Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Foreign Policy on the lessons of the intifadeh

At Foreign Policy, Glenn Robinson looks back at the Oslo War ten years later. While there's a lot here with which I disagree (most notably their adoption of the Malley - Agha narrative of Camp David - which blames Israel for its failure - and their claim that is now mainstream), I found his conclusions (four out of the five anyway) to be quite interesting.
The first is that the intifada was a strategic disaster for the Palestinians. As a stateless people, Palestinians lack many basic political and human rights and statehood presents the only viable path toward securing these rights. The uprising put off statehood by at least a decade (and perhaps permanently), and at high levels of human suffering and economic devastation.

Second, the intifada created a cult of martyrdom among Palestinians. Suicide bombings were unknown in the Middle East until Hezbollah in Lebanon learned of their effectiveness from Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers in the 1980s. After 400 Palestinian Islamists were exiled to southern Lebanon for a year in 1992, they brought the technique home with them. A smattering of suicide bombings in the 1990s gave way to an average of one every two weeks during the first four years of the uprising. The tactic of suicide bombing was accompanied by a cultural motif to support, justify and venerate the "martyrs."

Third, the intifada killed the Zionist and post-Zionist Left in Israel. Israel's center-left staked its political future on a peace deal with the Palestinians, which itself was based on the presence of a Palestinian partner for peace. The dominant Israeli narrative of the intifada holds that there is no reliable Palestinian peace partner; this has led to the virtual extinction of the Zionist Left in Israel. Since the start of the intifada, Israelis have elected only prime ministers who cut their political teeth in the right wing Likud party: Ariel Sharon (three times), Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Fourth, the intifada empowered the forces of Greater Israel. The biggest political winner over the past decade has been the Israeli settler community. About 500,000 Israelis now live on the Palestinian side of the 1967 Green Line, and they and their political allies are now arguably the single most powerful political force inside Israel. Most settlers, and certainly their leaders, have no interest in a real two-state solution. Analysts who argue that the historical window for a two-state solution has now closed do so based on the strength of the settler movement. After spending much of the 1990s as the whipping boy for many Israeli politicians, the settler movement has had a remarkable political revival in the past decade.


The death of Israel's pro-peace community, the empowerment of the forces of Greater Israel, and the staggering weakness and fragmentation of the Palestinians -- all outcomes of the second uprising -- have likely ended the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This invariably leads to the lesson unlearned by the Obama administration. Albert Einstein reputedly observed that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. The 1990s -- with the end of the Cold war, the demise of the Soviet Union, and the defeat of Iraq -- provided the historic moment to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While there is plenty of blame to go around for that failure, the Clinton administration rightly deserves its share. Its efforts, led by Dennis Ross, were plagued by a failure of imagination, a focus on the tactical and blindness to the strategic. But the Obama administration seems not to have learned these lessons, for here we are today, with the same small-minded approach and the same tactician at the helm, expecting a different outcome. The first contributed to the tragedy of the al-Aqsa intifada, and now we await the farce.


At 9:33 AM, Blogger Y.K. said...

For years the Israeli Left argued suicide bombing only picked up after Goldstein. Everyone who knew the chronology knew that was crap. It's nice to see that even ForeignPolicy understand the fault here relies with another of Rabin's big mistakes (exiling Hamas leaders to Lebanon but then surrendering to pressure and bringing them back).

At 10:44 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Rabin helped to revive Hamas after he brought back the terrorists from Lebanon. Ironically enough, in doing so, he unknowingly signed his own death warrant. Had he been adamant and kept them exiled, thousands of Jews as well as him would have been alive.

I think he listened too much to Peres and his poodle Beilin and paid for it very dearly.


Post a Comment

<< Home