For the last twenty years Israel has been swept into an obsession with few parallels except to the Dutch Tulip economy. Except instead of tulips, its commodity of choice is an even more insubstantial thing: the faint promise of peace.
Peace fever is the disease consuming Israel as surely as the Black Death took Europe. If the Dutch traded fortunes for flowers, the Israelis have traded away most of their territory for worthless pieces of paper that last about as long as tulips do. Mostly, like Madoff’s investments, after they wither and die it turns out that they were never worth anything to begin with.
Take the Camp David Accords, greeted with romantic fervor in Jerusalem and European capitals, but resented and despised by Egyptians because they were a reminder of how their army had failed to destroy Israel. It was a worthless accord that gave Egypt a vast amount of territory in exchange for maintaining a status quo that it had no choice but to maintain after losing multiple wars. With the fall of Mubarak, it was revealed that the Accords were never more than moonbeams and fairy dust. A puff of Arab Spring and they were gone.
Camp David was an illusion, but the Oslo Accords are a delusion. A tulip economy in which Israel doles out fortunes in money, land and power in exchange for the promise of peace and an end to the violence… tomorrow, always tomorrow. The most devastating impact of the delusion isn’t on the cemeteries where children lie side by side with soldiers, on the broken homes and synagogues of Gaza, or on the tightening circle of terror around Jerusalem. As with all delusions, its most devastating impact is on the mind.
The only way to sustain the peace delusion is by blaming Israel for the failure of the peace process. Blaming the terrorists opens up a hopeless catalog of violence, corruption, incitement and madness. There is no way to catalog all that and still honestly go on believing that peace is possible. The only way to keep the lie of peace alive is by blaming Israel.
The peace disease infects its victims with self-hatred as the only way to keep the pathogen alive. And the disease has no end. There was a time when Arafat was the guest of honor among peaceniks; now it’s Hamas. Peter Beinart is busy explaining that Hamas really isn’t that bad once you get to know them. And why not? It’s what the peace camp did with Arafat and that worked out great. Why not do it with Hamas?
The internal logic of the disease is inescapably consistent. We had to believe in Arafat in order to believe in peace. Now that our peace partners have expressed a preference for Hamas over Fatah, we have to believe in Hamas, in order to believe in peace. To believe in peace we have to believe in a peace partner to have peace with. We have to believe that there is hope for peace with every terrorist, that the lack of peace is our fault– not theirs.
Sick? Demented? Twisted? All of the above, but also completely logical. If you are going to be delusional, then it is best to be consistently delusional. Why be neurotic, when you can be flat out insane? Why settle for a second rate phobia when you can go for full on schizophrenia? Hope and faith often dance close to the level of madness. Sustaining misdirected hope in the face of reality requires a great deal of faith or delusion.
Delusional does not mean stupid. Highly intelligent people are more likely to be deluded because they have a greater capacity for rationalizing the delusion. A stupid person would assume that being shot at marks the end of peace negotiations. It takes a highly intelligent person to rationalize the shots as not an attack on him, but on the negotiations, which are the only way to stop the cycle of violence.
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