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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 02, 2003

Does Israel Need a Plan?

And, asks Daniel Pipes, which of the ones being discussed should it be?
The year 2002 will be remembered as a low point in the long conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, when diplomacy came to a standstill, emotions boiled over, blood ran in the streets, and the prospects of all-out war drew closer. Anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic furies seemingly put to rest suddenly revived with stunning vehemence. The existence of Israel appeared imperiled as it had not been for decades.

This picture is accurate as far as it goes, but it omits one other salient feature of the landscape in 2002. The year also witnessed a host of new plans, initiatives, and schemes for fixing the situation. None of these ideas came from the Palestinian side—hardly surprising, given that Yasir Arafat seems to see violence against Israelis as the solution to all his problems. Instead, they issued from various parties in Israel and the United States, with an echo or two from Europe and the Arab states.

These plans, of which the best known is the Bush administration's "road map," run the gamut from tough-seeming to appeasing. But they have two qualities in common. All of them give up on the Oslo-era assumption of Palestinian-Israeli comity as the basis for negotiation. But at the same time, all of them proceed from a fundamentally flawed understanding of the conflict and therefore, if actually implemented, would be likely to increase tensions. None of them can lead to a resolution of the conflict; that requires an entirely different approach.

...At the heart of the problem, in other words, stands Arab rejection. However cunningly conceived, plans that attempt to outflank, leap over, or otherwise finesse this stubborn fact are doomed to failure. Instead of ignoring it, would-be peacemakers would do better to start by recognizing that the conflict will diminish only when the Arabs finally surrender their dream of obliterating the Jewish state, and then to concentrate on finding ways to get the Arabs to undergo what I call a "change of heart." How might that be achieved? [more]