How to Pressure for Peace

[Jerusalem Post] Saul Singer - Symmetry is often not a good guide to policy. Before World War II, many saw something in the Nazi claim that it was "unfair" to prevent Germany's rearmament while allowing France to rearm. Winston Churchill responded: "if France rearms there will be peace. If Germany rearms there will be war." He was right. The idea that a peace process consists of "pressing both sides" fails to recognize a basic asymmetry between Israel and the Palestinians - that Palestinian compliance leads to more Israeli compliance, while Israeli compliance leads to less Palestinian compliance. This dynamic was most recently demonstrated by Rice's decision to come out against Israel's building a new section of Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood. It had the immediate effect of giving the Palestinians something to complain about, in order to divert all attention from what they have to do. If Rice continues to squeeze Israel into a total settlement freeze and dismantling outposts, the Palestinians will continue to hide behind these demands rather than fulfill their own part of the bargain. The opposite, however, is not true. If Palestinians were to demonstrate meaningful movement on ending incitement, accepting Israel's national rights, and cracking down on terrorism, this would generate much more internal political pressure for Israeli concessions than anything Rice could do. The underlying reality is that Israelis want the two-state solution more than the Palestinians. This means that the Israeli political system will automatically enter into peace euphoria mode if there are credible signs of Palestinian movement, while the Palestinian side will use any U.S. claims of Israeli non-compliance as an excuse to do nothing. However difficult it may be, pressing the Palestinians and, better yet, the Arab states is potentially more productive, because it is the Arab side that keeps the war going, not Israel, which desperately wants and will pay almost any price for peace.

2007-12-31 01:00:00

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