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May 14, 2003

Daniel Pipes’ Idea of Peace

There will be, for better or worse, many readers who disagree with this post. But it deserves a reading because there are large areas of disagreement and I am a firm believer in presenting a wide variety of views.You decide and comment
One of the fixtures of the Middle East debate is the principle that those who support a diplomatic solution and believe that one is inevitable are quite often deemed naïve. Even hardened soldiers like Yitzhak Rabin are viewed as a bit starry-eyed, while figures like Shimon Peres – who built Israel’s air force and its nuclear capability – are ridiculed as pony-tailed peaceniks for believing that pursuing a negotiated peace is Israel’s only reasonable choice.

These stereotypes may apply to other international situations. But they certainly do not work in the Middle East. In fact, a hardheaded grasp of reality must lead to support for immediate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in pursuit of a two-state solution, while believing that the status quo benefits Israel represents the height of naivete.

Demography alone dictates that Israel divest itself of the territories before an Arab majority exists in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, something that would occur in just over a decade. After all, it is not a generic Israel that Jews have fought for over a century to secure, but a Jewish state with a Jewish majority.

That is why, in recent days, Israeli politicians have been insisting that any peace plan specifically call on Palestinians to recognize Israel “as a Jewish state.” Israel without its Jewish character is not Israel; it is that simple.

But the same concern for Israel’s Jewish character must lead to an understanding that continued retention of the West Bank and Gaza will end Israel as a Jewish state. How odd to be more concerned about a declaration from the Palestinians, as significant as it would be, than about facts that are occurring on the ground, day after day. To deny the demographic threat; to pretend that Israel can remain Israel while holding on to the Arab-populated territories, is a fantasy. Unsentimental thinking dictates the opposite.

The other glaring Middle East argument between realists and idealists is over the question of negotiations themselves. This was illustrated last week during a Council of Foreign Relations debate between Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum – whose nomination to the board of the United States Institute of Peace is now pending Senate confirmation – and Martin Indyk, former Ambassador of the United States to Israel[more]