Sunday, November 08, 2009

Don't Whisper Prayers

Thomas Friedman has a new column out, and he actually says something intelligent. I won't bother trying to quote it, because Friedman's, er, unique writing style makes quoting him comprehensibly all but impossible, but the gist of it is this: Israelis and Palestinians don't want peace. Let's stop trying to impose it on them.

This is interesting coming from the generally interventionist Friedman. It is, perhaps, a lesson taken from Iraq - you can't impose your will on an entire population unless most of that population really wants what you're providing. It ought to be clear to most observers that neither Israelis or Palestinians want peace. Sure, they talk a good game, but in the end something else is always more important. Israelis want a good chunk of the West Bank more than they want peace. Palestinians want part of Jerusalem and a right of return for their refugees before they want peace. Peace simply won't happen unless that becomes both sides' first priority. Israel will have to give up its settlements. Palestinians will have to lay down their rockets and learn to share. We can't do that for them.

Two other commentators, Glenn Greenwald and Joe Klein, go further. Both the liberal Greenwald and the moderate Klein think that the U.S. ought to put a hold on "all economic and military aid to Israel" (Klein's words) until the Israelis want peace. This wouldn't be a bad idea if we weren't also helping Palestinians. Or Egypt. Or Jordan. Or... you get my drift.

But if we keep our aid open, what's our leverage? Aren't we enabling both sides to keep the status quo in place by sending them money and, in Israel's case, guns? It's a sticky wicket for sure, and there's no good answer.

So maybe Friedman's right - the best thing to do is simply to disengage from the whole thing. Stop making trips over there, stop making proclamations that aren't listened to by anyone, stop trying to force peace. If there are complaints, don't try to settle them, and if there's violence, don't intervene. Clearly, taking the direct approach isn't working.

No comments: