Tuesday, February 28, 2006
On Negotiating With Fantasists
As seen today at Powerline, under the heading "Name Your Children Well":
Those who have been wondering why I'm so convinced that the Bush administration is wasting its time (and worse) trying to promote a peace process between Israelis and Palestinians should consider this piece by Joel Mowbray in FrontPageMagazine. Mowbray reports on the recent two-day Palestine Solidarity Movement hosted by the useful idiots at Georgetown University, and starring baby Jenin, who was named after the non-massacre in that town. As Mowbray puts it, "Palestinian partisans are creating a fantasy world so vivid and so rich that it passes as its own reality. This kills any hope for rational debate.""Baby Jenin", indeed. How about a Palestinian politician named Hitler? (And let's not forget that, in the Arab world, "Jihad" has been a popular given name for decades. "Osama" has become popular in recent years as well.)
For decades, the Palestinians have succeeded at little other than persuading themselves and most of the world that they are victims. This success makes it unlikely that they will succeed at much else in the coming decades.
On the subject of negotiations with fantasy-world dwellers, I couldn't agree more. Imagine, if you will, trying to settle a dispute with your neighbor, over some contentious issue or other. (Pick the issue that speaks to you -- a troublesome fence, a dog that keeps digging up flower beds, noisy children, whatever.) Imagine getting together with your neighbor to talk things over rationally... and discovering that your neighbor has his own, completely independent version of history and reality, intended to make him look good and you look bad. (No, it wasn't his noisy children, it was yours. No, the dog that kept digging was yours, not his. Yes, he keeps parking in your driveway, but that's only because your house should have been his in the first place, driveway included. And so on.)
Imagine, for that matter, that your neighbor refuses to talk with you openly without threatening you and your family, repeatedly.
It is impossible to negotiate in good faith with someone who isn't even honest with himself. And that, unfortunately, has been the history of Palestinian - Israeli negotiations from day one. The Palestinians insist on facts that never happened (such as the nonexistent Jenin massacre; or the forced expulsion of "Palestinians" by Israel, when actually it was Israel that pleaded that they stay). The Palestinians turn moral comparisons upside down (e.g. that Israeli curfews and checkpoints are worse than Palestinian terror bombings). The Palestinians reinvent language to suit their own purposes (by claiming, for example, that self-defense against terrorism is itself terrorism, whereas terrorism is not terrorism).
And then there are the outright lies. These take many forms -- the bald-faced lie (e.g. telling Israel that the PLO has "renounced terror", as the unlamented Arafat declared many times); the peaceful statement in English with a call-to-jihad translation in Arabic; broken promises of cooperation and coexistence (such as the infamous Israeli-Palestinian joint patrols, in which Palestinian policemen kept shooting their Israeli counterparts). And so on, and so on.
Certainly, the Israeli side is not blameless; there are many things Israel (or Israelis) could have done differently over the years. (Each and every Israeli has a list.) However, in the face of the insanities listed above, Israel has done the best it could, to negotiate in good faith while protecting her citizens at the same time.
But you can't negotiate in good faith with a liar. And when your opposite number isn't even honest with himself, your negotiations are doomed to failure from the start.
Many people have tried to suggest new approaches to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; some new way to break the log-jam. Personally, I'd suggest that, as a necessary precondition to negotiations that mean anything, we need to cut loose of our illusions. Forget about Jenin; forget about Mohammed al-Dura. Remember Deir Yassin and Baruch Goldstein if you must, but understand that these isolated incidents, which were roundly punished and compensated for on the Israeli side, are matched to thousands of equivalent incidents on the Palestinian side (none of which were punished or compensated for by Palestinians).
And to break away from the illusions, the Palestinians must let go of their role as the world's victims. They have been autonomous for twelve years now; they have no one but themselves to blame for their current status. It is not the UN's job to dismantle the stinking refugee camps; it is up to them. It is not Israel's job to maintain their roads or their electricity, or to collect their taxes; it is their job. It is not up to Saudi Arabia and Iran to pay for every Palestinian's livelihood, or up to Israel to provide jobs; the Palestinians must build a working economy for themselves.
When Palestinians start to take responsibility for their own destiny, a great many things will change, all for the better.
UPDATE: Am I exaggerating? I don't think I am... and I suspect my buddy Sol would agree. Have a look at his recent post:
That's what passes in the Palestinian Authority for inspiring children's poetry these days. Palestinian Media Watch has much more.