Hello Dear Readers,
The following is a major re-edit of a post I wrote back in February. You can read the original here. In light of the kickoff another of Israel and Hamas’ fairly regular wars in Gaza (2004, 2008, and 2012 – but who’s counting?) this month, I went back and revisited my original pessimism to add *even more* pessimism. Unlike those other internet commentaries you’re reading on this absurd tragedy, I at least acknowledge my shameless rehashing of old ideas.
Here’s what you need to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: no one in a position of power to do anything about it really wants peace.
Neither the Israel government, the Obama Administration, nor the Palestinian Authority stand to benefit from peace. Peace doesn’t pay. All I am saying: peace has no chance. Put that on a t-shirt.
I love the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. With his terrible combover, stench of corruption, and condescending way of speaking to the press, he reminds me of an American senator. And if you come across any interview with him, he will be sure to note that Hamas rejects the existence of Israel and a two-state solution. What he usually forgets to mention is that he rejects the existence of a sovereign Palestinian state and a two-state solution. It must have slipped his mind, as did similar rejections by his defense minister and his economic minister. His foreign minister is a soft touch, though — he only wants to cleanse all of the Arabs out of Israel.
Luckily, civilians aren’t interested in peace either, at least as it’s currently defined. One survey showed 60% of Israelis supported reclaiming all of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. They only supported a two-state solution until you explained it to them. But that’s ok, because 63% of Palestinians indicated that they too have no faith in a two-state solution.
Sure, Israeli civilians would be better off if there were peace. Palestinian civilians would be better off. But if the 21st century has taught us nothing else so far, it’s that nobody really cares about civilians in the Middle East. Worse, the Palestinians are Arab civilians. And people really don’t care about them – the West Bank and Gaza are like the west and south sides of Chicago where we can be depressed about goes on there and also remain blissfully detached. Otherwise reasonable people I know are hitting me up to give money to an emergency fund for Israel. Leaving aside the asymmetrical body count in that conflict, we’re in a year where more than *5,000* Iraqi civilians have been killed and there are 170,000 dead Syrians we could be thinking about. I figure we could at least provide Syrian civilians with a super high tech anti-missile system like we gave the Israelis. Israel has the 37th largest GDP per capita in the world, and could probably have bought one themselves. On the other hand, what do you get for the country that has everything?
The fact that none of the three parties will benefit from peace isn’t the same as saying that they can’t benefit from peace negotiations. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority will be yanked out of office by their ears if they negotiate peace and find themselves with a state. The lefties will want them out of office because they’re ineffective and comically corrupt, like Arab Blagojeviches. The hardliners will attack them with accusations that they were duped by Israel and the US. A Palestinian state means no more PA. If you were leading the PA, your best strategy would be to enter negotiations just to keep that sweet, sweet embezzleable aid money from the US and Israel coming. Meanwhile, you would look on the side for other other options, like pursuing Israel in international courts, getting your friend the UN involved, or trying to get foreign companies to turn the screws on Israel.
Which brings us to Israel. Imagine that you are the PA and you ordered a half pepperoni/half sausage pizza with Israel (in the Middle East, everyone secretly loves pork). It arrives, and you have to decide how to split it up. Pie cut or square cut? 50/50 or some other way? You can’t agree. John Kerry comes in to discuss with both of you. While you’re making your case, you notice something: Israel is already eating the pizza. Now imagine that instead of pizza, we’re talking about a wedge of desert with Mumbo-Jumbo Bible sauce and a topping of swarthy people. Israel’s eating that pie about as fast as it can.
Why wouldn’t they? No one said they couldn’t eat the pizza while figuring out what to do with the rest of it. If they just handed a bunch of pieces over to the Palestinians, they’d be attacked by their right wing for giving away their very special pizza with Mumbo Jumbo Bible sauce. The best strategy is clearly to talk as long as possible while enjoying the holy Jesus out of that pizza. Anything else would result in a net loss of pizza. Plus, as long as you’re talking with the Mumbo-Jumbo Bible sauce trickling down your chin, America will give you diplomatic cover, high tech anti-missile systems, and boatloads of money so you can keep eating the pizza.
It would be a real problem if the United States actually brought about a solution to all of this. Peace means Israel would have to give up some of the pizza it loves so much. Lots of people in the US really, really, want Israel to keep on enjoying that pizza. Especially people who are fans of Mumbo Jumbo Bible sauce, like most Republicans and many Democrats in Congress. But not just them. There are people who think Israel is an important ally, find it an enjoyable vacation spot, or would simply rather side with Israel than with the dread Arabs. There are also people who think that Israel earned a free pizza with a coupon they found at the bottom of a box of Genocide. Whichever it is, If the Obama Administration looked like it was about to take take the pizza away from Israel, make it give some back, or close the box, Congress and the press would go nuts.
Clearly, a really good strategy for everyone is to negotiate as long as possible with no intention of a resolution. How long can this go on? Forever. Here’s the secret: you don’t come to a negotiation about how the pizza is shared prepared to talk about pizza. First, you have to create a framework agreement to negotiate how you’ll negotiate over the pizza.
Confused? We have a disagreement about sharing pizza. The US says “we’re going to talk about pizza, ok? But just about the toppings and the crust. We’ll talk about the cheese, condiments and napkins later.” The Palestinians say “No. We want to talk about the pizza entirely. Right now.” The Israelis say, “Fine. We’ll talk about pizza. But first, we must agree we will never give up the delicious corner pieces, and you can’t have napkins.” The US responds with “Ok. Let’s come back to corner pieces and napkins later. Palestinians, you must agree you won’t throw a fit and spit on it or something. Israel, for CHRIST’S SAKE HOW CAN YOU FIT THAT MUCH PIZZA IN YOUR MOUTH?” And so on.
Peace talks were and for the foreseeable future will be a stalling tactic. And when they don’t work, we have a little war. You might be one of those people who think that wars are terrible. They are — unless you’re an Israeli or Palestinian hardliner. If you’re Hamas, and you want to ensure continued support in Gaza, it’s best if the population experiences prolonged period of Israeli attacks. And the good news for hard-line Israeli politicians is that a Hamas barrage launched into Israel may increase their electoral support for by up to seven points.
Alright. Who wants to go out and get a pizza?