Friday, October 15, 2010

Abbas Admits Peace Could Have Come Long Ago?

In the course of reiterating his flat rejection of ever recognizing Israel as a Jewish state (I really don't think this is a preparation for a counter-offer), PA head Mahmoud Abbas appeared to make a startling admission:
"If we showed flexibility on these issues the peace agreement would have been signed a long time ago," Abbas said.

It would be one thing if Abbas believed, as Mr. Ibish apparently does, that this "Jewish state" thing is just a distraction to delay final resolution of the conflict. But Mr. Abbas does not seem to believe this. Indeed, much the opposite -- he seems convinced that the conflict could have ended years ago had Palestinians been willing to compromise on points such as this, but apparently recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is such a grave affront, such a impregnable red-line, that contra Ibish, it is "worth continuing the conflict and the occupation to refuse to try to find a reasonable formula" for characterizing Israel's Jewish status.


N. Friedman said...

Again, David, there are implications to reaching the sort of conclusions you seem to be reaching. Again, the truth here is what Benny Morris said a number of years ago:

Unfortunately, the destruction of Israel and the right of return of the refugees have become a key component of Palestinian identity, and as long as this component does not vanish, there is no possibility of an historic compromise. And without a compromise that is based on two states, in the end, only one state will remain here - either a Jewish one without a large Arab minority, or an Arab one with a Jewish minority that will continuously dwindle until it disappears, just as the Jewish communities disappeared from the Islamic world in the last century (after all, what Jew in his right mind would want to live as a minority in an Islamic state headed by the terrorist from the Muqata'a and the wheelchair-bound fanatic from Gaza?).

That, unfortunately, is the reality of the situation. And, as Morris notes, Jews, in this dispute, are clearly the weaker side, all things considered.

So, I await your considering the disservice that our president, who sees fit to tell Israelis what to do but only has hushed comments about Palestinian intransigence, is doing Israel (and the US, for that matter, since he has staked much on his morally perverse approach to the dispute, based, as it seems likely, on his lack of any feeling for Jews or Israel - as this lengthy, widely acclaimed, 5 part article shows -, to his misconception).

joe said...

I know David doesn't want me making a bunch of arguments, so I'll just note what I think would make an interesting blog post. As is often the case, there are contradictions that need resolving.

I would be interested to hear why David views "recognition" (and we're talking specifically of recognition "as a Jewish state") from the Palestinians as so important, yet so forcefully rejects the "recognition" demanded by the recent loyalty bill for (non-Jewish) naturalized Israeli citizens. Whatever immigrants owe to their adopted state, I'd assume most people can agree it has to be more than is owed by other states' governments.

To me it all looks like a way of getting a group of people that a majority in Israel isn't too fond of to cry "uncle. Unnecessary and unconstructive. Of course, we could say not granting recogntion is not constructive either, but that's false equivalence when in this case it's Israel that is making the demand. If I get into a major quarrel with my spouse and then refuse to apologize when it is demanded, that may be jerky of me but I'm not strictly obligated to apologize, and merely being a pill alters any of the true obligations either me or my spouse are under.

That is all I will say on this. David can either address the contradictions or not.

David Schraub said...

Aside from the discriminatory nature of the loyalty oath (only non-Jews are subjected to it), I think there is a rather clear qualitative difference between having an erstwhile enemy forswear something that was a constituent element of your conflict, and making every random immigrant do it. If I get into a fight with my neighbor over use of the lounge fridge, it's perfectly reasonable to demand as a condition for resolving it that he specifically recognize my rights with respect to the fridge. Accosting every prospective tenant of the apartment and demanding that they sign a pledge to respect my fridge rights, by contrast, marks one as a lunatic.

N. Friedman said...


You have made a good and rather convincing argument about the loyalty oath matter. I shall have to think about but I am inclined to think you are right. While, up to now, I have only been concerned about the discriminatory basis for for the loyalty oath, you make a good argument. So, you might chalk that up to me listening or at least trying to listen.


I am not sure that David is opposed to argument. I think he wants us to be much more civil and not post quite as contentiously. David can, if he wants, clarify this so there are no misunderstandings.

joe said...

By "a bunch of arguments" I mostly meant "a bunch of posts." Most people will be cool with a short statement of disagreement and a question in challenge, and through the dueling analogies to domestic arguments above, I've got a better understanding of how David conceptualizes all this.

To be sure, I think he's mistaken about various things, e.g. how much of a good faith effort Netanyahu is making with this offer. (If recognition is so important symbolically, why not make an effort from the outset to disclaim that any such recognition will be understood as bearing on final-status matters such as Jerusalem? To me, it smells like a poison pill, and as Ibish points out, the Palestinians are far ahead of the Israelis in the department of recognizing the other sides statehood.) But life's short and there's no reason to press everything all at once. Legally speaking, those are argumentative questions, and it's not terrible if they are reined in because they lend themselves to endless yes-it-is-no-it-isn't without much illumination.

N. Friedman said...


You ask: "If recognition is so important symbolically, why not make an effort from the outset to disclaim that any such recognition will be understood as bearing on final-status matters such as Jerusalem?"

How would anyone reasonably interpret a request for recognition as bearing on Jerusalem? Understand this much, joe. Recognition of the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty is not a issue, to most Jews - and nearly all American Jews, it is the issue. There is no settlement of the dispute without it. That is not BS'ing. That is a fact. On this, according to the most recent poll of American Jewish opinion, 95% of American Jews think that Palestinians should be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement.

N. Friedman said...


Strike: "Recognition of the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty is not a issue, to most Jews - and nearly all American Jews, it is the issue."


Recognition of the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty is not merely a issue. To most Jews and to nearly all American Jews, it is the issue.

joe said...

Ibish's blog, linked in David's original post, answers your question on how this relates to Jerusalem. (On this point, my last post also needs a correction. I wrote "disclaim" when I meant "disavow".)

N. Friedman said...


Ibish is merely providing apologia. Abbas, in Arabic, has made no secret of his view that Israel's presence in the region is illegitimate. He says this not only in Arabic but, in English, he says he will never, even in negotiations, accept Israel's legitimacy and, as Benny Morris notes, this viewpoint is substantially tied up with the definition, long internalized, of Palestinian nationalism - i.e. a nationalism defined in considerable part as rejection of the idea of an Israel.

Ignoring what Ibish says for now, how do you think Jerusalem is tied up with recognizing the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism? I think there is no connection at all and that the demand comes from Israel because, in fact, it is, at the end of the day, a necessary - central, long standing internalized - issue for the Jewish people, ingrained by Jewish history, in which Jews have sought legitimacy, somewhere, now for more than a millennium. In other words, even if Ibish believes what he believes, his understanding of the Jewish side is simply wrong.

N. Friedman said...


One other point, lest you think I am just speaking my point, Haaretz has an article noting my point. See it here.

While I could, of course, be wrong about the reason for insisting on recognition, I really do not think so. It would appear that David, who is as far away from me regarding how to resolve the dispute as seems imaginable, seems to agree with me on this one as well.