of triangulation that attempts to enlist supporters of Israel in the anti-settler cause. Religious Zionists, we learn, threaten "Herzl’s Zionist vision":
Herzl’s view stemmed from the ideals of the Enlightenment and the tradition of democratic national liberation movements, dating back to the American and French Revolutions; religious settlers are steeped in blood-and-soil nationalism. Herzl never doubted that Israeli Arabs should have full and equal rights. For religious settlers, Arabs are an alien element in the organic unity of Jews and their land.

The consequences of these differences are huge. If the settlers achieve their manifest goal — making Israel’s hold on the territories permanent — it will mean the de facto annexation of a huge Arab population and will force a decision about their status . . .

Israel would have to choose between remaining democratic but not Jewish, or remaining Jewish by becoming non-democratic. Israel’s enemies have long maintained that Zionism is racism and that Israel is an apartheid state. If the settlers succeed, they will turn this lie into truth.
If the alternative is a land-for-peace deal, it isn't clear that settling parts of the West Bank hurt the prospects for one. And that is assuming that there are prospects for one under any circumstances. If your enemies want to shrink you to nothingness through endless war, it makes sense to grow--especially within your smallish traditional homeland.

And whether settlers are "steeped in blood-and-soil nationalism" (whatever that means) or not, Palestinians certainly support despots. I like actual democracy in my democratic vision. So what will Israel do if ceding the West Bank will never be anything other than what the Gaza withdrawal was: a bloodless military victory for Israel's enemies? Reviling settlers, or a cartoon labeled "settlers," doesn't solve the problem, or even grapple with it. Somehow it also doesn't begin to exhaust the possibilities for faintly inane opinionating.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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