As for that famous “peace treaty” with Egypt often touted as proof of the possibilities of a negotiated settlement, the fall of Mubarak is making it increasingly clear that it was merely a 30-year cold truce purchased with the Sinai’s oil fields and the $2 billion a year in U.S. aid. Now with Mubarak gone, the border with Gaza is open to weapons, and the Sinai is a launching pad for terrorist attacks like the one a few weeks ago that killed eight Israelis.
The historical experience of negotiation to end the Israeli-Arab conflict is clear: concessions negotiated by Israel are met with violence and intransigence, just as the Oslo Agreement of 1993, which handed over control of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, was followed the rest of the decade by attacks that killed 256 Israeli citizens and soldiers. For those with eyes to see beyond the false promise of a negotiated “two-state” settlement, the explanation is obvious. The goal of most Palestinians is not two states living side-by-side in peace; rather, the goal is the same as it was in 1947, when the Palestinian state created by U.N. resolution 181 was rejected and followed by war––the destruction of Israel. The failure of that war and subsequent ones to achieve that aim did not disabuse the Arabs of their ultimate goal, but merely forced a change of tactics, one of which is the use of diplomatic negotiation as a “technical adjunct” to their long-term goal of wiping Israel off the map.
Instead of trying to head off the U.N. vote or calling yet again for futile “peace talks,” the U.S. needs to cast off the delusions of a negotiated two-state solution, and act on the basis of reality. We could start by making it clear to the Palestinians that further intransigence will result in the cut-off of U.S. aid, which (including contributions to the U.N.’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) has averaged $800 million a year. As for the threats of violence and increased anti-Americanism, these are constants in the region that nothing we do will change. For all of President Obama’s efforts at outreach to the Muslim world and pressure on Israel to make even more unreciprocated concessions, public opinion there is as negative towards the United States as it was under President Bush. A veto in the U.N. will just be another pretext for indulging the same old tactic of employing violence and then blaming America.
“It is easy enough,” Conquest wrote, “to fall into the trap of thinking that others think, within reason, like ourselves. But this trap is precisely the error that must be avoided in foreign affairs.” The dismal history of the Middle East gives us ample evidence that we have fallen into that trap for decades, compromising our own national interests and putting at risk the security of a valuable ally. It’s long past time that we made policy based on reality instead of on our own delusions.
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