Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s “chiding” of Israel, as the Washington Post put it, was a strange performance, so muddled in its ignorance of fact and logic that one wonders if the Secretary was attempting some rhetorical misdirection to lull our enemies into complacency. Unfortunately, the more likely reason for his misguided remarks is the dead hand of foreign policy received wisdom and unexamined ideas.
The orthodox narrative purporting to explain the Israel-Arab conflict goes like this. The Palestinian people were deprived of their homeland as a result of the creation of Israel, which continues to occupy the territories belonging to Palestinians. Among the Arabs, a radical minority of terrorists, mirrored by a radical minority of Israelis, have fomented violence to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. The goal of “two states living side by side in peace and in security,” as Panetta repeated the mantra, has thus for 60 years been blocked by these minorities, who have been abetted by weak, venal, or fanatic politicians on both sides. Instead we have the “cycle of violence” that creates fear among Israelis, and hence oppressive security measures that retard the economic development of the Palestinians and frustrate their daily lives, further radicalizing them and legitimizing more terrorist violence. The solution, according to Panetta, is “for Israel to take bold action and to move towards a negotiated two-state solution.” Or as Panetta shouted, “Just get to the damn table.” Only then will stability and order flourish in the Middle East, and Israel’s security be assured.
The only problem with this story is that there is little evidence to support it. Sixty years of history shows that the primary aim of Arabs in the Middle East is the destruction of Israel, not the creation of a Palestinian state coexisting with Israel. Hence the impossible conditions for peace that always appear in the Palestinian list of demands, the worst being the “right to return” for a metastasizing population of Palestinian “refugees,” which would be a demographic WMD for the destruction of Israel. Nor is Panetta’s suggestion that the Israelis have refused to negotiate true to the facts. Most recently, Israel suspended building apartments in East Jerusalem for a year to lure Palestinian President Abbas back to the table, and Abbas did nothing until a month before the moratorium expired, insuring that talks would fail. This has been the pattern of “negotiations” for decades: start with impossible demands, trumpet a willingness to negotiate for the benefit of gullible Westerners, then sabotage the whole process, confident that the international community will blame Israel. This behavior makes sense if one realizes that negotiations, like terrorist attacks, are a tactic for pursuing the long-term strategy for the destruction of Israel. The Palestinians have followed the method of Konrad Henlein, Hitler’s Nazi stooge in Czechoslovakia, who in 1938 said, “We must always demand so much that we cannot be satisfied.” Having gone through this process repeatedly, why should the Israelis heed Panetta and once more play a game that furthers the aims of those who want to destroy them?
Indeed, every Israeli concession to and agreement with the Palestinians has been followed by more terrorist violence. After the Oslo Agreement of 1993 handed the West Bank over to the Palestinian Authority, 300 Israelis were killed by terrorist attacks. After Arafat was offered virtually everything he had demanded for creating a Palestinian state in 2000, in the following five years 1,100 Israelis were murdered during the Al Aqsa Intifada. After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, another 118 Israelis have been killed, and thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel. The 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon was followed by the creation of a Hezbollah terrorist state armed with 50,000 rockets. Only someone with a penchant for magical thinking could believe that more negotiations and concessions could lead to peace. To paraphrase Goldfinger’s comment to James Bond, the Palestinians don’t expect the Israelis to talk, they expect them to die.
Panetta’s other comments are equally naïve and blind to reality. For example, Panetta advises Israel to “reach out and mend fences with those who share an interest in regional stability – countries like Turkey and Egypt, as well as Jordan. This is an important time to be able to develop and restore those key relationships in this crucial area.” This would be the same Turkey that is virtually an Islamist state, one that supported the so-called “freedom flotilla” patently intended to isolate Israel internationally, one that has threatened to attack Israeli vessels developing natural gas fields in its territorial waters, one whose prime minister joined the genocidal Iranian president Ahmadinejad at the U.N. in September to slander Israel, expelled Israeli diplomats from his country, and in a speech in Cairo threatened that “Israel must pay a price for its aggression and crimes.” How do those actions reflect an “interest in regional stability”?
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