President Bush is in Israel, trying to secure his legacy by winning a real peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Israel is being a bit reluctant to sign on, and I have to admit that they have good reason.
Why would Israel be leery about a peace agreement with the Palestinians? And, in the larger picture, why would they be reluctant to sign on to an agreement backed by so much of the world?
Well, it’s this sticky little thing called “precedent.”
As far as I can recall, every single prior agreement has resulted in the same thing: great expectations, Israel makes some concessions and “good will gestures,” the Palestinians say they can’t live up to their end, then some “rogue terrorist” attacks happen and Israel says “screw this.” But their concessions and gestures are quickly forgotten and form the new status quo for the next round.
There’s no incentive for the Palestinians to actually negotiate in good faith and keep any promises they make; they are well on the way to getting everything they want simply by waiting and cycling through the “peace process.”
And why would Israel distrust such international bodies as the European Union and the United Nations, who actually created Israel?
Well, recently Israel intercepted six and a half tons of potassium nitrate (a key ingredient in making explosives) being smuggled into the Gaza Strip. The chemical was in bags marked as sugar — part of the “humanitarian aid’ the Palestinians say they need — and bearing the marks of the European Union.
The EU has been notably silent on this gross offense, leaving observers to speculate if they knew that bomb-making materials were being smuggled under their imprimatur, or simply didn’t care.
And as far as the UN… well, they sent their peacekeepers into southern Lebanon after the Israeli-Hezbollah war. Part of their mandate was to disarm Hezbollah and keep them from re-militarizing southern Lebanon.
And how’s that working out? Well, Hezbollah is not only better equipped to wage war than they were before the fighting, but the peacekeepers are actively collaborating with Hezbollah. It seems that as soon as Israel discovers a new Hezbollah fortification, they tell UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon) about the violation of the UN Resolution ending the conflict. Shortly thereafter, Hezbollah takes down the position and moves the weapons to a new position for Israel to find, now with new info on just how Israel’s intelligence systems work.
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, the Israelis are regularly denied access to their holiest site, the Temple Mount. The Palestinians hold it exclusively, and are quietly destroying any and all archeological evidence that the Jews ever set foot there. (Never mind the mountains of evidence to the contrary, it’s the “third holiest site in Islam” despite never being mentioned in the Koran.)
And the rest of the world doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about the rockets and missiles that are fired daily into Israel, both from Gaza and southern Lebanon, aimed at killing and terrorizing civilians.
So, just what does Israel have to gain from signing on to any peace plan? Going by history, pats on the head from the rest of the world — for a little while.
The only peace agreement that Israel should sign on to would include not only pledges from the Palestinians for steps towards peace, but actual enforcement clauses and iron-clad guarantees that they will be fulfilled. That’s the one thing that’s been lacking — holding the Palestinians to the agreements they sign on to.
For once, just once, why not have the Palestinians make the first gestures? Let them make some good will gesture, let them make the first concession. That would be a refreshing change from the standard pattern of Israel taking the first (and last) steps.
If the Palestinians are so eager for peace, let them take the initiative just this once.
I hope they will. I’m solidly convinced, though, that I’m wrong. Experience is a harsh teacher.