Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The flaws of the professional peace-processors (Guest post by @mike_bomb)

By Twitter user @mike_bomb

On Twitter Monday, in response to the Negev Summit, veteran peace-processor Aaron David Miller re-upped his September 23, 2020 Washington Post op-ed  in which he purported to review old assumptions about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Re-reading the piece illustrated for me how much he—along with the rest of the peace-processors—still gets wrong.

He mentions a few of the old assumptions, the first of which is that “The status quo is unsustainable.” He correctly notes that it very possibly is sustainable, but his reasoning that “The parties themselves have been willing to manage the status quo, however grim it may be, because changing it required more political risk than either side was willing to accept…” is flawed. Israel has time and again demonstrated that it is willing to take the political risk to change the status quo, offering peace plans to the Palestinians who never accept and never come back with a counter-offer. In the absence of a Palestinian leadership willing to take political risk, Israel has no choice but to manage the status quo, regardless of their own political risk tolerance.

It has to be reiterated: the Palestinian side has never made a serious peace proposal or a counter-offer to an Israeli proposal. Most often, they simply refuse to negotiate. At one point, they claimed that they would not negotiate unless there was a settlement freeze. Israel responded by freezing settlement construction, and they still refused to negotiate.

Another thing that Miller gets wrong about the status quo and American efforts to change it is that he claims “America’s special relationship with Israel prevented bringing serious pressure to bear on Israel.” That’s wrong in three ways:

1.       America has often brought serious pressure to bear on Israel, regardless of the “special relationship.”

2.       America doesn’t need to bring that much pressure to bear on Israel to make peace. Israel has been trying to make peace with its neighbors for its entire existence. It has concluded peace agreements with every Arab polity that has been serious about peace with it, even when doing so was at great cost in terms of land, as with Egypt.

3.       The focus of the peace-processors is always bringing pressure to bear on Israel to make concessions for the sake of peace. No peace-processor ever speaks about bringing pressure to bear on the Palestinians to make peace. No peace-processor ever actually brings any pressure to bear on the Palestinians to make peace, to make any concessions toward peace—to do anything, really, toward making peace with Israel.

Miller also mentions “…resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict on terms any Palestinian leader could accept.” This is another of the peace-processors’ major flaws in understanding. Why is Israel expected to accept any peace terms, while the Palestinians are only expected to accept terms that preserve their maximalist ambitions? The Palestinians turn down every peace offer, looking for more. A good negotiator would say, “This is the best offer you are getting. Take it now, because tomorrow’s offer will be significantly less.” Instead, the peace-processors say to the Palestinians, “You didn’t like that offer? We’ll press Israel to offer you more.”

It seems to me that the peace-processors understanding of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is fundamentally flawed. The only real thing at issue between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors is this: the Palestinians have to be willing to make peace with Israel, to accept that Israel is there to stay, in some defined borders, whatever their final configuration. That is the actual roadblock in the peace process, and it is completely mystifying to me how all the peace-processors overlook it.

Read all about it here!