Diplomacy is more like warfare than problem-solving

In the peculiar mental space of the ‘Palestinian’ movements — the PLO, Hamas and their supporters — there are some words that are used very differently from the way most Israelis and Americans use them. Here are some definitions to keep in mind when you read or listen to their statements:

Palestine — The entire land area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

Palestinian land — All of Palestine as defined above.

Palestinian People — All Arabs that lived in Palestine in 1948 and their descendants, including those who migrated into the region from Egypt or Syria in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Jews — Adherents to the Jewish religion.

Jewish People — There isn’t one. Unlike Palestinians, the PLO and Hamas do not consider Jews a ‘people’.

Zionists — Jews who colonized Palestine.

Occupation — The presence of a Zionist colony on Palestinian land. The occupation began in 1948. It is illegitimate despite League of Nations and UN resolutions, either because it is a colonialist enterprise (the PLO) or for religious reasons (Hamas).

Palestinian Refugees — Those Palestinians who lived in the area of the Zionist colony and were displaced in 1948, and their descendants. There are 4.5 million of these, and they are the true owners of the land in the Zionist colony.

Palestinian Cause — To end the occupation and return all Palestinian refugees to their ancestral homes, as defined above.

Two-state solution — An outcome to the conflict which ends the occupation by declaring two states: one in Eastern Palestine which will be entirely populated by Arabs, and one in the part of Palestine occupied by the Zionists in 1949, where Palestinian refugees will return.

Although Hamas and the PLO diverge sharply on many issues, including the kind of state that should ultimately be created in ‘Palestine’ and the best way to end the ‘occupation’, they all agree on the definitions above.

If you keep these definitions in mind, you will have no trouble understanding:

The refusal of PA leaders and negotiators to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish People. For one thing, they don’t agree that there is a Jewish people (although with massive illogic they then insist that there is a ‘Palestinian’ people), and for another, this would declare the ‘occupation’ legitimate — in contradiction to the basic principle of the Palestinian Cause.

The rejection of the Camp David proposal in 2000  and Olmert’s offer in 2008. Both of these would have created a state of Palestine in the territories and included unprecedented concessions on Jerusalem. But they didn’t include return of ‘Palestinian refugees’ and contained various provisions that would safeguard and legitimize the ‘Zionist colony’. They would not have ended the ‘occupation’ and so contradicted the Palestinian Cause.

The derisive response to PM Netanyahu’s statement in support of a two-state solution. Netanyahu’s position represented a significant departure from previous Likud principles that it would not accept a Palestinian state, and caused him internal difficulties with his supporters on the Right. But since he insisted on demilitarization and did not accept the ‘return’ of ‘refugees’, this was not considered a legitimate ‘two-state solution’.

The continued rocket and suicide terrorism of Hamas after Israel withdrew from Gaza. Hamas considered the withdrawal as a victory in the battle to end the ‘occupation’, brought about by its policy of violent resistance. Therefore it chose to continue this successful policy to end the rest of the ‘occupation’.

And of course, the persistence of the conflict.

Most Israelis and Americans, including — one hopes — the Obama Administration, believe that Israel is legitimate and that it is the nation-state of the Jewish people. They use the word ‘occupation’ to refer to territories occupied in 1967, and they imagine a two-state solution as one in which an Arab state of Palestine lives peacefully alongside a Jewish state of Israel. All of these usages are significantly different than the ‘Palestinian’ definitions above.

Those who — deliberately or from ignorance — deny these ambiguities may say things like “everybody knows what the general outlines of a solution are; we just need to work out the details.” But that’s far from true.

Communication is impossible without agreement on the meanings of words. As long as systematic ambiguity about basic concepts remains, the conflict cannot be ended by negotiation.

So why don’t negotiators agree on terms?

The answer is that they are not trying to end the conflict. Diplomats love ambiguity, because it allows them to pretend to be making progress so they can demand concrete concessions from the other side or from third parties.

The dirty little secret about diplomacy is that it is more like warfare than problem-solving.

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2 Responses to “Diplomacy is more like warfare than problem-solving”

  1. NormanF says:

    The core of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is existential.

    The Palestinian Arabs want Israel destroyed. Israel wants to be recognized as the nation-state – the homeland of the Jewish people.

    There can be no compromise between these worldviews and they are incompatible.

    The Arabs reject peace on any terms but Israel committing national suicide. There won’t be peace in our generation.

  2. Robman says:

    Disagree on both counts, both Vic and NormanF.

    Vic: The diplomats do so want “peace”. They want the peace that can be brought about by Israel surrendering, so the West and this fictitious entity known as the “moderate Moslems” can defeat the “extremist” Moslems together. This is called the “realist” school of foreign policy as this applies to Israel; put simply: DUMP ISRAEL. But they can’t be absolutely open about this, because most of the rest of the world – or at least the publics in Western societies that still have some semblance of self-respect, such as the U.S., Canada, and Australia – would see this as patently unfair.

    The purpose of the “diplomats” is to sell Israel down the river, but make it look like Israel’s fault. Don’t you read the Saudi stooge press?

    NormanF: Oh, there could be peace. After a horrendous little war, of course. It could happen within a few years. I don’t think we necessarily have to wait a generation. You might be right, but my sense is that things are coming to a head pretty soon.

    I think we’d all be amazed at what a difference the U.S. president can make. After all, look how bad things got, so fast, under this one!

    But he’s pretty unpopular and this is only going to get worse for him. Unless the Saudis can co-opt the Tea Party/Republicans, too (WATCH OUT FOR RON PAUL), there is going to be a very big change in two years, for the better, so far as we’re concerned. And at the other end of that administration, we might really see something like a stable peace.

    We live in interesting times…. a little too interesting for my tastes.