Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. By Dror Eydar.

“Even if you give up all the land, it won’t solve the problems in the Mideast.” Interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. By Dror Eydar. Israel Hayom, June 28, 2013.


ISRAEL HAYOM: In your lectures you made numerous references to the situation in the Middle East. You claim that people in the West do not understand that what is taking place in the Middle East is not a dialogue.
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: More than one issue is at stake here. Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian context, the main problem is that you may speak of a peace process, but what you get is a process, not peace. And why is this process so prolonged? Because for the Israelis this issue is a territorial problem. For the Palestinian negotiators, on the other hand, it is not a territorial problem but a religious and ethnic one, It is not only about Palestinians but about all Arabs. Most of all, it is a religious problem.
From the perspective of the Arab leaders, reaching a two-state solution is to betray God, the Koran, the hadith and the tradition of Islam.
ISRAEL HAYOM: Even though they are portrayed as secular?
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: The presumption that the Palestinian negotiators are secular is not supported by facts. Were they secular, there would already be a settled territorial agreement of some kind. But there is no agreement as of today, because on one side it has become religious jihad of all or nothing, while on the other side it is still a territorial issue. Of course I know that there are Israelis who also perceive this as a religious problem; but their numbers pale in comparison to the Muslim side. Reaching a settlement that brings about two states is a religious betrayal – not only for the leadership but for most Muslims today. The West does not understand this.
ISRAEL HAYOM: Why? After the many years you have lived in the West, how can you explain this?
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: The conception of religion in the West in the 20th and 21st century differs from that of Middle Eastern Muslims. The West successfully separated religion and politics, but even in places in the West where there is no distinct separation, still the concept of God and religion, even in the 13th or 15th century, differs to the current reality in the Middle East.
Islam is an Orthopraxy, Islam has a goal. So if you are a true Muslim, you must fight for that goal. You can achieve a temporary peace or truce, but it is not ultimate, not everlasting. It is not just about the territory. Because the territory does not belong to the people; it belongs to God. So for a Palestinian leader – even if he is secular, even an atheist – to leave the negotiating room with the announcement of a two-state solution would mean that he would be killed the minute he walks out.
ISRAEL HAYOM: Many wise people come here advising us Israelis to act rationally. Do you think this dispute has anything to do with rationalism?
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: Europeans and Americans – and I do not refer merely to the leadership, but to people in general – when they have a problem, they think there must be some kind of compromise on the table. What they cannot accept is that one party would say “the only rational outcome is our complete victory.” If you put aside the Israeli-Palestinian situation, you see components of this culture in the events in Syria, in Lebanon. You’ve seen it with Mubarak. There is a winner and there is a loser. But there cannot be two winners.
ISRAEL HAYOM: So the proposal of compromise stems from naivety?
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: You can give it any label you like. I have listened to someone like Tony Blair, I was in two or three conferences where he spoke, and he is not naïve anymore, he is not the same man he was ten years ago in regards to this conflict. More and more leaders see that this conflict is not going to be resolved Western-style, namely that all conflicts are resolvable and no-one leaves the table empty-handed.
In a culture dictated by honor and shame – in addition to the religious issue – defeat of any kind, accepting a compromise, is to leave the room empty-handed. Compromise is loss in this culture. It is very hard to explain this to contemporary Westerners.

ISRAEL HAYOM: Many liberals around the world, who support the compromise solution, also tend to blame Israel.
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: Many liberals perceive Israel to be one of their kind; another liberal, white, rational state, etc. Therefore they expect you to approach matters the way they would. But then they approach the subject in the context of the U.S. or Europe, or some other Western system, where there is rule of law, arbiters, an ability to go to court in case of disagreement. There is a district court, a court of appeals, a supreme court, and once the judges have spoken their decision is final. You lose face, but you have to accept defeat.
What these liberals do not understand is that we are speaking of a fundamentally different context, where such a judicial infrastructure does not exist, and those who aspire for it are a persecuted minority.
And yet I am optimistic, after the Arab Spring. I see people, albeit few in number and very disorganized, but who do want that infrastructure where religion is put aside and where compromise becomes central. They just don’t know how to go about it. They lack the resources and the institutions to make that happen. But it is possible.
ISRAEL HAYOM: Your views are not prevalent within the liberal media or liberal intellectual elite. Have you encountered difficulties in delivering such ideas?
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: Among Western liberal elites there are those who have actual experience and those who have not. Those who have actual experience with any aspect of Islamic culture or religion, who have really given it their all to achieve some kind of compromise, come out – after years of endless abortive attempts – with a completely different perspective. Them I do not need to persuade.
I mentioned earlier Tony Blair, the most-renowned liberal to change his perspective. He once believed that the ability to always find a compromise for whoever was in the negotiations room was an art. He no longer thinks this way. As we are dealing with a wholly different phenomenon, we need voices like his to educate liberal Westerners on why this is different.
I think that whoever acts on the presumption that we are all the same and that we are able to solve this – is uninterested, indifferent, and inexperienced.
ISRAEL HAYOM: There is also a certain measure of idealism . . .
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: Idealism is a good thing. But when idealism encounters reality, you must not try to manipulate it to fit your utopia. You have to take in the reality. 93,000 people have died in Syria because the fighting forces could not, cannot, and will not compromise. This toll is higher than all the fatalities on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict!
So, to go on and on about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in my view is to take a tranquilizer or smoke pot. You do it just to feel better. You cannot face reality, so you just keep on harping about something that can make you feel better. One can also mention the number of people who died in Libya because Kaddafi and the opposition would not find the way to the negotiating table. This phenomenon is repeated throughout the region, not only today but throughout history. Reaching compromise is to lose face.
ISRAEL HAYOM: So do you think that talk about negotiations brought up by the Arab counterparts is a game, with no real intentions behind it? We know that right after the Oslo accords, Arafat spoke in a mosque in South Africa, comparing the Oslo accords to the hudaiba treaty by Muhammad with his enemies. In Israel, there were those who accepted this, as they said that Arafat had to resort to speaking two different languages, one for his people and one for us.
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: I hear this argument constantly, also in relation to the Turkey’s Erdogan and in regards to the Saudis. Do you know what is wrong with this argument? If you want peace and not merely a process, you must make peace with the people. The negotiators themselves are of no importance. They are a few individuals who may tomorrow be out of power or dead. You have to have peace with the people you are in conflict with, and as long as they do not want to hear a different tune, you will not have peace. Until the people at large are ready for that compromise, there is no compromise.
This is true of the domestic politics of any nation or the external politics with foreign nations, for whom the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is seen symbolically as the biggest icon of all foreign affairs relations with the Arab Islamic world.
There has to be a change of attitude and a change in attitude within the culture and of culture, and I hope that we can see this.
I believe that true emancipation cannot exist without the freedom of the individual, without the individual’s space and voice. The fact that individualism is not given a chance in the Arab Muslim world is related to belonging and the collective. If you want to belong and be part of the collective you have to be a winner. If you are not, then you are a source of shame.
So you have to ask yourself why the Syrian regime and its likes are incapable of putting an end to the bloodshed after killing ten, or 1,000, or 10,000 people. Why not? It is not caused by Israel, the Americans or any outsiders; it is part of the culture. And for the culture to grow out of such phenomena, change has to come from within.
ISRAEL HAYOM: If so, do negotiations have any meaning when we talk about peace while the Palestinian Authority use anti-Israeli school books, which do not even mention Israel by name in their geographical maps?
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: Not now. Not as long as a majority of the people do not want peace. An Arab leader who genuinely wants peace has to convince the Arab people first, must get their endorsement and then go and get peace. That is why the first thing that needs to be worked out is not so much the relationship with Israel but changing the culture, Islamic and Arab. This process does not depend on you, though you can help it, facilitate it, be a catalyst; but it does not depend on you, on America or the rest of the world.
. . . .
ISRAEL HAYOM: And you think that it will be a huge mistake to give away territory before a cultural change occurs?
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: I will just say that Israel is not the problem nor is it the solution. Even if you give up all the land, it will not solve any of the problems in the Middle East. It will not obliterate despotism, it will not liberate women, it will not help religious minorities. It won’t bring peace to anyone. Even if Israel does not give up an inch of land – the result will be the same.
If you want a process, continue the way you are. If you want real, lasting peace, then things have to change first within the Arab Muslim individual, family, school, streets, education, and politics. It is not an Israeli problem.
You must learn to take advantage of opportunities. Due to technology, things can develop quickly. Look at the Iranians; what took the Iranians thirty years could take the Egyptians five or ten.
ISRAEL HAYOM: To become secular?
AYAAN HIRSI ALI: No, just for the majority of the people to stand up to Shariah. This is what I want to say about Muslims in general: Muslims want Shariah until they have it . . .
For cultural change to transpire we need one hundred years and more to pass.
You can pick any number you want. I am speaking of a lengthy, bloody period. But it is going to change.

George W. Bush Was Right: Jihadists Do Hate Us for Our Freedom. By Kevin D. Williamson.

Boko Haram: Burning Books and Children. By Kevin D. Williamson. National Review Online, July 8, 2013.


President George W. Bush had a peculiar way with words. He was relentlessly mocked for saying of al-Qaeda et al., “They hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other,” which was soon reduced to “They hate us for our freedoms” and held up for scorn. “No, dummy,” said both the antiwar Right and antiwar Left (Remember the antiwar Left? Whatever happened to those guys?), “they don’t hate us for our freedoms, they hate us for our bombs, for our support of strongman governments, for our alliance with Israel, etc.” As was so often the case, President Bush’s critics, left and right, got it wrong. They should have listened to his actual words and not relied upon the Will Ferrell précis.
There are no words adequate to the horrific attack on a group of schoolchildren in Nigeria, carried out by the jihadist Boko Haram outfit, a partner to the Algeria-based al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which claimed the lives of 42 children and teachers on Saturday. The jihadists set fire to the school and then shot children as they tried to escape; many were burned alive. It was the group’s third attack on a school this summer. Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers sent out the obligatory press release — because when it comes to terrorist massacres, America needs to hear from its union bosses — in which she identified a “violent religious sect” (no word on which religion) as the malefactor. “No religion demands the callous murder of children,” she wrote. Perhaps George W. Bush could take a moment to tutor Ms. Weingarten on the finer points of the English language: No religion should demand the callous murder of children. But one does. The word “Islam” of course appears nowhere in that press release. It is necessary to hear what is said, and equally necessary to hear what is not said.
Liberal values — “our freedoms,” in President Bush’s words — are precisely what Boko Haram objects to, which is why the organization makes a point of attacking schools.

The organization’s name is the subject of some linguistic dispute, which may seem trivial but is not. “Boko” is a Hausa word meaning “education,” an adaptation of the English word “book.” “Haraam” and “haram” are related terms in Islamic jurisprudence, both denoting “forbidden.” “Haraam” is the opposite of “halal” and denotes the highest level of religious prohibition; “haram” means “sacred,” or forbidden in the sense that access to holy places and sanctuaries is restricted.
It is a linguistic irony that the Arabic word for “sacred” is closely related to the word for “sinful,” both deriving from an earlier Semitic word for “forbidden,” used to denote a restricted place, as in the English borrowing “harem.” It is another linguistic irony that Boko Haram, an anti-Western group (formally Jamā’a Ahl al-Sunnah li-Da’wa wa al-Jihād, or Congregation and People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad), cannot express its agenda without adapting an English word in Hausa. “Boko Haram” is generally translated as “Western education is sinful,” but it might well be rendered “books are banned.”
Boko Haram is a mutant: part indigenous group, part Islamist group, part motorcycle gang, founded by a virulently anti-Western cleric with a graduate degree, good English, and a Mercedes-Benz. Some analysts describe it as a cult. But we should not dismiss the group’s own words: It is an organization for Islamic proselytism and jihad, and its aim is, among other things, to forbid education.
Boko Haram is hardly the only group of Muslims opposed to education. The Taliban routinely attacks girls on their way to school in Pakistan. In Afghanistan, jihadists have managed to cripple the education of girls. Islam, deriving as it does from the Jewish tradition, venerates scholarship — but not all scholarship, and not all scholars. Boko Haram may not be orthodox in its understanding of Islam, but both its means and its ends would be more than familiar in many other Islamic societies. Likewise, its anti-Western agenda — killing Europeans, bombing the UN building in Abuja — is not at all dissimilar to what we have experienced in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
But while Afghanistan can (and probably will) simply sink into a more or less self-contained oblivion, Nigeria can hardly withdraw from the world. It is an important player in the global energy economy, and Lagos is a center of culture and commerce. Nigeria is the seventh-largest country in the world, home to 170 million people, half of them Christians. This isn’t Waziristan. Islam can hang a haram sign at the Afghan border, but it cannot do so in Nigeria.
The Bush project — creating reasonably liberal and democratic regimes in the Middle East — has failed. Its execution was faulty, and so were its premises. But Bush was right about the thing he was mocked for: Jihadists hate us for our values, and they hate schoolchildren in Nigeria and Pakistan to the extent that they share those values, an allegiance defined by the act of picking up a book or walking into a classroom. Islam and the West simply have competing and incompatible sets of values, and that discrepancy, while most dramatically apparent in actions such as those of Boko Haram, is not limited to extremists. Nor is it limited to such Muslim-dominated backwaters as Afghanistan. Walking to a kebab shop in the 1990s in Delhi, one of the most civilized cities in the world, I had garbage (and what I assume were insults) hurled at me by a crowd of angry young Muslims for reasons that mystified me until I learned that the source of offense was my girlfriend’s pants. (There was nothing remarkable about them, beyond their being pants.) We were not going to the famous Jama Masjid, but we were in the same neighborhood as that mosque, the haram-ness of which apparently is diffused through its precincts. Some years later, a busload of tourists was shot up a few blocks away by the Indian Mujahideen. Muslims may be outnumbered 7 to 1 in India, but still they intend to have their way.
As Andrew C. McCarthy always points out, we should not be surprised that Islamic societies are full of people who prefer Islamic civilization to Western civilization. It isn’t just the terrorists who reject our liberal values and democratic institutions. Our failure in Iraq and Afghanistan will make Americans more cautious about the prospects of military engagements in the Islamic world, and that’s for the better, but it will also tempt us to ignore that world so long as Boko Haram is in Nigeria instead of New Jersey. That is not really an option, either: Ron Paul types who believe that Islam will leave us alone if we leave Islam alone are deluding themselves, as are libertarians who believe that things like commercial relations and cultural exchange are going to be sufficient to lubricate away the friction between Islam and the West.
What we can do is be honest, at least with ourselves, about the nature of the problem. The world is shrinking, and the two main contenders for global cultural hegemony are Islam and Western liberalism. Islam is a serious underdog but, at its edges, is serious enough about prevailing that it is willing to declare education itself a sin and to enforce injunctions against it by burning children alive. President Bush got a lot of things wrong, but he got that much right: They do hate us for our freedom.

Sometimes Terrorists Win. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, July 8, 2013.

Boko Haram Leader Urges Global Jihad. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, December 1, 2012.

Boko Haram emir praises al Qaeda. By Bill Roggio. The Long War Journal, November 30, 2012.

Inside Story: Boko Haram and the Battle for Nigeria’s North. Video. AlJazeeraEnglish, May 18, 2013. YouTube.

Greg Gutfeld Talks Nigerian Children Killed by Boko Haram. Video. The Five. Fox News, July 9, 2013. YouTube.

Will Democracy Prevail in Egypt?

Will Democracy Prevail in Egypt? Video panel. Martha MacCallum with Lisa Daftari, Judith Miller, and Ralph Peters. America Live with Megyn Kelly. Fox News, July 9, 2013. YouTube.

How Morsi Wrecked Egypt in 369 Days. By Michael Wahid Hanna.

Blame Morsy. By Michael Wahid Hanna. Foreign Policy, July 8, 2013.

How to wreck a country in 369 days.

Unbroken by Adversity: Cleveland Kidnapping Victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight Speak Out.

I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face, and with my head held high and with my feet held firmly on the ground. I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation.
– Michelle Knight

“Thank you”: Cleveland kidnapping victims speak out for the first time. By Julie Cannold. CNN, July 9, 2013.

3 rescued Cleveland kidnap victims break silence. CBS News, July 9, 2013.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight: Victims Of Ohio Kidnap Case Break Their Silence. By Thomas J. Sheeran. AP. The Huffington Post, July 9, 2013.

“Hell and back”: three US kidnap victims break silence over their ordeal. AFP. The Age, July 10, 2013.

New video: Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, Cleveland’s 3 missing women, thank you for your support. By John Caniglia. Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 9, 2013.

Thank You from Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. Video. HennesPaynterComm, July 8, 2013. YouTube.

Ethnic Cleansing Is Better Than Genocide. By Ralph Peters.

Better Than Genocide: Ethnic Cleansing in Human Affairs. By Ralph Peters. National Review, August 13, 2007.

When All Else Fails: Ethnic Population Transfers and Partitions in the Twentieth Century. By Chaim D. Kaufmann. International Security, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Fall 1998).

Netanyahu Could Save the Two-State Solution. By Ben Birnbaum.

Netanyahu Could Save the Two-State Solution. By Ben Birnbaum. The New Republic, July 9, 2013.

The End of the Two-State Solution. By Ben Birnbaum. NJBR, March 12, 2013. With related articles.

Salam Fayyad: The Visionary. By Ben Birnbaum. The New Republic, May 24, 2012. Also here.

Why Salam Fayyad Cannot Deliver. By Khaled Abu Toameh. Gatestone Institute, April 20, 2010.

The Palestinians Never Wanted Fayyadism. By Jonathan S. Tobin. NJBR, February 16, 2013.

Palestine After Fayyad: The Choice Between Cooperation and Conflict. By Nathan Thrall. Foreign Affairs, April 18, 2013. Also here.

A Third Way to Palestine: Fayyadism and Its Discontents. By Robert M. Danin. Foreign Affairs, January/February 2011.

Swap Meet: Trading Land for Peace. By Uzi Arad. The New Republic, November 28 & December 5, 2005.

A Wayward Prime Minister. By Daniel Pipes. National Review Online, July 9, 2013.

Netanyahu may betray his mandate and focus on a two-state solution with Palestine.

Solving the “Palestinian Problem.” By Daniel Pipes. DanielPipes.org, January 7, 2009.

Is Netanyahu planning a unilateral move? By David M. Weinberg. Israel Hayom, June 28, 2013.

Rafael Cruz, Father of Senator Ted Cruz, Compares Obama to Castro.

Rafael Cruz slams Obama’s rule by decree, compares him to Castro. By Jason Pye. United Liberty, July 8, 2013.

Ted Cruz’s dad explains why Obama is “just like” Fidel Castro. By Stephen C. Webster. The Raw Story, July 7, 2013.

Ted Cruz’s dad: Obama is “just like” Castro. By Gabe Finger. The Daily Caller, July 8, 2013.

A Great Speech By Sen. Ted Cruz’s Father. By Rush Limbaugh. RushLimbaugh.com, July 9, 2013.

A Conversation with Rafael Cruz, Father of Senator Ted Cruz (with Video). By Kyla Miliano. Heritage, April 7, 2013.

Rafael Cruz at Free the People. Video. FreedomWorksAction, July 6, 2013. YouTube.

Mud-Slinging for the Sake of Heaven: Religion and Politics in Today’s Israel. By Yehudah Mirsky.

Mud-Slinging for the Sake of Heaven: Religion and Politics in Today’s Israel. By Yehudah Mirsky. The American Interest, July 8, 2013.

The Conflict in Syria: Who, How, and Where?

The conflict in Syria: Who, how, and where? The Economist, June 6, 2013.

Syria Needs Analysis website.

Syria: Mapping the conflict. BBC News, June 6, 2013.

Map of the Dispute in Syria. By Liam Stack and Sergio Peçanha. New York Times, March 12, 2013.

To Make Israel Safe, Give Palestinians Their Due. By Walter Russell Mead.

Change They Can Believe In: To Make Israel Safe, Give Palestinians Their Due. By Walter Russell Mead. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 88, No. 1 (January/February 2009).

The New Israel and the Old. By Walter Russell Mead. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 87, No. 4 (July/August 2008). Also here.

Northern Ireland and Palestine. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, November 22, 2009.

Antisemitism Saturday. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, February 13, 2010.

Middle East “Realists”: Anti-Semites or Just Dumb? By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, February 25, 2010. Also here.

The Night Yasser Arafat Kissed Me. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, March 9, 2010.

Don’t Blame the Jews. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, March 10, 2010. Also here.

The Israel Lobby and Gentile Power. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, March 11, 2010. Also here.

Is This Lobby Different From All Others? By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, March 12, 2010. Also here.

The Israel Crisis. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, March 15, 2010. Also here.

Obama and the Jacksonian Zionists. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, March 16, 2010. Also here.

Peace in the Middle East? Not Yet. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, March 24, 2010.

Settling Zion. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, March 25, 2010.

Why AIPAC Is Good For The Jews — and For Everyone Else. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, April 5, 2010.

The Middle East Peace Industry. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, May 11, 2010.

The Palestinian Predicament. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, May 12, 2010.

Silver Linings in the Middle East. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, May 14, 2010.

Israel’s Strategic Failure. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, June 3, 2010.

The World Must Do More For Middle East Peace. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, June 14, 2010. Also here.

Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have a lot to answer for in their 100-year-plus conflict over some of the most miserable and hardscrabble but somehow beloved land on the face of the earth. But the sad and sorry truth is that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are really responsible for the mess that they are both in — and neither party can solve the problem on its own.

We outsiders love to blame those two squabbling peoples for their long and vicious war. These days most outsiders blame the Israelis — stronger, richer, mostly descended from immigrants who’ve only been (back) in the land for a century or less. Obviously as the stronger and richer party, say these folks, the Israelis should make the lion’s share of concessions. It is up to Israel to make the Palestinians happy, says a large fraction of world opinion, and its obstinate failure to do so is a crime not only against the suffering Palestinians, but against all the rest of us whose comfortable slumbers are so often and rudely disturbed by this incessant and distressing conflict. Meanwhile the incessant Israeli settlements and land seizures inflame both Palestinian and world public opinion and the brutality and cost of occupation hurts the Palestinians, frustrates their prospects for economic growth, and infuriates people all over the world.

Other outsiders say that the big problem is the Palestinians: they “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” If they’d known what was good for them, they would have accepted either the British proposal or the UN proposal for partition back before Israel’s War of Independence. If they’d been smart enough to do that, there would be no Palestinian refugee problem today and they would have a lot more land. Failing that, they should have made peace in 1967 — they would have gotten every acre of the territories back without a single Israeli settlement. (Although there would have been some tough arguments over Jerusalem.) The chief cause of the endless prolongation of the conflict and of Palestinian suffering in this view is the repeated failure of the Palestinian leadership to accept compromise. The compromise they contemptuously reject today inexorably becomes the utopia they will dream of ten years down the road.

Again, there is some truth in both stories, but not enough. The largest and most expansive concessions that the Israelis can make (return to the pre-1967 borders, a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem with Islamic holy places under Palestinian control, compensation and financial aid to refugees) will not meet the true minimum Palestinian conditions for an acceptable peace. By the same token, no Palestinian leadership, however compromise-minded and moderate, can deliver what Israelis most crave in exchange: credible guarantees of security and the end of conflict and claims. That is the ugly reality at the heart of the conflict.

The U.N. and Us

The status quo in the Middle East isn’t Israel’s fault and it isn’t the Palestinians’ fault. If the world community seriously wants to understand, much less address this bitter, destructive and dangerous conflict it needs to spend some time looking in the mirror. It was decisions taken by the international community, not by the Israelis and not the Palestinians, that set the stage for this ongoing tragedy, and it is the international community and only the international community that can put this conflict on the long glide path toward final peace.

The conflict and the refugee crisis are both direct results of decisions made by the League of Nations (whose award of the mandate for Palestine to Britain incorporated the terms of the Balfour Declaration promising a homeland for the Jews) and the United Nations. The United Nations didn’t just propose a partition plan for Palestine in 1947 (accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs): when the British announced that they were giving up the mandate and going home, the United Nations made no provision for the security of the territory’s inhabitants during the transition period. In the absence of international peacekeepers or any other guarantees for their security, both the Jewish and the Arabic communities of British Palestine had to act in self-defense as each community best understood its interest. The resulting war led directly to the creation of the refugee problem as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their ancestral homes — and the poisonous and bitter aftermath of the war led to the flight and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews to Israel from all over the Arab world.

Each community nourished its grudges; to some degree they are both still doing it now.

But the international community could have prevented this if it had either enforced the partition plan it endorsed or at the very least taken up its legal and moral responsibility to provide basic security in Palestine while discussions continued. Neither the Jews nor the Arabs could do this in 1947-48. Today, 0nly the international community has the resources to move the dispute toward some kind of closure.

This is the ugly and uncomfortable truth that the world so often ignores as we get on our moral high ground and lecture to the squabbling Israelis and Palestinians about their stubborn failures to make peace: Israeli concessions alone cannot bring dignity and a decent future for a significant group of Palestinians. There is not enough room in the Holy Land for all the Jews and Arabs who want to live there. The future Palestinian state based on the 1967 pre-war armistice lines cannot provide a place where all the refugees in the West Bank and Gaza — to say nothing of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere — can live decent lives. This is one reason why the right of return remains the third rail of Palestinian politics; even Palestinian leaders trying to negotiate a two state solution with Israel cannot abandon this central demand from their public speeches and sloganeering — although they have always known that the two state solution means that most Palestinians will never go “home.”

If it were just a question of the West Bank, we could probably fudge a solution. An Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (including Arab Jerusalem), plus compensation to refugees and financial and development assistance to help the new state get on its feet, would likely provide enough satisfaction to enough West Bankers to make the peace stick. Violence would continue, but in a worst case scenario the future might look something like Northern Ireland’s past. That’s not brilliant, but it’s not disaster. Better Belfast than Beirut.

Unfortunately, even on the West Bank it’s not about just the West Bank. That is, West Bankers feel that they are part of a larger whole, and unless a solution is found for the problems of the Palestinian people (on the West Bank, in Gaza, and scattered abroad in the Palestinian diaspora) the West Bank could not permanently settle down as an independent Palestinian state.

And make no mistake about it, the two state solution as currently advocated does not solve enough problems for enough Palestinians in Gaza, Lebanon and elsewhere to be viable. The Palestinians in Gaza live in a desert without resources and practically without hope. There are other densely inhabited, resource-poor territories whose inhabitants have become rich thanks to geography, culture and good leadership, but Gaza is not and likely never will be Singapore. (And Singapore has resources like a world class harbor and a natural location on the world’s major shipping lines that Gaza does not.) Currently many Gazans depend on outside charity for food, housing, education and medicine (the United States gives more to Palestinian relief than any other country); presumably once there is a two state peace treaty and the Palestinians enjoy the “right of return” to Palestine, they will no longer count as refugees and will no longer receive the kind of international assistance they now get. The right to starve in your own hovel under your own flag is not and never has been the goal of the Palestinian national movement and there can be no stable or lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that does not meet the essential needs of Gazans. Currently Gaza is a deeply dysfunctional welfare state sustained largely by international charity and under harsh military rule. For many Palestinians in Gaza it is overwhelmingly obvious that the two-state solution without a right of return to pre-1967 Israel is no solution at all. They have been fighting for more than sixty years to get out of the camps in Gaza and back “home”; they will not stop because Mahmoud Abbas and Binyamin Netanyahu sign a piece of paper on the White House lawn.

The Palestinians scattered abroad have even less to gain from the two-state solution.  The “right to return” to an overcrowded, under-resourced Palestinian state is derisory. What passport will Palestinians now resident in Lebanon (and deprived of basic economic rights by the local Arabs who, while working themselves into frenzies over Israel’s sins against Palestine, treat their own Palestinians worse than the Israelis treat Arabs in Israel) carry? What rights will they have? Where will they go to university, what businesses and professions can they enter? Where can they live? (Currently, Palestinians in Lebanon face severe restrictions in every one of these essential aspects of life; there is no international human rights movement to gain them their rights, no Turkish aid flotillas sail to their rescue.)

Quite naturally and understandably, these Palestinians will reject any peace agreement that ignores their rights and needs; many other Palestinians will share their outrage and the outrage of the Gazans at what will be perceived as an unprincipled sellout of the Palestinian national cause. Between the financial resources of the Palestinian diaspora and the much larger resources of the regional troublemakers who will see political advantage in supporting the Palestinian cause, violent resistance against the pro-peace Palestinians and against Israel will continue and perhaps even grow.

Israel cannot solve these Palestinians’ problems; neither can the conventional, Camp David two-state solution. But unless these problems are addressed, the Palestinians who sign peace agreements will lack legitimacy among Palestinian nationalists, and Israelis will continue to live with the threat of violence — and will continue to be blamed worldwide for Palestinian grievances.

Send Visas, Jobs and Money

If the international community is serious about solving this problem, as opposed to making moralistic statements and giving vent to its feelings of moral superiority, it has to come up with solutions to the problems that millions of Palestinians will face even after the creation of an independent Palestinian state covering about 22% of Mandatory Palestine. We need a Camp David Plus approach to the two-state solution.

That solution will involve two things that the international community does NOT want to provide: visas and money. The human problems of the Palestinian people cannot be solved unless hundreds of thousands and quite possibly more than a million people have the opportunity to emigrate to countries where they will enjoy full economic, social and citizenship rights. None of the other mass refugee problems of the 1940s (in India, Pakistan, Germany, Poland and many others) was solved without giving refugees full citizenship and economic rights and the ability to build new homes and new lives for themselves. This one won’t be solved without that either.

Some think that integrating Palestinians should be the responsibility of the Arab or Muslim worlds alone.  This is wrong. The whole international community helped cook up this stew, and the whole international community must help make things right. Self-righteous Europeans will have to interrupt their Israel-bashing to make room for some new Palestinian immigrants who will have the full right to become citizens.

Money also matters. There has been much talk about refugee compensation even in the conventional peace process, but much more remains to be done. Money is important for two reasons. First, the Palestinians need and deserve the recognition and justice that monetary compensation affords. The dignity of the Palestinian people needs to be recognized and their suffering acknowledged. Some of the money needs to come from Israel, but the international community as a whole must also make good — and also assume responsibility for any further financial claims. (I also believe that Jewish refugees from the Arab world should be compensated at the same time and to the same measure; this would not only do justice, but it would create support for peace and concessions in Israeli politics.)

Second, Palestinians need money to start new lives. Peace for Palestinians means that every Palestinian will have a passport and enjoy full citizenship rights in a recognized state, with full economic, social and political rights wherever he or she lives. But to make those rights effective, Palestinians must have the means to get started.  Even the very large financial payments needed to provide symbolic as well as actual justice pale into insignificance compared to the costs and risks of prolonged conflict — to say nothing of the continuing cost of maintaining the original refugees and the growing number of their descendants in a kind of refugee limbo in settlements and camps.

I wrote about some of these ideas in Foreign Affairs as the Obama administration took office. Obviously, that advice was not taken. I still think that the Obama administration has a unique opportunity to advance the cause of peace in ways that allow it to be more pro-Palestinian without becoming less pro-Israel. Developing a vision of a Camp David Plus peace proposal and building the international support that can make it a reality would strengthen American leadership, improve relations with the peoples of the Islamic world and advance the cause of just and lasting peace. The alternatives, frankly, are not very appealing.

Even if the United States decides to lead the world toward this kind of comprehensive approach to Palestinian suffering, peace is unlikely to come quickly. The idea of the right of a literal, physical return by refugees and their descendants is deeply etched into Palestinian history, culture and emotion. To accept anything else will feel like betrayal to many people whose lives have been shaped by this struggle. But moving the world to recognize a common responsibility to the Palestinian people and to take the lead in developing just and dignified solutions to their problems will help strengthen the bridges between the United States and thoughtful Muslim (and European) opinion without forcing the United States into politically unsustainable confrontations with Israel.

The Problem With J Street. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, October 16, 2010.

Report From the Middle East: Part One. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, September 25, 2011.

America, Israel, Gaza, the World. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, November 18, 2012. Also here.

From this perspective, in which war is an elemental struggle between peoples rather than a kind of knightly duel between courtly elites, the concept of proportionality seems much less compelling. Certainly if some kind of terrorist organization were to set up missile factories across the frontier in Canada and Mexico and start attacking targets in the United States, the American people would demand that their President use all necessary force without stint or limit until the resistance had been completely, utterly and pitilessly crushed. Those Americans who share this view of war might feel sorrow at the loss of innocent life, of the children and non-combatants killed when overwhelming American power was used to take the terrorists out, but they would feel no moral guilt. The guilt would be on the shoulders of those who started the whole thing by launching the missiles.

Thus when television cameras show the bodies of children killed in an Israeli air raid, Jacksonian Americans are sorry about the loss of life, but it inspires them to hate and loathe Hamas more, rather than to be mad at Israel. They blame the irresponsible dolts who started the war for all the consequences of the war and they admire Israel’s strength and its resolve for dealing with the appalling blood lust of the unhinged loons who start a war they can’t win, and then cower behind the corpses of the children their foolishness has killed. The whole situation strengthens the widespread American belief that Palestinian hate rather than Israeli intransigence is the fundamental reason for the Middle East impasse, and the television pictures that drive much of the world away from Israel often have the effect of strengthening the bonds between Americans and the Jewish state.

This automatic Jacksonian response to the Middle East situation overlooks some important complexities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in the past America’s Jacksonian instincts have gotten us into trouble. But anyone trying to analyze the politics of the Middle East struggle as they unfold in American debates needs to be aware of the power of these ideas about war in American life.

The Key to Peace: Selling the Two State Solution in Palestine. By Walter Russell Mead. NJBR, January 5, 2013.

The False Religion of Middle East Peace. By Aaron David Miller. Foreign Policy, May/June 2010. Also here (JSTOR copy), herehere and here.

Five Reasons Why the Two-State Solution Just Won’t Die. By Aaron David Miller. Foreign Policy, July 16, 2012.

Peace Offensive. By Aaron David Miller. Foreign Policy, June 5, 2013.

Preserving Israel’s Uncertain Status Quo. By Aaron David Miller. New York Times, August 14, 2012.

The Secular Society. By David Brooks.

The Secular Society. By David Brooks. New York Times, July 8, 2013.

Al Aqsa Foundation Declares All Biblical Archaeology to be Lies.

Al Aqsa Foundation declares all Biblical archaeology to be lies. The Elder of Ziyon, June 27, 2013.

Muslim site explains why hating Jews is important. The Elder of Ziyon, July 4, 2013.

Mondoweiss’ Editor at Large claims no evidence of Jewish Temples on Temple Mount. The Elder of Ziyon, July 6, 2013.