WHY THE PEACE PROCESS CAN'T WORK AND SHOULD BE ABANDONNED
by Robert Locke
Sadly, most people choose their beliefs about how the world works the same way they choose most of their other actions: whatever makes them feel good. Nowhere is this more evident than in the assumptions of the Washington establishment about how to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The core premise of this establishment is that there is a 'peace process' and that if only this process could be gotten right, peace would result.
Unfortunately, this is bald nonsense, and it is only believed because it enables that establishment to stage a pantomime in which it is both the audience and the hero. The myth of the peace process enables the perfumed princes of Pennsylvania Avenue to go to sleep every night confident that they are on the side of justice, reconciliation between peoples, international understanding, anti-terrorism, democracy, fairness, and, no doubt, Fukuyama's End of History, in which they have an enormous emotional and intellectual investment, being devout acolytes in the high church of globalism.
But in fact, history isn't ending, and anyone who bothers to consult it will discover that in fact, not a single war in history has ever been satisfactorily ended by a 'peace process,' and the very idea that one might be reveals wishful thinking about the most basic facts of international relations.
If one examines past wars that have been ended by 'peace' processes, one discovers the endless shape-of-the-table negotiations about Vietnam, to which table the North Vietnamese were only bombed back by the B-52. Or the protracted negotiations that attended the Thirty Years War, in which a third of the population of Germany was killed and human flesh was sold for food in the markets of Frankfurt. Or a dozen other shabby, brutal conflicts in which politicians fiddled while civilians suffered. One does not discover peace.
These past conflicts have two things in common: one, the peace processes prolonged them, and two, at least one party to the conflict wanted to keep the fighting going. Surprise, surprise: wars go on when at least one combatant wants them to. What is sad is that the so-called 'peace' process, which is really nothing new, just a Madison Avenue locution for historically unoriginal endless rounds of negotiations, concessions, and negotiations, enables this to happen under a veil of 'peace-loving' deceit. By now, we should be familiar with the standard modus operandi of the left, which always cloaks its most vicious violence in the language of benevolence. What's sad is that an administration nominally on the right is perpetrating the same fraud.
It is time to sweep away the delusion that there is a peace process, and stop using this ridiculous propagandistic term, whose twins in political discourse are such Orwellian nonsense phrases as 'revenue enhancer' and 'people's republic.' The so-called peace process is just endless negotiation. Repeat: the so-called peace process is just endless negotiation. That's it. Negotiation. No magic, no political voodoo, and especially no mysticism about the value of dialogue as an end in itself, which merely serves to prop up the self-importance of the diplomats who engage in it.
The fundamental problem is this: peace is not a process. Once we grasp firmly that a peace process is an imaginary animal and we can look at what it really is in the hard light of political realism, we can see why it is by nature both doomed and dangerous.
To understand why the endless-negotiations-popularly-known-as-the-peace-process are a dangerous joke, it is only necessary to ask a basic question from Political Science 101: what are negotiations? Well, they're when two parties are both involved in some situation that they both want something out of. This is true whether it's two nations that are negotiating, two corporations, two lawyers, or two peasants haggling over potatoes. The fundamental basis of negotiation is the interests of the negotiators, the fact that each side wants something. And the substance of the negotiations is the process of each side offering the other, 'I'll give you X if you give me Y,' and so forth. A deal is struck when some outcome is found that both sides are prepared to accept. If no such outcome can be found, no deal is struck.
The crucial point here is that negotiations don't have any force in their own right; they only reflect the pre-existing desires of the parties to the negotiations. It is true that negotiators can come up with complicated deals with lots of intricacies and these intricacies can change over time, but only insofar as they reflect the fundamentals: each side wants something. Negotiations themselves never, or rarely, have the power to change what people want.
And this 'rarely' is a straightforward empirical question: has each side changed what it wants or not? If yes, then negotiations proceed on the basis of the new desires of the participants. And perhaps this enables the striking of a deal where no deal was possible before, because it makes some outcome acceptable to one side that was previously unacceptable. But if not, then nothing happens and conflict is not resolved.
This is what the 'peace process' aims to do: find a deal where none could be found before. Obviously, because of the logic we have just reviewed, this can only happen if the peace process leads one or other of the parties to change what they want. But that's it, and there is no other way the peace process can do anything. It either has the power to change the objectives of the Israelis and Palestinians, or it doesn't. Period.
So, does the peace process have this power? Well, for a start, do the parties to it say it has? (If they say so, we can be skeptical, but if they don't, we know we haven't got a chance.) Well, no. The statements of the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships make quite clear that on the core fundamentals, they both want pretty much the same things they always have. The Palestinians want to drive the Israelis into the sea, and the Israelis want to not be driven into the sea.
More specifically: the Palestinians want a Right of Return that Israel can't afford to give them, lest she be swamped demographically. The Palestinians want Jerusalem, which the Jews have been dreaming about for 2,000 years. The Palestinians want to continue waging low-intensity terrorist warfare until they destroy all of Israel, which naturally objects to signing a peace treaty after which war just goes on as before.
So until someone actually finds a way to make the Israelis or the Palestinians change their fundamental desires, negotiations aren't going to achieve anything. And these fundamental desires are rooted in basic existential needs, like national survival, or in bone-deep cultural and ideological commitments that touch the very identities of the communities concerned, so this is vanishingly unlikely.
This is all true independently of which side you think has the better moral case. It is true because of what each side does want, not what it ought to want or whether it deserves to get what it wants. Take the Palestinian side if you like: the peace process still makes no sense.
I repeat: either the fundamental objectives of the two sides make an agreement possible, or they don't. If they do, let them sign a treaty tomorrow. If they do not, either find a way to change these objectives or shut up. The vast paraphernalia of the peace process, from the creation of the international crime syndicate known as the Palestinian Authority to the releases of its capos from Israeli jails, can only possibly make the tiniest bit of sense if it somehow contributes to this change of objectives. But it obviously does not, the moment one looks at it in this light.
What it does do is let everybody play: the Palestinian leadership plays at having a country, the Americans play at being peacemakers, the Europeans play at being champions of the oppressed, the Israeli public plays at living in a normal country, and of course the terrorists get back into their fun and games with Semtex and C-4. The players may dislike, or even hate, each other, but they all love the delusion. It is political onanism on a grand scale. It is a classic case of the fact that when it comes to the Middle East, everybody, both in it and outside it, prefers emotionally gratifying myths to reality.
But the continual bloodletting makes this delusion extremely expensive. It is also utterly cynical, because the Palestinian leadership has no intention of really ending the terrorism, and probably couldn't even in the bizarre circumstance that it abandoned everything it has ever stood for and wanted to. The empty cease-fires alone - which conform perfectly to the Moslem concept of hudna or temporary and dishonest truce - prove that. This is all true whether or not Mr. Arafat, or anybody else, is head of the Palestinian Authority. Changes of personnel are a meaningless charade designed to generate the illusion that now, at last, things will be different, so we should all give the peace process one last chance.
This dynamic creates the need for endless iterations of change designed to preserve the credibility of the concept of the peace process. If the process doesn't work, then it must be because Israel hasn't made enough concessions yet. (Nobody ever thinks it might be the other side that hasn't made enough concessions because everyone knows, like they know about racial differences behind closed doors, that the Arabs are, in T.E. Lawrence's eternal description in Lawrence of Arabia, 'a silly people, greedy, barbarous, and cruel,' and expect nothing better from them.) Thus the price of the peace process intrinsically escalates. We can call this 'concession inflation.'
The endless iterations of the peace process resemble the endless varieties of socialism that successively captured the minds of the intelligentsia from the 30's to the 90's. These ranged from Leninism to Trotskyism to Stalinism to Maoism to Eurocommunism to Yugo-communism to the mixed economy to the Swedish model to Zambian Humanism and Ujamaa. Enormous suffering took place because no-one had the guts to admit that the basic concept, socialism, was flawed. We are seeing the same intellectual pathology repeat itself, and the only real question is how many people must die before people figure this out.
It is therefore time to simply abandon, openly and explicitly, the peace process or anything like it. Permanently.
Once this is done, the Palestinians can be told that if they want to make a deal, they should make a binding offer and be done with it. No more endless 'process' about anything. They're either ready to make peace or they're not. If it takes them another 40 years as a culture to get to that point, so be it. But the rest of the world should not be strung along with their playing at a peace they have no intention of keeping.
As they say, the definition of stupidity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result.
Robert Locke is a former editor at Front Page Magazine (http.www.frontpagemag.com), where his articles are archived. These include "Hobbes and the Middle East" (http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=1245). He has also been published in Vdare, Intellectual Capital, and The American Conservative. His recent article defending population transfer can be found on Vdare (see http://www.vdare.com/locke/palestinian_problem.htm). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.