Cliff May

When it comes to peace in the Middle East, we've tried just about everything and nothing has worked. And if you believe that, there's a bridge over the River Jordan I want to sell you.

The truth is that one American administration after another has embraced the same false premises and, from that starting point, set into motion a "peace process" that ineluctably fails. Afterwards, they say: "We came so close!" Which is like saying: "The last time I jumped off the roof, I almost flew!" Start with the assumption that the core issue in the conflict is the Israeli "occupation" of Palestinian territories and that the solution is "land for peace." In 1967, Israel's Arab neighbors fought a war to wipe the Jewish state off the map. When they lost, Israel took control of Gaza (which had been Egyptian) and the West Bank (which had been Jordanian). Israelis were willing to relinquish those territories - but they wanted a solid peace treaty in exchange. No Arab leader was willing to pay that price.

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Four years ago this month, in exchange for nothing, Israel removed from Gaza every last Israeli -- including even those buried in the cemeteries. Palestinian leaders did not say: "Gaza is no longer occupied. If we can next disengage from the Israelis on the West Bank, the conflict is over." Instead, Hamas was soon launching thousands of missiles from Gaza at cities well inside Israel proper. Of course, Hamas does not pretend to want only Gaza and the West Bank. It candidly acknowledges that it is shooting -- literally -- for every square inch of the Jewish state.

Move on to a second premise: that the primary goal of Palestinian leaders now is a Palestinian state that would live in peace with Israel as their neighbor. Seven years ago, President George W. Bush became the first American President to officially endorse the establishment of a Palestinian state - so long as it would not become another terrorist-sponsoring state.

Hamas explicitly rejected that. Again, Hamas demands that infidels leave the Middle East or, at the very least, submit to Islamic rule and Sharia law. But isn't that just where the bargaining would begin? No, that's the third mistaken premise. For Hamas, Islamic supremacy is not a negotiating position; it's a religious conviction, and therefore not open to compromise.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.