If Not Peace Now, What?
Many Israelis, perhaps even a majority according to some polls, believe that the time has come for Israel to follow the 2003 Road Map to create two states—one Jewish, the other Palestinian. Yet, others in Israel and in the diaspora caution that the pursuit of peace at this time is hopeless, foolhardy, even dangerous. In the belief that it is important to hear voices from all sides of the debate, Moment posed the following question to a spectrum of such critics: “If the peace process does not or cannot work, what do you envision happening in Israel over the next decade?” Judea Pearl, Meyrav Wurmser, Benny Morris, Morton Klein, Shlomo Riskin, Daniel Gordis, Daniel Pipes, Shoshana Bryen and Steven Emerson offer us an honest look at their fears and hopes for Israel’s future.—Eileen Lavine
Judea Pearl President, Daniel Pearl Foundation Los Angeles, CA
We are witnessing a frantic race between Iran's nuclear capability and the acceptance of coexistence as a feasible and desirable reality by Israelis and Palestinians. While Israel has internalized coexistence as a national goal, it is physically unable to accommodate a sovereign neighbor, rocket-range away from its vital airports, whose youngsters openly swear to destroy it. Palestinians, on their part, are not in a hurry to abandon their national goal of Greater Palestine when Iran promises to deliver one soon, and Western media ennobles it with the title, “one-state solution.”
If Iran wins this race, a bloody war is imminent, commencing with 800 missiles per day on Haifa and Tel Aviv from emboldened Syria and Hezbollah. Israel will have to take defensive action, perhaps preemptive, perhaps even nuclear, and a sizable chunk of the world is likely to go up in flames, together, of course, with the Palestinian dream of independence. The only disaster-averting move I can envision today, albeit a utopian one, is an urgent all-out pro-coexistence educational campaign, a meaningful one this time around, ushered in by a bold, joint proclamation from the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, political as well as intellectual, recognizing the historical right of each side to a viable, equally legitimate and equally indigenous state. The key to success is honesty, and the key to honesty is the word historical—dreams become a reality when deemed “historically just.” And the Iranian bomb is ticking.
Meyrav Wurmser Director, Center for Middle East Policy, Hudson Institute Washington, D.C.
The Jordanian option—seeking to resolve the Palestinian problem through a federation or confederation with Jordan—is the most viable genuine answer. It is a question of time. On one side, Israel cannot continue to live with the Palestinian problem. On the other, Jordan fears that the Palestinian state will destroy it. In private, Jordanian officials maintain that Jordan would be better off controlling the problem by taking over the West Bank instead of being destroyed itself. Thus, it is logical that within a few years, Israel will need to turn the clock back to before 1994, and come to terms with Jordan on how to resolve this problem between them.
That leaves Gaza as an outstanding problem. As Egypt enters an unstable phase of succession, it cannot afford to have Hamas hook up with its own Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps a temporary ceasefire, or at least some understanding on border control between Egypt and Hamas would help Egypt (to Israel’s detriment), but how long would it last? Israeli officials know Hamas wants to re-arm and continue to serve as an agent of Iran, which seeks to use the organization to advance its own dangerous regional ambitions.
In the meantime, Iran and Syria are setting up a new line of confrontation and challenge for Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the West. We are at a critical juncture. Iran and Syria have become not only an Israeli problem, but also a problem for Israel’s neighbors who, like Israel, may have to look to Jordan for answers.
Benny Morris Author of 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War Li-On, Israel
The Israeli future will see more of the same because the Palestinians are not ready for peace: Palestinian terrorism, Israeli counterstrikes, perhaps larger operations with larger rockets.
The Iranian situation will explode in the next year, and it will overshadow the Palestinian problem. Iran is working to produce nuclear weapons and will have them within two or three years. My assumption is that Israel and the United States will have to take military action to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons because economic and military sanctions will not work. This will lead to more problems throughout the Middle East, perhaps even including missiles launched between Iran and Israel. Hamas and Hezbollah will do Iran’s bidding to attack Israel. The Palestinian problem will continue as an existential problem, but it will be on the back burner.
Morton Klein National President, Zionist Organization of America New York, NY
There can be no hope of ending the Arab war against Israel unless there is a transformation of the Arab/Muslim culture that promotes hatred and violence against Israel in their schools, media, sermons, speeches and children’s camps. The Palestinian Authority must also begin to arrest terrorists, outlaw terrorist groups and stop glorifying terrorists. They must begin to show Israel on their maps, eliminate their derogatory posters about Israel, and abrogate the clauses of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah party’s charter opposing a political solution and calling for Israel’s destruction.
Until these transformations occur, there will be no real movement toward a Palestinian state. Most nations realize that under the present circumstances, such a state would evolve into a terrorist state, increasing its ability to promote the troubling agenda of its underlying culture. Remember, Syria, Iran, and North Korea have sovereign states but do not promote peace.
I believe the United States will eventually end the $500 million in aid to and negotiations with the Palestinian Authority unless and until they make these critical changes. If these changes do not occur and terrorism continues, Israel will have no choice but to end all negotiations and launch extensive military operations against the Palestinian Arab terrorists and their cells in Gaza, Judea and Samaria.
Such Israeli anti-terror operations, the end of U.S. aid and the end of fruitless negotiations will finally make it clear to the Palestinians that terrorism and a hard-line Arab approach will gain them nothing, and that Israel is here to stay. Then, there could be movement toward a genuine conciliation.
Shlomo Riskin Founder and Chief Rabbi of the City of Efrat Gush Etzion, Israel
The real challenge is to find a peace partner. I truly believe that if there is no Palestinian leader who is willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and make compromises, we must seek another partner. One possibility is Jordan, which will either establish a consortium with the Palestinians or will be in a position to broker peace with Israel. This is not only in the interest of Israel and the Palestinians but also of Jordan. Jordan has the most to lose if a Hamas Palestinian state of extremist Islam fundamentalists is established.
What has to be remembered is that there is not simply a war between Israel and the Palestinians; there is a world war between fundamentalist Islam and all moderate freedom-loving people. I would like to believe that slowly the world will wake up to the danger of Iran and Islamic fundamentalists and that a compromise will be brought to the fore to enable Palestinians to live independently, either with a free government ready to recognize Israel or as part of a consortium with Jordan.
Daniel Gordis, Senior vice president, Shalem Center, Jerusalem, Israel
Now that many Israelis believe (perhaps correctly) that there is simply no peace to be had, that what is at stake is not borders—or Palestinian statehood—but the very right of the Jewish state to be, how shall we proceed? What sort of education system do we need to respond to that challenge? How does one raise a generation of children who no longer believe they'll live to see peace without getting them to hate the "other" as deeply as our enemies do? Can we produce young men and women so passionately Zionist that they would risk everything for this country in their youth and live their adult lives here, while remaining sufficiently open to the possibility of peace that, were it to become possible one day, they would not squander the opportunity?
Can a young generation robbed of the possibility of peace grow into sophisticated adulthood without serious discussions of the legitimacy of the use of power? There is, to be sure, a moral obligation not to use excessive power, but might there also be a moral imperative not to spurn its use?
Daniel PipesDirector, Middle East ForumPhiladelphia, PA
Unfortunately, the majority of Palestinians, perhaps 80 percent, still wish to eliminate Israel. Israel faces an unprecedented barrage of assaults—weapons of mass destruction, conventional forces, rockets, terrorists, internal sabotage, economic boycott and ideological undermining. I would not call the current diplomacy a “peace process;” it’s more of a “war process,” for the situation has greatly deteriorated since the Oslo accords of 1993. The current round of negotiations cannot work because diplomacy does not succeed during wartime. First the war has to be resolved and then negotiations can fruitfully begin. Either the Jewish state is accepted by its neighbors or it is eliminated.
I wish it were possible to finesse this hard fact, but attempts so far have all failed, leading me to the conclusion that further negotiations are a mistake until the Palestinians give up their war goals.&
Shoshana BryenDirector of Special Projects, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)Washington, DC
The “peace process” is an aberration; there is no historical precedent for parties to cede fundamental principles (“right of return,” security, Jerusalem) while they still believe they can “win” the “war.” Machiavelli called peace the conditions imposed by the victor on the loser of the last war. There is no reason the Palestinians and Israel cannot live together, but it will not be achieved by a “process” asking for or demanding nicer behavior.
Israel is entitled to enforcement of U.N. Resolution 242 and the guarantee of its “secure and recognized borders free from threats or acts of force.” This is an obligation of the Arab world—the Palestinians are not signatories to 242. Israel weakens itself through trades with the Palestinians without an agreement with the Arab states.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was right when she said the Arab states have to stop pretending Israel does not exist. It asks too much of the Palestinians to think they can accept the legitimacy of Israel if their Arab sponsors do not; how can Abu Mazen get out in front of Saudi Arabia?
Egypt and Saudi Arabia are beholden to the U.S. for their security, and American efforts should go there. Israel and the U.S. have to find ways to convince them and the Palestinians that they cannot “win” the “war.”
Steven Emerson Executive Director, Investigative Project on TerrorismWashington, DC
I am a realist. I wish I could be more hopeful, but I know that there is no peace process. In 1993, Israel signed a peace treaty with Palestinian authorities titled the Declaration of Principles. Since then Israelis have been in denial because, despite their promises, the Palestinians do not want peace.
The only semblance of a “peace process” is a result of the wall. It should be extended and made hermetic. The problem is that the Palestinians will come up to the wall and launch missiles over it. No one has policed acquisition of weapons in Gaza and the West Bank since 1993.
Israel may withdraw from parts of the West Bank, but this would be a mistake in the absence of real peace with Palestinians. I foresee a low intensity state of war and one major war in the future. I see another intifada and a big response from Israel. Israel cannot tolerate Palestinian missiles forever. What are the alternatives?