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MidEast Peace: Pessimism from the Right and the Left

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Why is it that merely talking about talking about peace brings instant backlash? Four of the most controversial writers on the Middle East - pessimists all - are at it.

It is a little hard to read these guys and still expect results from the "proximity" talks to be mediated by Special Envoy George Mitchell, beginning Wednesday.

Each of the authors of the AIPAC-outing landmark, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, is dissecting the current state of Israeli v. Palestinian affairs. Yeah, the Israel lobby hates them and tries to paint them as anti-Semites, but these guys definitely understand the deeply divided nature of opinion in the American Jewish [and I might add, Christian] community about Israel's move to the right in an era of American progressivism.

U. Chicago's John Mearsheimer, in a very pessimistic speech in Washington, DC, last week talked about three different camps in American Jewish public opinion and posited that in these groups' hands lies the decision about whether Israel will end its occupation of Palestinian lands. He divides people into three camps: "righteous Jews," "new Afrikaaners," and "the great ambivalent middle." Mearsheimer goes into great detail about who's who in his speech, but we all know who he thinks the "righteous Jews" are - they vocally support groups like J Street or Jewish Voice for Peace and read Tikun Olam.

Mearsheimer's view of who are the rightists:

I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby's major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic.

In short, all the various factions that come together as AIPAC. Mearsheimer predicts that in the near future as the two-state solution fails to occur, the overwhelming power of the lobby in favor of maintaining the occupation will facilitate the political cover as a true apartheid state takes hold in Israel-Palestine. But eventually [he doesn't state years or decades] he predicts that the "the great ambivalent middle" of American Jewry will side with the "righteous Jews" and call for a one man, one vote government in Greater Israel.

The result, Mearsheimer predicts, will be suicide for the nation of Israel:

Thus, I believe that Greater Israel will eventually become a democratic bi-national state, and the Palestinians will dominate its politics, because they will outnumber the Jews in the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

What is truly remarkable about this situation is that the Israel lobby is effectively helping Israel commit national suicide. Israel, after all, is turning itself into an apartheid state, which, as Ehud Olmert has pointed out, is not sustainable in the modern era. What makes this situation even more astonishing is that there is an alternative outcome which would be relatively easy to achieve and is clearly in Israel's best interests: the two-state solution. It is hard to understand why Israel and its American supporters are not working overtime to create a viable Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories and why instead they are moving full-speed ahead to build Greater Israel, which will be an apartheid state. It makes no sense from either a moral or a strategic perspective. Indeed, it is an exceptionally foolish policy.

On ForeignPolicy.com, M.I.T.'s Stephen Walt [co-author of The Israel Lobby] responds to an even more pessimistic, even depressing, Obama-should-give-up themed cover story by former MidEast negotiator Aaron David Miller. Walt argues for determined U.S. intervention now, but wonders if a two-state solution is never achieved and Israel eventually becomes a human-rights cause celebre, what could/should the U.S. do, given how closely [and permanently] we are allied with Israel?

So here's the question I'd really like Miller to address: if it becomes clear that "two states for two peoples" is no longer an option, what does he think U.S. policy should be? Should we then favor the ethnic cleansing of several million Palestinian Arabs from their ancestral homes, so that Israel can remain a democratic and Jewish state? (By the way, that would be a crime against humanity by any standard.) Or should we then press Israel to grant the Palestinians full political rights, consistent with America's own "melting-pot" traditions? (That is the end of the Zionist vision, and may be unworkable for other reasons). Or should we back (and subsidize) their confinement in a few disconnected enclaves (in Gaza, around Ramallah, and one or two other areas in the West Bank), with Israel controlling the borders, airspace, and water resources? (This is the apartheid solution, and it's where we are headed now.) I fear that some future president will have to choose between these three options, and it would be interesting to know what an experienced Middle East negotiator like Miller would advise him or her to do then.

Walt's points speak almost directly to a piece by the Hoover Institution-affiliated scholar Daniel Pipes with the tongue-in-cheek title, "What is my Peace Plan for Israel?" His first sentence: "My peace plan is simple: Israel defeats its enemies." So Pipes would probably say, the scenario Walt describes is okay by him. Without the label, apartheid. Here's more from Pipes:

For nearly 60 years, Arab rejectionists, now joined by Iranian and leftist counterparts, have tried to eliminate Israel through multiple strategies: they work to undermine its legitimacy intellectually, overwhelm it demographically, isolate it economically, restrain its defenses diplomatically, fight it conventionally, demoralize it with terror, and threaten to destroy it with WMDs. While the enemies of Israel have pursued their goals with energy and will, they have met few successes.

Ironically, Israelis over time responded to the incessant assault on their country by losing sight of the need to win. The right developed schemes to finesse victory, the center experimented with appeasement and unilateralism, and the left wallowed in guilt and self-recrimination. Exceedingly few Israelis understand the unfinished business of victory, of crushing the enemy's will and getting him to accept the permanence of the Jewish state.

Fortunately for Israel, it need only defeat the Palestinians, and not the entire Arab or Muslim population, which eventually will follow the Palestinian lead in accepting Israel. Fortunately too, although the Palestinians have built an awesome reputation for endurance, they can be beaten. If the Germans and Japanese could be forced to give up in 1945 and the Americans in 1975, how can Palestinians be exempt from defeat?

Read more on the Peacemakers blog on True/Slant.