Thursday, April 29, 2010

If You're Going To Compare Peace In The Middle East To Northern Ireland--Do It Properly!

In The Dubious Case For Preemptive Concessions, JustOneMinute points to a post by Andrew Sullivan: Israel, Ireland And The U.S. Peace Process.

Sullivan writes approvingly of Gideon Rachman's article in the Financial Times (registration required).

Rachman compares US pressure on Great Britain to move forward in the North Ireland peace process with US pressure on Israel to move forward as well:
They are right again on the Middle East peace process. There is still a deal to be had – and if Israel does not take it soon, the long-term survival of the Jewish state will be imperilled.
The more pundits pursue this line of thought--that Israel must pursue peace in the interests of its very survival--the more they should be required to explain exactly what interests the Arabs have in all this. If indeed Israel's future is at stake, and time is running out--why are the Palestinian Arabs supposed to be interested in this alleged peace process, when all they have to do is sit back and wait?

Odder still:

According to Sullivan, the following qualifies as "very sharp analysis of the core question":
For all their long-term concerns, the Israelis have failed to make vital concessions, because the status quo still feels more comfortable.
  • Was the Disengagement from Gaza not a vital concession?
  • Is Israel supposed to make 'vital concessions' periodically until one of them really grabs the interest of their 'peace partners'
  • When may we suspect a 'vital concession' from Abbas?
Just asking.

To be fair, Sullivan does quote further from Rachman:
By contrast, calling a complete halt to illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land – as Mr Obama has demanded – entails risks and pain. There are members of the Israeli cabinet who still cling to the idea of a Greater Israel, incorporating all of the West Bank. If Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, delivered the settlement freeze the Americans want, his rightwing coalition would probably collapse. Many Israelis also worry that an eventual move to uproot at least 80,000 settlers as part of a peace deal could lead to a revolt in the army – some 30 per cent of whose officers are religious conservatives, presumed to be sympathetic to the settlers. Any such military revolt, one respected commentator told me, “would be the end of the state of Israel”.
It is interesting that according to Rachman, and apparently Sullivan as well, it is the supposed revolt that is allegedly going to threaten Israel and not the duplication of the Disengagement from Gaza, that is supposed to be the threat to Israel.

JustOneMinute notes:
Right - whether or not the Palestinians are ready, willing or able to make a peace deal, and regardless of whether it has their popular support or is even in the long term interest of the Palestinians (whomay think they are winning this siege), the Israelis ought to make concessions on housing just to placate Obama and see what happens.
I'll close with the following piece that I always use when comparisons are made between Israel and the peace process between Great Britain and Northern Ireland--not to show the difference, but to commend the similarities:
Joint Press Availability with British Secretary of State of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Jack Straw
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 24, 2001

...QUESTION: Secretary Powell, does the situation in Northern Ireland not show us all that negotiations is really the only way forward in all of these situations? And just secondly, when you met Martin McGuinness yesterday, did he give you assurances that there is no link between the IRA and the FARC guerillas in Colombia?

SECRETARY POWELL: We didn't, when I met with him yesterday, we didn't discuss that. We were just sort of celebrating the progress that was achieved yesterday. And I think negotiations are always to be preferred to military conflict, and even when you have military conflict, it doesn't always result in the kind of classic military win. Very often, it sets the stage for negotiations.

And so I hope what we have seen in Northern Ireland in the last 24 hours, which culminates a process that took many, many years long to get to this point, is an example of what can be achieved when people of good will come together, recognize they have strong differences, differences that they have fought over for years, but it's time to put those differences aside in order to move forward and to provide a better life for the children of Northern Ireland.

FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: Could I just add one thing to that, if I may? Of course, negotiation is far, far better -- infinitely better -- than military action. As far as Northern Ireland is concerned, we welcome hugely the progress that has been made following the Good Friday Agreement. It also has to be said that before that happened, there had to be a change of approach by those who saw terrorism as the answer. And that approach partly changed because of the firmness of the military and police response to that terrorism. And if there had not been that firm response by successive British governments and others to the terrorist threat that was posed on both sides, we would not have been able to get some of those people into negotiations. We would not be marking what is a satisfactory day in the history of Northern Ireland today. 
In commending that Israel following in Great Britain's footsteps, Rachman--and Sullivan--have forgotten what actually brought the terrorists to the table: the realization that terrorism does not work.

We are nowhere close to that in the Middle East.

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