When faced with a deadly and determined foe, a nation must choose among three policy goals: negotiation, isolation or military victory.
The rockets from Gaza that rain on Israel nearly every day should remind the world – and the United States in particular – that only one of these strategies stands a chance of success.
Concerning the Palestinians, Israel has tried both negotiation and isolation, with disastrous results.
The Failure of Negotiation
The Oslo Accords of 1993 supposedly represented a triumph of negotiation, with Nobel Peace Prizes handed out to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, and a great photo op rewarding Bill Clinton. The novel premise of the approach involved enhancing the power of Israel’s prime enemy, the Palestine Liberation Organization, rather than reducing or destroying it. Israel’s leaders (with the enthusiastic support of the United States and the world community) built up Arafat and the PLO in return for promises on paper, but the result brought continued terrorism culminating in the obscene orgy of violence known as the “Al Aqsa Intifada” in 2000.
History indicates that negotiation never works as a means of settling bitter, bloody, long-standing disputes. The infamous appeasement of Hitler offers only the most celebrated example. Following World War I, the world community celebrated numerous grand, international agreements – limiting naval forces, and outlawing war altogether – but the generation of negotiation inevitably gave way to the worst conflagration in human history.
Major conflicts in every century end only when one side wins and the other loses. Negotiations work only when they amount to detailing the terms of victory or defeat already achieved. In that context, the Camp David Accords of 1978 between Israel and Egypt succeeded (and have kept the peace for thirty years) only because they followed the Jewish state’s second decisive triumph in two major wars. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat knew that the Israeli General Ariel Sharon (yes, that Ariel Sharon) had surrounded the Egyptian Third Army and could have destroyed it at will, had not U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger persuaded Prime Minister Golda Meir’s government in Jerusalem to accept an end to the fighting. After another crushing defeat (following the disaster of ’67), Egypt proved ready to accept the only demands Israel ever cared about: full recognition, and a pledge against further attack.
The Palestinians made similar pledges at Oslo, of course, but those promises followed a dramatic improvement in their international standing, and their Israeli-sponsored return from Tunisian exile, not a decisive military defeat.