Two former Irish government officials who visited Israel recently declared that they know the way to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict. Both sides just need “leaders who genuinely want to resolve the issues,” they announced. Gee, how come the rest of us never thought of that before?
Sometimes, I marvel at the number of foreigners who believe that they have come up with the magical solution for peace in the Middle East. You hear such drivel from journalists like Thomas Friedman, who seems to believe he was born with the unique wisdom to solve every international problem, and from Jewish left-wing “peace” groups that genuinely believe that they are the only ones in the Jewish community who want peace. Believe me, they are not.
Most of all, you hear it from ex-diplomats. Those who have been involved in negotiating in one part of the world seem to assume that they are therefore uniquely equipped to negotiate any situation or conflict.
The worst, of course, are the former U.S. diplomats who spent more than 20 years trying to shove a Palestinian state down Israel’s throat in the name of “peace.” These days, practically every major newspaper article about some aspect of Arab-Israeli diplomacy includes some obnoxious comment from one or more of these “experts.”
Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller, Daniel Kurtzer, Martin Indyk and David Makovsky were all complete failures at “peace processing,” yet now they have full-time jobs at think tanks and on well-paid speaking tours where they berate Israel for not making enough concessions. In any other field, a track record of decades of failure would disqualify such a person from posing as an expert. But for these gentlemen, haranguing Israel has become a lucrative and never-ending profession.
Now along comes Peter Robinson, a former cabinet minister in Northern Ireland, and Eamon Gilmore, a former Irish deputy prime minister who as a United Nations envoy was involved in negotiations regarding the conflict in Colombia.
While attending a conference last week in Tel Aviv, they took the time to explain to reporters that solving the Israel-Palestinian Authority conflict isn’t so difficult, after all. You just need “leaders who genuinely want to resolve the issues, not just say it.” What a stroke of genius! “When you have those, any problem can be overcome,” Robinson added.
Sure, people on both sides may never get over all the years of “pain and mistrust,” but they can still “come to terms with the issues,” Gilmore insisted. He pointed to the examples of Northern Ireland and Colombia as precedents for Israel. Just like with Israel and the Arabs, those conflicts were both “very long conflicts … where there were a series of unsuccessful earlier attempts to [reach] an agreement. This shows the importance of persistence and patience. Both had courageous political leadership.”
Actually, all it shows is how little Gilmore understands about Israel and the Arabs.
Ireland was a conflict over whether one part of the country should remain under British rule or should be part of the rest of Ireland. Colombia was wracked by a civil war in which the rebels were motivated by the government’s management of land ownership and other policies.
Neither of those conflicts involved one ethnic-religious group attempting to annihilate another ethnic-religious group. In Ireland, the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland waged a war in spurts of violence since partition to drive Catholics out of their homes, the Protestants feared the same if Northern Ireland were to be incorporated into the Irish Republic.
In Colombia, they were fighting over various aspects of government policy and details of governance—not trying to destroy the country and slaughter all its inhabitants.
That’s why it was possible, after years of violence, for those warring parties to finally decide—out of sheer exhaustion and other factors—to lay down their weapons and negotiate the best deal they could. Neither side got everything they wanted, but they both got some of what they wanted, and they could live with it.
That doesn’t apply to Israel because what the Palestinian Arabs want is to put an end to Israel—in no small measure because the rest of the world keeps telling them to keep at it. They will sign temporary agreements from time to time to gain some advantage, but they can never make real peace or genuinely be satisfied until Israel has been destroyed. Rejecting Israel’s existence is an integral part of Islamist belief and Arab nationalism.
The mindset among Western diplomats like Messrs. Robinson and Gilmore is rooted in the assumption that in the end, everything can be worked out through dialogue and some give-and-take. They are used to negotiating with Irish and Colombian factions that had strong beliefs and were sometimes difficult to talk with, but who in the end chose to compromise.
Robinson and Gilmore don’t understand that the Palestinian Arabs are not the same as the Irish or the Colombians. Over the past 25 years, the Palestinian Authority has raised an entire generation through schools, news media and popular culture that inculcate hatred of Jews, glorification of violence and a life’s mission of bringing about the destruction of Israel. No diplomatic initiative, negotiating scheme or peace process can change that.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” is available on Amazon.com.