A response to a column by Charles Krauthammer — “Your move, Mr. Abbas” — that appeared in the Washington Post on September 10, 2010 and can be found at:
Charles Krauthammer commends President Obama for establishing a final agreement as the goal of Middle East talks. Krauthammer identifies two major stumbling blocks to such a deal: that PA President Mahmoud Abbas lacks a popular consensus, and that he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. If Abbas had popular backing and the courage to move ahead, Krauthammer says, a settlement would be within reach. After all: “a final peace… remains on the table.”
Krauthammer is correct in his initial, limited assessment of Abbas. However, he then strays far afield, offering unwarranted assumptions and errors of fact:
When he observes that “a final peace… remains on the table,” he explains that he is referring to the offer made in 2000 at Camp David by Ehud Barak, then Prime Minister of Israel, to nay-saying PA President Yasser Arafat, during a summit orchestrated by President Bill Clinton. Krauthammer echoes other pundits who maintain that we already “know” what the “peace” looks like, and that the parties need only flesh out details. As it happens, however, he has not done his homework.
Clinton, at this summit, enunciated the principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” To ensure that nothing short of a final agreement might be considered binding, the Israeli delegation negotiated orally for the most part, not sharing written documents. As far as anything “remaining on the table,” PA consultant Edward Abington has said that Barak and Clinton told Abbas that if there is no agreement, “everything is off the table.”
Krauthammer is correct in saying the situation has shifted since 2000, but his assessment of how it has shifted is seriously off the mark. According to him, because “Israel made concrete concessions” that ultimately resulted in “a full-scale terror war that killed more than a thousand innocent Israelis,” the Israeli right is now “chastened.”
With this he has drawn an illogical, one might even say perverse, conclusion. One-thousand Israelis were not murdered because the right attempted to hold on to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Rather, it was, as Krauthammer himself acknowledges, because of Israeli concessions – which included pullback from predominantly Arab areas of Judea and Samaria. Once the IDF returned, terror abated.
The terror war of 2002 initiated a huge learning curve for the Israeli populace. Lesson two came in 2005, with Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. This had provided the Arabs there with an opportunity to develop in positive terms. Instead, they too turned to terror, unleashing rockets and missiles on innocent Israeli civilians.
Krauthammer’s claim regarding “a broad-based national consensus for giving nearly all the West Bank in return for peace” is simply wrong. The electorate has been soured on the notion of surrendering land with expectation of finding peace and has shifted right-ward: A Maagar Mochot Survey Institute Poll conducted ten months ago found that Israeli Jews believe by a margin of 80% to 10% that “the idea that Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines would bring Israel peace for generations is simplistic and naïve.”
The observation by Krauthammer that “No serious player believes [the right] can hang on forever to the West Bank” also must be challenged. Minister Bennie Begin, a member of the Inner Cabinet, certainly believes so. As does Minister Uzi Landau. A Land of Israel Forum exists in the Knesset today, to which more than 25% of Knesset members, representing seven parties, belong – including Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin. Member of Knesset Ze’ev Elkin, Forum Co-chair, has explained that “The lobby will deal with strengthening the State of Israel’s grasp of the entire Land of Israel, and especially Judea and Samaria.”
Krauthammer supported the forced expulsion of Jews from Gaza in 2005, apparently not discomfited by the spectacle of Jewish soldiers dragging Jewish citizens of Israel from their homes. Many Israelis consider this one of the most painful, and shameful, incidents in Israeli history.
Israel is likely the only democracy in the world that permits use of its army for such actions, and there is talk of legally restricting the IDF to actions in defense of Israel’s citizens. Yet Krauthammer has no trouble envisioning a reprise of this action in Judea and Samaria, presumably against resistant “religious settlers,” if “Israel is offered real peace.”
It just might be, however, that the “religious settlers” have a clear-eyed view of reality that eludes Krauthammer: Mahmoud Abbas – who confers honors on the perpetrators of the most horrific terrorist acts against Israel and sanctions teaching schoolchildren that jihad and “martyrdom” are praiseworthy – is never going to offer a real peace. Talk of this is dangerous illusion.
(c) A. Kushner 2010