Using Einstein’s definition of insanity as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been so overused to the point of being trite. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it any less true.
Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden resurrect the careers of all manner of officials with a long and storied history of failure in resolving the conflict.
One example is the new U.S. State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Israel-Palestine, Hady Amr, who previously served as U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations from 2014 to 2017.
You might want to read that last part again. Amr was an envoy for negotiations that did not exist. In other words, he wasn’t even able to achieve the basic criteria of his own job description.
Sadly, the irony of this is not reflected in the new U.S. administration’s approach to the Palestinians.
“The suspension of aid to the Palestinian people has neither produced political progress nor secured concessions from the Palestinian leadership,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said at a recent press briefing.
The State Department is thus attacking a policy that, to its officials’ minds, was not successful for four years, and replacing it with a policy that was an even greater disaster for almost 25 previous years.
The fact remains that since the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian position has not progressed a single inch. While Israeli leaders have openly and constantly accepted the premise of a “two states for two peoples” solution, made overly generous offers of peace, surrendered territory, recognized that all issues are on the table and have agreed to negotiate anywhere at any time, the Palestinian position has merely hardened.
The Palestinian Authority even rejected former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of 100 percent concessions on almost all issues, as P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas refused to sign the “end of claims” and “end of conflict” clauses that would be written into a subsequent agreement.
This one simple fact should reverberate with anyone interested in solving the conflict. It is the singular barrier and obstacle to its end.
Until the Palestinians understand that the conflict is over and that they have lost, nothing is possible. History and facts have amply demonstrated this.
Returning to the failed Oslo paradigm of offering more aid and political goodwill in exchange for Palestinian concessions has simply not worked, ever. There is no evidence whatsoever of its effectiveness of moving the needle one millimeter.
The opposite is true. Offering concessions and compromise only incentivizes Palestinian bad behavior and obstinance.
We saw this with the deadly Second Intifada that was launched immediately after former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s generous offer in 2000. The Second Lebanon War was launched not too long after Israel completely withdrew from Gaza during the Disengagement, and rocket barrages rained down on Israel—leading to “Operation Cast Lead” in the aftermath of the Annapolis Conference.
On the diplomatic front, the Palestinian position has not evolved to meet Israel’s; it has regressed.
The Palestinians refuse to countenance the “two states for two peoples” solution. They refuse to recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and continue to talk openly about ultimate victory over the Jewish state. This rejectionism is amplified in the political, diplomatic, religious, educational and even entertainment spheres.
The Palestinians still proudly talk of Sumud, meaning “steadfastness,” which is the root of this violent rejectionism. It is the attitude that underpins every action taken by the Palestinian leadership, and what must be broken to end the conflict.
The P.A. will not see these steps taken by the Biden administration as goodwill gestures, but rather an acknowledgment that their strategy persists. They don’t need to give an inch to gain a lot. This is demonstrably proven, time and again.
Only when the Palestinians understand that not only will they not gain, but they will lose, will their determination to continue fighting to be broken. That should be the goal.
The carrot has been tried repeatedly and has failed to even bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. It’s time for the stick.
A stick that breaks their will to continue the conflict is one that will deliver peace and security to Israel and a better future to the Palestinians, free of the burden of the conflict.
The fact that the failures of the past are about to be repeated does not bode well for Israel’s security, nor for a brighter Palestinian future.
Unfortunately, paradigms are hard to break, even if they fly in the face of fact.
In the results-oriented business world, someone in charge of negotiations who was unable to even bring two parties together would be immediately removed from his position, with his reputation in tatters.
Amr’s appointment is a paradigm for failure that will ultimately be repeated.
Expecting different results from the exact same failed policies is insanity, but it is also deadly since more lives will surely be lost as a result of this madness.
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Einstein’s definition, despite the cliché, unfortunately still rules.
Alex Nachumson is an IDF Military Commander (Res) and CEO of Mivtachi Israel, an organization of former senior IDF Officers.