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From Gaza: epilogue, or epitaph?

January 30, 2009

Michael J Totten, the world’s best photo-journalist (and deserved winner of the 2008 Best Middle East of Africa Blog – congratulations, Michael), has penned a sobering assessment of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the wake of the recent war in Gaza.

He writes:

A clear majority of Israelis would instantly hand over the West Bank and its settlements along with Gaza for a real shot at peace with the Arabs, but that’s not an option. Most Arab governments at least implicitly say they will recognize Israel’s right to exist inside its pre-1967 borders, but far too many Palestinians still won’t recognize Israel’s right to exist even in its 1948 borders. Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist inside any borders at all.

And:

Far too many Westerners make the mistake of projecting their own views onto Palestinians without really understanding the Palestinian narrative. The “occupation” doesn’t refer to the West Bank and Gaza, and it never has. The “occupation” refers to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A kibbutz in the center of Israel is “occupied Palestine” according to most. “It makes no sense to a Palestinian to think about a Palestinian state alongside Israel,” Martin Kramer from the Shalem Center in Jerusalem said to me a few days ago. “From the Palestinian perspective, Israel will always exist inside Palestine.”

Michael characterises the conflict as unsolvable, intractable. For that reality to change, the Middle East itself must change.

It’s hard to disagree. I can’t see anything material changing unless a genuinely moderate leadership emerges on the Palestinian side.

But why should it? Why risk the bullet and the bomb from the assassins’ camp, which have killed so many Palestinian moderates or potential moderates over the decades? Why forego the limitless assistance available from Iran and Syria, who will only support terror, and the power and cachet that goes with it? Why forego Europe’s billions, for which peace was never a pre-condition? Above all, why pursue an objective that no-one in the region really wants, or has ever wanted from the very beginning – except the Jews of Israel?

Peace won’t even be possible for at least a generation.

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