Monday, November 26, 2007

Annapolis Peace Talks: "What is the Conflict About?"

That great Orientalist Bernard Lewis has an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today concerning the Annapolis peace talks. He states the central problem of all peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in a nutshell:

"What is the conflict about? There are basically two possibilities: that it is about the size of Israel, or about its existence."

"If the issue is about the size of Israel, then we have a straightforward border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas. That is to say, not easy, but possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.

If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist."

"If the issue is not the size of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed. And in light of the past record, it is clear that is and will remain the issue, until the Arab leadership either achieves or renounces its purpose -- to destroy Israel. Both seem equally unlikely for the time being."

Here's a link to the WSJ website, and, since the WSJ requires a subscription, here's another link where you can read the opinion piece on the down-low.


Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Do diplomats ever admit to themselves the existance of issues insoluble by negotiation?

TSB said...

I'm not a diplomat (I work for the State Department in another capacity), so I can only answer for myself. It is perfectly clear to me that conflicts such as the one Bernard Lewis describes cannot be solved by negotiation. Either they are resolved by force, or they continue until one of the parties loses either its national identity or its aspirations.

For what it's worth, here's what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (a Civil War veteran, by the way) believed about this: "I believe that force, mitigated so far as may be by good manners, is the Ultima Ratio, and between two groups that want to make inconsistent kinds of world, I see no remedy except force." Trying to make inconsistent kinds of world is a great description of the current situation between Israel and the Palestinians.