The pressure on Israel and the U.S. to fill the diplomatic vacuum, following the post-Lebanon war political collapse of convergence, seems to be growing. A vacuum, however, cannot be filled by simply repackaging the policies that failed to fill it, namely the Quartet’s road map and Israel’s unilateral withdrawal track. Both these policies have become stalled because they ignore the root cause of the problem. Both pretend that the obstacle to peace is the lack of a Palestinian state, when in reality the obstacle to such a state – and to Arab-Israeli peace – is the Arab refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist.
It has been obvious at least since 2000, when Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat a state on a silver platter, that the Palestinians could have a state over almost all of the West Bank and all of Gaza whenever they wanted. But the fight is over something much more fundamental, whether the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world are willing to give up their desire to destroy Israel itself. In the Arab and Muslim world today there is no significant peace camp arguing that Israel does have a right to exist, or even a pragmatic camp openly arguing for peace for the Arabs’ own sake. In such an atmosphere, no peace process worthy of the name is possible, and new American, Israeli, or European plans repackaging the offer of a Palestinian state will tend to encourage Arab radicalism.
Israel should have a peace plan – the demand that the Arab world end its war against Israel. If Arab leaders really want peace, they should help the Palestinians out of their suicidal stalemate by meeting with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem and their own capitals, calling on Palestinians to give up the dream of “returning” to Israel by the millions, and beginning to settle Palestinian “refugees” rather than continuing to use them as pawns against Israel.