The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Stating the obvious - for once

You can always rely on Haaretz to publish obvious truths, such as the fact that Israel is the chief culprit in the failure to achieve an Arab-Israeli or Israel-Palestinian peace, that you are unlikely to ever, ever see in a major American newspaper:

These are naive observations, however: Israel missed and continues to miss opportunities to normalize relations with the Palestinians and with the Syrians not because of mental blocks, but rather because of domestic political considerations. Mahmoud Abbas and Bashar Assad are defined as non-partners not because Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz have an emotional problem preventing them as partners in dialogue, but because they do not have the political power to do so. The real deterrent factor acting upon Israeli leaders, including Ehud Barak, Bejamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, has come from within the domestic political system: They feared the residents of the Golan Heights and the West Bank settlers more than they did the plotting of Arafat, Hafez Assad and his son. Olmert and Peretz suffer from the same weakness.

There is no way of knowing whether Israel's willingness to withdraw from the West Bank and the Golan Heights would result in reliable, long-term peace agreements, but it can be confirmed that Israel is largely responsible for the fact that such moves have not been seriously considered or formulated. Israeli governments since 1967 have preferred domestic tranquility over the possibility of unrest on the foreign fronts. Defining the Palestinian and Syrian enemies as non-partners is a direct consequence of that order of priorities.
I would add, as a non-Israeli observer, it is not clear to me that the opposition to changing Israel's devastating policy towards the territories it occupies and the region at large is only among settlers. As a casual observer of Israeli politics and the Israeli media, it also seems like there's plenty of support for a maximalist Israel from people within the 1967 borders. I hope I'm wrong.