Addicted to the Struggle – and its Perks

Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post, on why “there’s no durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. None. The best all parties can hope for is an occasional time-out.”

An excerpt:

Whether the American administration is Republican or Democrat, it pressures Israel for concessions – since the Arabs won’t make any. Prisoner releases precede each summit; territorial handovers come under discussion.

For their parts, Arab leaders and their representatives assume we’re sufficiently honored if they just show up. We hear no end of nonsense about the great political risks they’re taking, etc. We’re suckers for any fat guy in a white robe with an oil can.

Today’s session in Annapolis may or may not result in a we-the-undersigned statement or a few unenforceable commitments. And yes, there’s merit just in bringing folks together and keeping them talking. But the baseline difficulty is that we want to solve problems for people who don’t really want those problems solved.

Mahmoud Ab- bas and his Fatah Party, for example, couldn’t accept a genuine peace tomorrow morning – even though Hamas’ coup in Gaza has put them up against the wall. Their problem? The most successful jobs program in the Arab world has been Palestinian “resistance” to Israel.

Consider what peace with Israel – real peace – would mean in the West Bank and Gaza, in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley: Tens of thousands of gunmen (and terrorists) out of work, with no marketable skills – and radicalized by decades of fanatic rhetoric.

Think a punk who’s grown accustomed to swaggering around town in a face mask with a Kalashnikov is going to scrub squat toilets for a living?

Generations have grown addicted to the struggle – and its perks. It’s the only bearable justification for their individual and collective failures in life. Real peace with Israel would probably spark a convulsion throughout the Arab world – as tens of millions realized that their sacrifices were a travesty that merely empowered thieves.

Another reason Arab states won’t make peace: Most of their leaders have only survived in power because they have Israel to blame for every disappointment their people face. Israel has become the great excuse for every self-wrought failure in the Middle East – and that excuse is more valuable to Arab rulers than peace could ever be.

Were peace ever to arrive, Arabs might begin to demand good government. And the corruption that has thrived during decades of crisis could come into question. Worst of all, Arabs might have to accept responsibility for the catastrophic condition of their own societies.

In the end, the problem’s difficulty can be put in New York City terms: A shiftless, violent family that turned an apartment into a slum was evicted. The new tenants cleaned up the place and made the apartment a showcase. Now the former tenants hate them for it – and want the apartment back.

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