Daniel Pipes: Annapolis Blues

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Mr. Pipes is the director of the Middle East Forum. His website address is http://www.danielpipes.org. Click here for his blog.]

The Bush administration's plans to convene a new round of Israeli-Arab diplomacy on Nov. 26 will, I predict, do substantial damage to American and Israeli interests.

As a rule, successful negotiations require a common aim; in management-labor talks, for example, both sides want to get back to work. When a shared premise is lacking, not only do negotiations usually fail, but they usually do more harm than good. Such is the case in the forthcoming Annapolis, Maryland, talks. One side (Israel) seeks peaceful coexistence while the other (the Arabs) seeks to eliminate its negotiating partner, as evidenced by its violent actions, its voting patterns, replies to polls, political rhetoric, media messages, school textbooks, mosque sermons, wall graffiti, and much else.

Damage will be done should the Israeli government make"painful concessions" and get a cold peace or empty promises in return, as has consistently been the case since 1979. This lop-sided outcome would, once again, boost Arab exhilaration and determination to eliminate the Jewish state.

Mahmoud Abbas, Condoleezza Rice, and Ehud Olmert: Will they be celebrating at Annapolis?

Contrarily, should the Israelis resist a joint U.S.-Palestinian position, I see a possible crisis in U.S.-Israel relations of unprecedented proportions – worse than 1975 or even 1957. That's because, in part, the stakes are so high. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated that"the United States sees the establishment of a Palestinian state, a two-state solution, as absolutely essential to the future of not just Palestinians and Israelis but also to the Middle East and, indeed, to American interests." If a Palestinian state is"absolutely essential … to American interests," whoever stands in its way will presumably pay a heavy price. As I have been arguing since November 2004, U.S.-Israel relations are hanging by a thread. Annapolis renders them yet more vulnerable to disruption.

Putting aside these deep and inescapable problems, the talks face two practical challenges: On the Palestinian side,"Fatah figurehead Mahmoud Abbas" (as Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick calls him) is an extremely weak reed."There is no responsible Palestinian leadership that could deliver a newspaper on time in the morning," the Jerusalem Report's Hirsh Goodman notes,"much less a peace agreement that would stand the test of time."

On the Israeli side, Ehud Olmert's prime ministry could crash if his skittish partners abandon the ruling coalition. Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu have warned against dividing Jerusalem and other steps. Ehud Barak, head of the Labor Party, reportedly will reject any plan denying freedom of movement to the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni could bolt if a Palestinian"right of return" is not renounced. That a recent poll finds 77 percent of Israelis think their government is"too weak to sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians in Israel's name" increases the chance of defections.

These grim prospects raise the question: Why, after nearly seven years of staying aloof from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, has the Bush administration now succumbed to the bug? Some possible factors.

  • Iranian threat: Rice sees an opportunity for U.S. diplomacy in a Middle East re-alignment resulting from Iranian aggression, both actual (Hizbullah, Hamas) and future (nuclear weapons).
  • Inaction worse: If nothing is done, Kadima's already dismal standing in the polls will continue to fall and Fatah's tenuous hold over the West Bank will erode. The prospect of Likud and Hamas succeeding Olmert and Abbas pleases the Bush administration no more than it does those two men.
  • Legacy: Zbigniew Brzezinski has articulated the foreign policy establishment's hopes for Annapolis and its dim view of Rice:"She realizes that her legacy right now is really very poor. If she can pull this off, she will be seen as a real historical figure."
  • Civil rights: Rice believes in a bizarre analogy between West Bank Palestinians and southern Blacks.
  • Messianism: Both George W. Bush and Rice seem to view themselves as destined to resolve Arab-Israeli hostilities. One interlocutor recounts that"she believes this is the time for the Israeli and Palestinian conflict to end."

Rice's comment echoes both George H.W. Bush's 1991 statement that"the time has come to put an end to Arab-Israeli conflict" and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's 2005 announcement of his intent"to resolve this problem once and for all." But, as Irving Kristol has memorably observed,"Whom the gods would destroy they first tempt to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict."

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omar ibrahim baker - 10/30/2007

Up to 1967 Israel demanded and clamoured ceaseleesly for Peace with the Arabs to be based on mutual recognition .
The Arab officaldoms, under public pressure, were adamant in their utter rejection of any settlement that recognizes Israeli borders within the post 1948 war frontiers.

Other, non official , Arabs rejected any settlement that recognizes a Zionized Palestine.
Post 1967 Arab officialdoms accepted a setlement based on pre 1967 war borfers that is within post 1948 Israeli borders.

Other Arabs , the unofficials, maintained their rejection of a Zionized Palestine.

Their alternative Peace proposal was for a united secular Palestine ie a binational state.
Israel, out of perfectly understandable Zionist considerations, hastily rejected that.

Post 1967 Israel annexed Jerusalem started confiscating lands in the occupied territories and launched an ambitious settlements buiding prodram ; invariably on occupied Palestinian lands.

Post 1973 Israeli conditions for peace escalated from mutual recognition within new secure borders (448), that Arab officialdoms was more than ready to accept and proffer, to the recognition of all the new "faits accomplis" ie the recognition of the annexation of Jerusalem, the new settlements and a substantially demiltarized West Bank and Gaza.
That later developed into continued Israeli military presence in major parts of both the West Bank and gaza.

Meanwhile the confiscation of Arab/Palestinian lands and the buiding thereon of new Settlements and the expansion of existing settlements continued unabatted.
Recently it was crowned with a major land grab; the WALL.

The legal and moral justification of both, the building and expansion of settlements, being the need to accomodate "natural " Israeli population, and other forms of , growth was substantially accepted by the West in general and the USA in particular.
(It never occurred to them that there was also a corresponding Palestinian growth.)

Arab officialdoms ended by substantially accepting the new Israeli terms for peace as in the Camp David of Egypt, the Oslo of Fatah/Arafat/Abbass and the Wadi Araba of Jordan.

Israel confronted with the dire choice between a substantially binational Palestine /Israel if no land is ceded and its inner desire and doctrniaire compulsion for continued Israeli/JEWISH domination of all of Palestine came up with the propsals for a form of limited Palestinian home rule within an ever decreasing Palestinian area and , hopefully , an ever decreasing number of Palestinians remaining in Palestine.

Judging by the success of Israel's policy of escalating demands and diminishing outlays/reward? , Arab officialdoms successive submissions and total US identification with Israeli demands this phase of the conflict could possibly end with that; limitrd Palestinian home rule in a constantly diminishing Palestine.

However throughout this period ( 1948-2007++) a number of Arabs and Palestinians have maintained that the only peace that Israel could conceivably ever accept should include , as an absolute minimum, total Israeli domination of all of Palestine and of all the Palestinians living in Palestine.

Therefore, according to them, there is absolutely no possibilty of any peace unless and untill there is total Arab submission to Israeli will.

Now whether Israel will manage to impose its will indefinitly on the Arabs particularly now that they have been joined with the Moslems remains to be seen.

On the other hand it should be noted that Israel, by its very existence as a Jewish colony in Palestine, embarked on a huge historical gamble.
The loosers will pay very heavily for for any possible miscalculations, bad odds?, or rash underestimates .
(I apologize for the many ?
spelling mistakes, my Words is on strike.)

omar ibrahim baker - 10/29/2007

Pipes apprehensions from Annapolis are perfectly understandable; though unwarranted, nothing will come out of Annapolis.

Anything that has the term peace in it, in a Palestinian/Israeli context, is simply untimely , premature and prejuidicial from an Israeli standpoint!

That term , peace, necessarily implies a minimum of compromise which no matter how one perceives it would inevitably entail some Israeli "concessions".

That, Israeli concessions no matter how trivial, is totally unacceptable as a matter of principle and as a matter of doctrine for the Zionist movement and for Israel.

"Peace" in a context that implies reciprocated concessions and mutual accomodations is totally and unequivocably unacceptable to the Zionist movement and to Israel.

The desired end , the ultimsate Zionist objective for this phase of the conflict is the TOTAL and UNCONDITIONAL SUBMISSION of the Palestinian people.

Phase two, which will have its beginings after all possibilities of a Palestinian state, in Palestine, are put to rest, would then aim at the deportation of all Palestinians from Palestine .

A course similar , parallel, to the present will then be followed by Israel: while declaiming a policy of peaceful coexitence all methods to frustrate it will be assiduously followed (Note: Israeli present peace pretentions versus the ongoing confiscation of land, Settlements, the Wall etc.etc )

One thing we should grant the Zionist movement: it was always clear and precise about its objectives.

These were, for phase one of the regional Zionist master plan , unmitakably enunciated by Wieseman who wanted a Jewish state, in Palestine, as Jewish as France is French.
Pipes is actually repeating the same claim .
Both Wiseman and Pipes should be appreciated for their clarity .

Not that we ever had any doubts about ultimate Zionist objectives; still it is good to hear it from their very mouths .