Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rising Calls For An American Imposed Peace Plan

Howard Sachar is the historian the rest of us of who write about Israel are cautious about referring to in our work, for fear of giving away just how much of his research and analysis we borrowed. His A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, published in 1976, is a magisterial book: a sweeping narrative line; a sequencing of facts and data representing years of careful digging into memoirs and economic archives; a humane drama that makes you feel the state's founding as a world-historical event without a trace of parochial special pleading. His work on modern Jewish life in the West is equally compelling. The son of Brandeis University founding president Abram Sachar, he is in many ways the embodiment of its haskalah.

If American Jews honored their scholars as much as their pundits, they would take note of Sachar's evolving views, too. Which is why Sachar's newly published article in Foreign Affairs should not be skipped (spring for the $.99 and buy the pdf.). Without the usual equivocations, he is calling on President Obama to propose a peace plan and rally the Quartet to impose it:

But with so-called proximity talks and even faceto-face discussions endlessly collapsing in a lethal series of cross-border Arab rocket attacks and Israeli military retaliation, the great powers themselves at long last are faced with the challenge of borrowing from historical precedent and operating not as mediators but as principals.

Will they accept that challenge? More specifically, will U.S. President Barack Obama grasp the opportunity to jump-start a reasonable version of the Quartet’s master plan for the Holy Land? It is a formulation, after all, that reflects the weight not only of its sponsors’ best collective judgment and self-interests but also of their untapped collective powers of enforcement, including the selective bestowal or withdrawal of diplomatic, economic, or military support.

This is, by the way, virtually the same conclusion that the Economist has finally come to in its most recent issue:

Instead of giving up, Mr Obama needs to change his angle of attack. America has clung too long to the dogma that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are the way forward. James Baker, a former secretary of state, once said that America could not want peace more than the local parties did. This is no longer true. The recent history proves that the extremists on each side are too strong for timid local leaders to make the necessary compromises alone. It is time for the world to agree on a settlement and impose it on the feuding parties.

Curious, the collapse of face to face talks was thought to be a setback, but it is perhaps the very thing that was needed to show what was always true: that as with Camp David I, when Begin and Sadat could not longer sit in the same room, peace has no process until the American administration forces things.


Larry Rosenwald said...

I agree with the argument; but I don't think what's being called for is going to happen. I'd be delighted to be proven wrong, of course. If I were a betting man, though, I'd bet that the Palestinian Authority will seek, and in some cases, receive recognition as a state long before the US will use its actual power to help create one.
A very happy new year to all nonetheless, filled with peace and blessing.

Y. Ben-David said...

How are the Americans going to get the Palestinians to give up their demand for implementation of the so-called Palestinian "right of return" of the refugees? Arafat told Clinton at Camp David he would be assassinated if he made some concession (I don't recall if it was on this issue or on sharing the Temple Mount). If a "strong" leader like Arafat is afraid to make important concessions, how will Abbas who has HAMAS breathing down his neck?
What about Syria and Iran waiting in the wings? Can Obama impose a settlement if they are opposed to it?

Bonnie said...

Complicated -- as Y.Ben.David observes. What would Koestler have said with his knack for simplification that was not reductionism?

Potter said...

I have not read the article yet. When I read your title I said to myself- "I am so tired of this"... but then the name Sachar changed my mood. I remember Abram Sachar's "Course of Our Times" It on WGBH TV years ago. It was a telling of the history of the 20th century ( up to that point). Sachar pere was more evenhanded in his presentation than anyone I had ever heard- and so clear and simple and sound in his analysis/judgement ( he was not afraid to say it). I have his son's book on Israel too. The history is filled with such pride of accomplishment for the state of Israel- and such hope, but it too is evenhanded. Neither father nor son would sacrifice their honest assessments for mere loyalty to the cause, for an Israel right or wrong.

So I am interested in what Howard Sachar has to say... but I am so tired of this back and forth- impose, can't impose, don't impose, must impose etc.

Potter said...

Paid the .99 and glad to have this article to file away. A beautifully wide/long-in-scope analysis, the case well made... as others have also made the case for imposing a peace agreement (for instance Henry Seigman).

Sachar: 1) Settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the interest of the world, without this ,2)Israel's peace treaties with surrounding countries founder, go lame. 3) The two parties will never come to an agreement themselves - look at history.

But Sachar in the end points to Obama and Obama, near as I can tell, also is timid ( and extremists have his number) and does not have the courage it takes to risk politically. It would be nice to be wrong.

emma said...

We like to speak in circles, around and around this issue, without truly addressing certain items of substance. Of course we all believe we know what *should* happen, what is in the best interest of the world, as it were... but harumphing about situations is not enough to evince change.

And we tend to forget what is in the interest of the country in power.

With just enough speak about security for its citizens, and deterrence to keep the world at bay.. and with a vigilant friend on the world stage to veto any official criticism, why is there pretense that there is any interest to solve anything? It's slowly solving itself.

Many people seem to have the tendency to think within the scope of human lifetime. This particular conflict is brand new, fresh. There are still those alive today who remember the Wars, the times when things were different, when their people used to live in a different land. But when these events are clouded by multiple lifespans, the visceral yearning for what was tragically lost -or gloriously gained- are dulled. Leaving only the way things are.

Currently, much can be gained short-term for capitulation -and much human suffering avoided.. but land lost may be lost for centuries if not indefinitely. So why is it a huge revelation that the powerful in this situation may not truly desire a resolution?

Yet there is a resolution, of sorts. Fragment the population, deny them adequate education, adequate security, offer them dream scenarios would they just vacate the premises.. and every generation will be that less educated, that much more fragmented, and less able to effectively resist. They will move from an highbrow Intifada 1 of grass-roots efforts to expel an occupier by winning the war of public opinion to a lowbrow Intifada 2 of violence -bombing, rockets, and the subsequent vilification of their plight and justification of 'retaliatory' violence. Add to that the steady, methodical ingress and annexation... and eventually there won't be anything left for people to sit around speaking in circles about.

Unfortunately, doing nothing is often the easiest thing to do, and the easiest course for a bystanding populace to accept. But pretending to remain aloof while allowing the status quo to continue is a de-facto endorsement of the regime. Vetoing UN resolutions condemning the regime is a direct protection if it. 3 billion American dollars of aid yearly can be seen as direct support of it. When words are followed by actions then possibly words can be seen as more than merely the PR and damage control while a slow inevitability (see: plan) runs its course. Of *course* the only other resolution is a forced one; but we are already so extended, and so complicit with our current endorsement/protection/support, why would we reverse gear now?

Stan Racansky said...

I will put my 5 cents worth into this argument. I will probably come across like crazy ###### but trust me I am not. I just subscribe to Benny Morris premise.

1. The Jews (I am Jewish and Zionist) made big mistake in 48. If they cleansed the Palestinian "Arab" * population now we would argue only about Jewish religious fundamentalists. I do not think they would have been able to build the power base they have now.
*(I consider most of the Palestinians a converted Jews and DNA study by Israel University supports my premise. When I talk to Arabs here in Canada, they are hated even more then Jews by them. The Jews are really grudgingly respected.)

2. Palestinians are too smart to really want separate state.
(a)In the world of globalization they would be little powerless city state.
(b) Their economy is based on "welfare" UN support with no stand alone export based industry.
(c) The ratio of religious based nationalists is much higher then Jews have. They would have civil war with plausible possibility to become 7th century entity.

Only way I see and that's where I become in many eyes extremist, for Jews (Israel) annex the occupied territory, destroy on both sides the religious "nationalists" (I want to be nice, by calling them nationalists, really I have a different name for them) and rebuild Israel not as a Jewish state but state for Jews, with secular Jewish character.

Anything other is the academic ivory tower or as I call it "talking heads" wishful thinking.

Potter said...

Destroy on both sides the religious "nationalists"

So you are talking about killing and war??? to get to a secular Jewish character??? and anything other is "academic ivory tower"?

But your part one and two are probably correct. Re part two though- whoever wants to become a 7th century entity in this globalizing world, so far as it's possible, and so long as they don't cause harm to their neighbors, are welcome to it. Is that "progressive" or "liberal" enough for you?

Y. Ben-David said...

Stans views about "religious nationalists" in Israel is grossly oversimplified. He has the view that many mistakenly have that there are two opposing hostile camps in Israel...(1) The secular and (2) the "extremist religious".
The fact is that most secular Israelis feel at least some sort of attachment to Jewish religious tradition. Many secular Jews would say they don't want to be religiously observant themselves but they are glad that the more rigorously observant are around to be religious for them. Many families have people of both groups within them so individuals don't necessarily view those of the other camp as "the enemy". Some leaders of the Labor Party have gone to Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Rabbis, whom they officially criticize in order to receive blessings from them!

Regarding the National Religious movement which is the ideological backbone of the West Bank settlement movement, its people make up something like 50% of the IDF's officer corps and they are more and more present in academia, industry, science, engineering and business, so most secular people have close contact with at least some representatives of this group as well.
Thus, none of the conditions for a forceful showdown between the the secular and religious camps exist.

Stan Racansky said...

Hello Potter,
Thanx for your response. Wrong choice of word when I choose "nationalists" as I said originally I really have much choicer description - tribal small minded religious freaks. Its not polite but I think it describes them right to the point. I do not differentiate between Jewish and Moslem, both are destroying people from within.

Stan Racansky said...

Dear Y.Ben-David,
You are right. My main points had been.
1. Palestinian know that stand alone independent state at pre-67 borders is not economically, socially or geographically feasible.
2. If in 48 the Jews thrown all the "Palestinians" out of Israel proper, now we would not have the problem. This does not mean that as a human being I agree with it but most of the nations of this world were build on the backs of other people. We just don't feel any emotions, when we read about it in history books.

Potter said...

Stan- re your #2 above. Please don't cite history as a justification. We are not anymore building nations on the backs of other people ignoring and without consequences. The facts are broadcast widely in this interconnected world. People that can somehow block out their human emotions about what they are doing or what is happening right next to them will find that the collective human conscience will not allow that numbness to remain.

Stan Racansky said...

Why not Potter? Did Israel done anything different then lets say USA, Canada, Mexico, Hungary, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Jordan ? I can go for hours listing the names of countries build on backs of other people.

The Jews probably have more rights to Israel (they were smart enough to write pseudo land registry - the bible) then Hungarians to Hungary, or Normadians(did I spell it right?) to UK. And Saudi Arabia and Jordan are totally artificial British Empire figment creations, they did not even do the conquering bit on their own. How they will justify their existence in history books?

Potter said...

I am trying to say we don't do that anymore- "we" meaning those that have signed onto international law ( have agreed to and signed the UN Charter of nations). History is history. Unless you feel that in this more civilized world that we aim for it is okay for another country or alliance of countries to also feel that they have a right to the land that is Israel and go for it.

Stan Racansky said...

Hello Potter, reading your last posting, I have a lingering suspect ion, we are arguing the point on the same side of divide. What I had originally stated that Israel as a nation state has a right to exists. To change the rules of nation building just for Israel and then go back to same process for Kosovo, Bosnia and now Sudan, is not fair play. Rest had been cometary about fair play the Israel has to adhere dealing with original population. Original Zionists understood that, today's so call settlers are basically racists.

Maryann said...

Avishai said that the most worthwhile comments at the J Street
Conference were made by Dennis Ross
and him. What an ego!!!!!!
THe best comments were made
by the Palestinian doctor whose
3 young daughters were killed by
an Israeli tank.
He told it like it is in Palestine and Jerusalem.

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