Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Compromise radicalizes Arabs against Israel

A Lebanese newspaper is reporting that Israel might withdraw from the northern section of Ghajar in January. The reason given is quoted in YNet:
According to the report, the UN and the United States hope that Israel's withdrawal from the northern part of Ghajar will lead to an ease in tensions between Israel and Lebanon.
Notwithstanding the legal issues involved, that statement of hope is maddeningly wrong.

The very thought that Israeli compromise on Ghajar can "ease tensions" with a Lebanese government which supports Hezbollah is an inversion of reality, and a case study in Western diplomatic incompetence when it comes to the Arab world.

Israeli compromise doesn't engender goodwill in the Arab world. Rather, it radicalizes the hardliners, who are emboldened to demand more.

This fact should be obvious to even the most obtuse diplomats. Yet, Westerners continue to stubbornly project their own worldview on an Arab world that, on the whole, simply does not have the same way of thinking.

If the Arab world believes that Israel is inherently illegitimate, it will not "compromise" with her. It will use any means - diplomatic, military, and public relations - to destroy Israel. And Israel, to the Arab world, is worse than illegitimate - it is symbolic of Arab impotence and a constant reminder of Arab shame. Some of the means will be tactical and some will be strategic, but the very concept of compromise assumes that each party has a modicum of respect for the other.

For Israel, for better or for worse, the only respect that it can gain in the Arab world is the respect of the strong.

Most Israelis don't really care about Ghajar (although most north Ghajar residents might be very upset at losing their rights as Israeli residents.) But it is a card that Israel holds, and it makes no sense to give it up in the hope for an abstract measure of goodwill on the other side. In fact, it is counterproductive.

I am sure that there are concrete things that Israel can demand in return. The idea that relations will improve on their own as a result of a unilateral concession, however, is foolish.