The Annapolis hudna conference
SHORT of intolerable carnage, there's no durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. None. The best all parties can hope for is an occasional time-out.At best we can achieve a hudna, which is Muslim for a temporary halt to a war to regroup before the next attack. The war against Israel is driven by Muslim religious bigotry. that is why so much of what the Palestinians do is so irrational. If they were rational they would have taken the deal that Clinton and Barack offered them back at the end of his term. If they were rational, they never would have elected Hamas, which postponed further negotiations. If Abbas agrees to a rational deal the Palestinians will go to war with him and Israel. But, we must go on pretending they are rational for the sake of their irrational friends in the Arab world.
A respite between rounds isn't worthless, of course - lives are saved, Israel's economy improves and the Arabs get one more chance to get their act together. But we're forever disappointed because we're convinced there's a good, permanent solution, if only we can figure it out.
That's the American way: a can-do spirit, the conviction that no problem's too tough for us. But, in the real world (and in the bizarre fantasyland of Arab culture), some foreign problems can't be resolved equitably. They can only smolder on, occasionally erupting in flames.
In the Middle East, you can't buy peace. You can only buy time. If we want to help at all, the fundamental requirement is to have realistic expectations.
For their parts, Arab leaders and their representatives assume we're sufficiently honored if they just show up. We hear no end of nonsense about the great political risks they're taking, etc. We're suckers for any fat guy in a white robe with an oil can.
Today's session in Annapolis may or may not result in a we-the-undersigned statement or a few unenforceable commitments. And yes, there's merit just in bringing folks together and keeping them talking. But the baseline difficulty is that we want to solve problems for people who don't really want those problems solved.
Mahmoud Ab- bas and his Fatah Party, for example, couldn't accept a genuine peace tomorrow morning - even though Hamas' coup in Gaza has put them up against the wall. Their problem? The most successful jobs program in the Arab world has been Palestinian "resistance" to Israel.
Consider what peace with Israel - real peace - would mean in the West Bank and Gaza, in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley: Tens of thousands of gunmen (and terrorists) out of work, with no marketable skills - and radicalized by decades of fanatic rhetoric.
Generations have grown addicted to the struggle - and its perks. It's the only bearable justification for their individual and collective failures in life. Real peace with Israel would probably spark a convulsion throughout the Arab world - as tens of millions realized that their sacrifices were a travesty that merely empowered thieves.
Oh, and even if there's some sort of agreement, only the Israelis will honor it. Grudgingly.