Preferring what works

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, said, in Arabic to a Palestinian audience:

In the past, they said: “Under no circumstances will we accept a state, unless it includes all of Palestine, because Palestine is a land of Islamic endowment.” Fine. This doesn’t work. I can say: “We demand all of the land,” and you will applaud me. This doesn’t work. This doesn’t work. This doesn’t work. There is a reality — either you acknowledge it, or you will get crushed.

This doesn’t work. Powerful words in almost any context. Accepting that the old ways haven’t succeeded and that new paths are necessary isn’t easy, but it’s the first step toward finding ways that do work.

This speech comes as a coalition of groups forms to move American policy toward Israel in a new direction. And it sounds like even the Israeli government would welcome the latitude that will give them. Gregory Levey writes:

Once, when I was still a speechwriter for the Israeli government at the U.N., I sat in on a meeting with a group of right-leaning American Jewish lobbyists who were discussing how harshly to react to the International Court of Justice’s ruling that Israel’s separation barrier was illegal.

Afterward, a senior strategist for the Israeli government said to me, “See, people inside the Israeli government who are sincerely looking for peace have no choice but to wait. This prime minister is not going to bring peace. This ambassador is not going to bring peace.” He added, “And those people that we just met are sure as hell not going to bring peace.”

This doesn’t work.

It’s hard not to see the settlement in the Cobb County creationist stickers lawsuit in exactly the same light. Cobb County saw that pushing those stickers didn’t work.

I’m hopeful that the last elections in the US were a signal that the American public is ready for policies based on what works.

For what it’s worth, sending more troops to Iraq would be repeating a mistake we made in 2003, and have been repeating ever since. We can only hope Congress stands up for the public and the generals on that matter.


  1. #1 les
    December 21, 2006

    Interesting set of statements; I can only hope you’re right. Totally OT: I found your pic at Seed–very cool.

  2. #2 SLC
    December 22, 2006

    Unfortunately, Mr. Soros and Mr. Rosenau haven’t learned anything from the experience of Neville Chamberlain in the late 1930s when it was found that appeasment doesn’t work. The new organization led by Israel basher George Soros, is based on the premise that appeasment is the answer to the Israeli/Fakistinian problem. Namely, that if the State of Israel only offers enough concessions, peace will prevail. For the edification of the readers of this blog as an example of the price of appeasment, I attach a link to a news item indicating that the Egyptian Government is demanding that the State of Israel turn over the port of Eilat to either Egypt or the Fakistinians.

    The fact of the matter is that the only concession that will satisfy the Fakistinians is the agreement of the Israeli Government to go out of business.

  3. #3 Josh
    December 22, 2006

    SLC, perhaps you missed the quotation from the beginning of the piece from the President of the Palestinian Authority in which he tells his people not to demand the elimination of Israel, but to seek a compromise.

    What’s interesting is that at first, I thought your “Fakistinian” reference was some bizarre reference to the partition of India to produce Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India. I guess Gandhi was an appeaser, too (indeed, his willingness to look for a political solution to inter-religious enmity was the basis for his assassination). But if I’m to be in Gandhi’s camp, so be it.

    At this point, I have trouble taking people seriously who claim that Israel faces some threat equivalent to World War II. Not least because it is the only nuclear power in the neighborhood. And Israel has been at peace with Egypt since the Camp David Accords. If that was appeasement as well, all I can do is quote Churchill “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.” The griping of Egyptian back-benchers changes none of that.

  4. #4 SLC
    December 22, 2006

    Re Mr. Rosenau

    1. The good Mr. Abbas is a holocaust denier, as evidenced by his PhD thesis (written incidently in the former Soviet Union).

    2. Jaw jaw is fine, provided there is something to talk about. Compromise is also fine. Unfortunately, the Fakistinians are not interested in compromises, they are only interested in removing the State of Israel from the Middle East. The difference between Mr. Abbas and Hamas is that the former prefers to perform this excision on the installment plan.

    3. Mr. Gandhis’ country was not surrounded by enemies dedicated to its destruction, unlike the State of Israel.

  5. #5 Josh
    December 22, 2006

    I can’t speak to Abbas’s views on the Holocaust now or in the past, nor are they clearly relevant to this issue. He did say in 2003:

    I have no desire to argue with the figures. The Holocaust was a terrible, unforgivable crime against the Jewish nation, a crime against humanity that cannot be accepted by humankind. The Holocaust was a terrible thing and nobody can claim I denied it.

    Whether he minimized the Holocaust in his thesis is arguable, but I think the statement above clearly shows that he has no current interest in minimizing the Holocaust. Where his doctorate was granted, like his views on the Holocaust, has no relevance whatsoever to the issue of his willingness to negotiate a peaceful 2-state solution.

    You say the PA has no interest in compromise, but I see his statement in the original post as a clear sign that he is willing to compromise, and wants his people to understand the importance of compromise. That’s why it’s so important that the statement about what doesn’t work was issued in Arabic to a domestic audience. It’s one thing to say nice things in English to Ha’aretz (as with the quotation I just gave), and quite another to say these things to his own people.

    Your logic in rejecting his apparent willingness to deal is dubious. You seem simply to assert that no Palestinian is willing to compromise, therefore Abbas’s statements in support of compromise cannot really mean what they mean. This is circular and profoundly unhelpful. It does not work to constantly insist that the other side will not compromise, and to use that as an excuse to avoid offering any compromise.

  6. #6 SLC
    December 22, 2006

    The State of Israel already offered a compromise proposal in 2000 at the Wye and Taba conferences which was further sweetened by President Clinton. All proposals were rejected by Yasir Arafat. The Clinton/Ross proposal would have given the Fakistinians 100% of the Gaza Strip and 95% of the West Bank. He turned it down because he would have had to give up the demand for return of the refugees and their decendents to what is now Israel. The readers of this blog don’t have to believe me, they can read Dennis Rosses’ book (unlike myself and Mr. Rosenau, Dennis Ross was there). The Fakistinians refuse to contemplate a solution that allows the existance of Israel to continue. Mr. Abbas is in total agreement with this stance as he was in agreement with the Arafat refusal; his only difference with the Hamas terrorists is that he wants’ to accomplish the elimination of Israel on the installment plan.

  7. #7 Josh
    December 23, 2006

    Again, what I find so encouraging about Mr. Abbas’s statement is that he, unlike Arafat, is prepared to accept compromises.

    This is a change, and continuing to discuss what Arafat did or didn’t do is simply not productive in terms of looking forward. Dennis Ross describes Abbas as “committed to doing the right thing on the issues of security and violence.” And Ross feels that the US and Israel hurt themselves by not supporting Abbas with action on the ground. He describes Arafat saying “no” to everything, but Abbas being prepared to compromise at various meetings, as being deeply committed to the Oslo Accords, and not as “in total agreement” with Arafat’s constant refusals.

  8. #8 SLC
    December 23, 2006

    Re Abbas

    Abbas has previously stated that he was in complete agreement with Arafats’ decisions.

  9. #9 Josh
    December 24, 2006

    All I can do is quote you “read Dennis Rosses’ book (ÖDennis Ross was there).”

  10. #10 SLC
    December 24, 2006

    If Mr. Abbas is so all-fired gungho for a peaceful settlement, let him demonstrate his committment by forcing a halt to the Kassem attacks.

  11. #11 Caledonian
    December 26, 2006

    If being surrounded by enemies sworn to your destruction is such a problem, maybe the pre-Israelis ought to have given more thought before they chose the site of their new homeland.

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