Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Thoughts on talking peace while waging war.
It should come as a surprise to no one that Hamas has made it a top priority to kill as many Jews as possible now that the Road Map has been announced. Some on the right think that to say that Hamas is waging war against "peace" is somehow anti-Israel, but I don't see why that follows. If Hamas is, indeed, committed to preventing a settlement of the conflict, then those who favor a settlement should, logically, favor war against Hamas. The whole point of building up Abbas is the (probably vain) hope that he will do the work of fighting them (and the al-Aqsa martyrs, and Jihad Islami, and all the other Palestinian gangs). But if he won't, then someone else must. If it isn't to be Israel, then who?
The logic of the war on terror is that terrorist groups cannot be negotiated with, but must be destroyed. But it is also part of the logic of the war on terror that peoples are not identical with the terror groups that claim to speak in their name and hold them captive. America made war on the Taliban, not on the Afghani people; America made war on the Baathist regime in Iraq, not on the Iraqi people. And America wants to wage war by proxy (preferably Palestinian proxy) on the Palestinian terror groups, not on the Palestinian people. From that perspective, it makes sense for the Bush Administration to lean hard on Israel to curtail the settlement enterprise and agree to a provisional Palestinian state, because these are elements that are deemed essential to any settlement of the conflict. But it also makes sese for the Bush Administration to give Israel an entirely free hand in pursuing the perpetrators of terror throughout the Palestinian territories.
I don't expect the Bush Administration to be 100% consistent in its statements. No government ever is. But Bush has not and, I believe, will not cross the red line of expecting Israel to surrender to terrorism. If Sharon, as he did in April of last year, sticks to pursuing the enemies of Israel, the Bush Administration will not be able to force him to surrender. The diplomatic track is another matter.
So: is it reasonable to talk peace while waging war?
Yes and no. Mahmoud Abbas said some very important things at Aqaba. But I am skeptical that he is willing to fight a civil war against Hamas, Fatah, etc. And if he isn't, then talking to him is not so different from talking to Sari Nusseibeh - that is to say, pointless. But there is still a difference between Abbas and Arafat. Arafat is the orchestrator, financier and inspiration of terrorism. Abbas is not. Talking to Abbas is not, fundamentally, talking to the enemy against whom Israel is fighting. It may be a waste of time, but so long as Israel does not cease to prosecute its war while talking piece, it is not essentially a threat to Israel's security.