OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

The State Department is playing to an empty house 

The conclusion of a series of interviews with Harold Rhode.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Bennett Ruda

The idea of a two-state solution being pushed by the U.S. State Department does not attract the Palestinian Arabs. They are not interested in the benefits Arabs have in Israel as opposed to in the surrounding states.

So why did the Palestinian Arabs sign the Oslo Accords?

Signatures on documents do not mean much in Arab culture. Two weeks after the signing of the Oslo Agreement, PLO leader Yasser Arafat spoke at a mosque in South Africa. He told his listeners he had not signed a peace agreement with Israel, but rather a truce. He compared the Oslo Accords to the 10-year truce the Islamic prophet Muhammad signed at Hudaybiya (near Mecca) with his enemies, the Qureysh.

Two years later, when Muhammad realized he was stronger than his enemies, he attacked and conquered Mecca—so much for the 10-year truce with his enemy. Similarly, on Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas and Iran saw Israel as divided and weak. But they miscalculated because this wasn’t Hudaybiya. They did not understand Israel’s internal fortitude.

But all is not lost when it comes to Israel-Arab relations.

Muslims can sign agreements with their opponents which—unlike the Hudaybiya truce—can be periodically renewed when they believe it is in their interests. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew that once they needed what Israel had to offer—such as hi-tech, security, and investments—the Arabs would be the ones reaching out for an agreement.

This is the reason why the Abraham Accords were signed.

Moreover, Muslims respect power. When President Donald Trump killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020, Iran became relatively quiet, except for some small probing attacks. We saw this also in Iran’s reaction to President Ronald Reagan before he came into office. Forty-five minutes before Reagan took the oath of office, Iran put U.S. hostages on a plane to freedom. Iran saw Reagan as a cowboy who would destroy them.

You can make things happen once you understand the Muslim respect for power.

In comparison, a compromise is a blot on your honor. In the Muslim world, compromise is a sign of weakness, encouraging others to strike you even harder. You cannot give in. The Americans have not yet learned the Muslim concept of compromise.

Concepts are not the same as words. Anybody can look up a word in a dictionary and translate it the way one likes. We assume a concept means the same thing in every language. But cultures don’t communicate—they clash.

I once asked an Arab friend how he would translate the word “compromise.” He thought about it for a week and came back to me. He said the closest he could get to it in Arabic was a word with the root N-Z-L. We both laughed because in Hebrew that root means “a runny nose.” In Arabic, it means to get off your camel—the common idea being to go down; that you humiliate yourself. That is what the Western concept of compromise means in Arabic.

Compromise means humiliation.

That is why there can be no two-state solution. At best, it would be a temporary solution, but it will be like Gaza: they will take what you give them and then use it against you. An agreement might be renewed over and over, but it is not designed to last and there is always the possibility it will fall apart. There may be others who will be better allies, especially if they are also Arabs and in the same clan. It is not a nice way to live, but then again, there is no such thing as peace.

That doesn’t mean we cannot have long periods of quiet.

The first two interviews in the series are available here and here.

Originally published by Elder of Ziyon.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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