By John Podhoretz, October 12, 2007.
AND so, here we are again, on the verge of another Middle East peace
conference – this one in Annapolis, starting Nov. 1.
And so, again, here we are, with Israeli politicians leaking possible territorial
concessions and Palestinian politicians loudly insisting they won’t change their
position – the position that Israel must give while they need only take.
And yet again, we are here, with the State Department imagining that because
so-called “moderate Arab states” say some reasonable things about Israel’s
existence to American diplomats behind the scenes, those same principalities
will come out from behind the curtain, take the Palestinians by the hand – and
openly seek the cessation of hostilities between Jew and Arab.
It’s Madrid in 1991 all over again. It’s Camp David and Taba in 2000 all over
again. It’s the 1983 Shultz plan from the Reagan administration all over again.
It’s the 1969 Rogers plan from the Nixon administration all over again.
In broad outline: America tries to mediate between Israel and Arabs when
there’s absolutely no reason to think that most Arabs have any real interest in
making peace with Israel.
Just as in 1969, U.S. diplomats in Annapolis will try to anchor the discussion in
two U.N. resolutions that Israel accepts but whose implicit assertion of Israel’s
right to exist is rejected by at least some of the states that will attend the
Just as in 1982, U.S. diplomats will seek to place areas of the Old City of
Jerusalem under Jordanian control. Just as in 1991, proposals for multi-nation
negotiations on sticky regional issues like the use of water will be hailed as
breakthroughs in regional cooperation.
And just as in 2000, U.S. diplomats will encourage Israel to draw the lines for a
new Palestinian state – lines that, no matter how favorable, are almost certain
to be rejected by the Palestinian side.
Or let us say they are accepted by the Palestinian side. Which Palestinian side?
Right now there are effectively two governing bodies in the Palestinian
territories. The regime led by Mahmoud Abbas controls the West Bank; Hamas
And the two are at war. Acceptance by the Abbas regime won’t constitute
acceptance by the entirety of the Palestinians in governing positions. And so a
deal will do nothing to provide Israel with security – it might, as it did at Camp
David in 2000, achieve the opposite.
Israel is encouraged to surrender land and security. In exchange, it is to receive
words. The words: Israel has the right to exist. And its adversaries will
surrender a claim: “the right of return,” according to which Palestinians own
the land on which Israelis live.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believes the time is right for a major
regional initiative because a deeply worried Saudi Arabia understands the need
to counter Iran. That gives the Saudis a powerful reason to back Abbas as a
counterweight to Hamas, which is an Iranian client and wholly paid subsidiary.
Perhaps Saudi Arabia does believe this. But it doesn’t stand to reason that
either the Saudis or Abbas will be best served by making a deal with Israel,
since that might give Hamas just the populist fuel it needs to step up its war
with Abbas on the grounds that he’s a Zionist puppet and sellout.
As for Israel, once again its government seems to have determined that it is
best to be accommodating, perhaps – again – on the grounds that its position
will be strengthened if and when the Palestinians – again – fail to do anything
that will actually help bring about a state of their own.
Again, again, again.
The absurdity of trying the same remedies over and over and over when they
have failed to work in the past brings to mind Friedrich Nietzsche’s parable of
“eternal recurrence” – the odd but haunting idea that we might all be living in a
time loop in which we go through eternity endlessly repeating our lives.
“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you,” Nietzsche wrote,
“and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to
live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it,
but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything
unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same
succession and sequence.’ ”
Nietzsche then asked: “Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your
teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?”
Most of us certainly would.
But then he went on to suggest that some of us would achieve a kind of
transcendent fatalism about the whole thing: “How well disposed would you
have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this
ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?”
Perhaps this is what has happened to Secretary Rice: She has determined that
it is the fate of every secretary of state to “crave nothing more fervently” than
the endless recapitulation of failed past Mideast policies.