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Reader comment on item: The Way to Peace

Submitted by Sandra Goldstein (United States), May 8, 2017 at 02:55

I think you have skirted what is perhaps the most challenging aspect of this situation, namely- what, precisely, should be the terms of the peace agreement?

My guess- from your emphasis on "Palestinian defeat"- is that you would prefer for the terms of the peace to lean in favor of the Israelis, with your reason being that the Palestinians should just acknowledge their defeat, and thus consequently give up any hopes of ever getting a deal more favorable to them.

However the problem I see with such an approach, is that regardless of their "defeated" status- the more skewed the terms are against them, the less likely it will be that they'll agree to them.

And so instead of achieving peace, we just drag out this miserable stalemate into perpetuity.

But alternately, if the compromise point were to be shifted more to the middle, then achieving peace becomes more likely, because better deals have better chances of being accepted by the other side.

Although of course, we can't go too far in the direction of the Palestinians either, because likewise, then the Israelis might not be willing to agree to the deal.

In a nutshell: peace will come when a compromise point is found that both sides are able and willing to get to- and so the whole entire problem basically boils down to determining what this optimal compromise point is... that point for which there will be enough people on both sides, that can come to the understanding that having peace is better than having whatever they'd be giving up in this compromise. (These really aren't political statements... it's all just basic logic & common sense.)

Your counterpart, on the other side, would be BDS... Like you, they do not seek peace though having a mutually agreed upon compromise that's about half-way in between, but rather, you both strive for peace through a decisive, definitive defeat of the other side. And this is because (in the case of both of you) the deals that you wish for are so far tilted towards your own side's interests, that you know full well that the only way the other side will accept them, is if they're forced to, through defeat. But the main drawback to a settlement via defeat versus a settlement via compromise, is that the former could take *MUCH* longer, thus greatly delaying the attainment of peace.

For instance, in the case of BDS, they're striving for an economic defeat- but how long might it take for them to garner enough support from the world at large, for the boycott to impact Israel's economy to such an extent that it will cause Israel to succumb to the movement's demands? Well, this essentially will happen when the hardships inflicted upon the Israelis by the boycott, outweigh whatever negative consequences the Israelis feel may come about as a result of complying with the terms of the boycotters. And thus, the central question: when, exactly, might this threshold be reached- how far into the future will this be? (I'm guessing, it could be quite far...)

Whereas, if BDS were to scale back on their demands somewhat, then Israel would be more likely to acquiesce, sooner rather than later.

I've mainly been speaking in vague generalities thus far, but now for some concrete details...

Say, for example, the Palestinian "right of return": BDS's position on this- that any Palestinians (and their descendants) who had been forcibly removed from Israel, should be allowed to come back in- does have legitimacy, in principle. However this would be nigh unto impossible to implement in actual practice, being as there are upwards of a million Palestinians vying for return, and as a tiny and already very densely populated country, Israel can't realistically accommodate such a sudden, massive influx.

Thus if BDS resolutely insists on Israel taking in that many Palestinians, then I believe it will be a very long time (if ever) until this comes about. But what if instead, BDS sought something more limited- perhaps if some tangible proof were required (like say, old deeds) to confirm that the applicants for return had been forced from their property (rather than having left voluntarily, as we know was actually also the case for many of the present "diaspora" Palestinians), then the numbers of returning Palestinians may only be in the thousands, which would be feasible for Israel to accept, and so agreement could be reached much sooner with such a compromise.

And now, let's get back to you- and the question I posed at the outset, that I felt you had not addressed specifically enough: what, exactly, do you feel should be the terms of the peace? What I might speculate, based on the importance you assign to "Palestinian defeat", is that you believe the Palestinians should perhaps concede to having less land for their eventual independent state... maybe forfeiting "Area C" of the West Bank, where the Jewish settlements are primarily located? However, if the Palestinians feel that this would be an unacceptably large concession, then there will be no agreement.

Although, what if the Palestinians demanded not only Area C, but also that all the Jewish settlers in it, evacuate to Israel? Since the number of settlers is now in the hundreds of thousands, such a forced mass relocation would be tantamount to "ethnic cleansing"... But this quandary is resolvable, again, through the magic of compromise: I.e., suppose Israel were to hand over Area C (along with Areas A & B too of course, and Gaza) to the Palestinians, and, the Palestinians granted what would effectively be an "amnesty" to the Jews living in Area C, extending to them the option of being citizens of the new state of Palestine (if they should choose to remain living in the West Bank after the formation of Palestine), with full rights, protections, and privileges equal to that accorded to all Muslim and Christian Palestinian citizens...?

I contend that a compromise such as this has a better chance of being agreed upon sooner (thus bringing peace sooner), than proposals which are further out from the centerline.


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Daniel Pipes replies:

Thanks for the analysis. But you miss the point about defeat. It has to be crushing, not partial. No compromises, please.

May 11, 2017 update: The author of the above comment posted it today as an "open letter" to me at the Daily Kos, along with a remark about the brevity of my response.

Well, yes, it's brief because we are pursuing two opposite approaches. I argue that compromise won't work and Sandra Goldstein advocates for compromise.

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