Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Robinson: Nobody really wants peace in Middle East

First Published Jul 18 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jul 18 2014 06:37 am

WASHINGTON — Israelis and Palestinians may someday make peace. But the assumption should be that it won’t happen soon — perhaps not in our lifetimes.

How often have we seen this movie? Palestinian atrocity, Israeli reaction escalating into overreaction, rocket attacks aimed at civilian targets in Israel, airstrikes targeting Palestinian leadership and infrastructure in Gaza, heartbreaking pictures of mangled young bodies on the beach. Palestinians say: We will never forgive the Israelis for killing our children. Israelis say: We will never forgive the Palestinians for forcing us to kill their children.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

I applaud President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for diving in and trying to forge a peace deal, if only because history suggests that anything is better than leaving the parties to their own devices. But the obvious two-state solution seems an ever more distant dream.

Hamas cannot be bombed out of existence. Its leaders — and if some are killed by Israeli missiles, others will take their place — have no interest in recognizing the state of Israel and living side by side in peace. The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, continues expanding settlements into West Bank territory that would have to be part of any viable Palestinian state. And the Palestinian Authority could never win the battle for popular support against Hamas if its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, accepted any deal that Israel is prepared to offer.

I am not arguing that rocket attacks are equivalent to settlements. I am not arguing that four Israeli lives — three murdered teenagers and one civilian — are equivalent to more than 200 Palestinian lives, including those of four children who died by the sea.

I am simply stating the obvious: Nobody really wants to make peace.

Israel presently feels fairly safe — in relative terms — from the threat of a new intifada. The wall that now cordons off much of the West Bank provides effective protection against would-be suicide bombers. And the Iron Dome system of missile defense is a shield — though not foolproof — against the rockets Hamas fires from Gaza.

I would suggest that this feeling of security is illusory, at least in the long run — and demographic trends back me up. There are about 8 million people living in Israel proper, including about 1.7 million Arabs. There are roughly 4.4 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Given current trends, there will come a day when the Arabs in Israel and the territories outnumber the Jews.

In other words, the passage of time is imposing a one-state solution. How, then, will Israel retain its identity as a Jewish state? How can a democracy govern so many people who do not have full rights of citizenship — and remain a true democracy?

If I were Israeli, I’d probably answer those questions by saying that this is not our doing, that we want nothing more than to live in peace. But Palestinians, too, have a right to feel they are in a situation not of their own making. The vast majority of people on both sides are too young to remember the events of 1948, when Israel was founded. Many are too young to remember 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. They know only the echoes of those wars, reverberations that never seem to fade.

story continues below
story continues below

I wish I could be more optimistic. I continue to believe that the United States can play a constructive role by encouraging dialogue between Netanyahu and Abbas. Even if the talks go nowhere, Winston Churchill was right: "To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war."

But I also believe that realistic U.S. policy in the Middle East should assume that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue indefinitely, punctuated by spasms of active warfare.

The close and unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States remains a given. But friends try not to let friends do stupid things. If there are ways in which U.S. advice might shorten this outbreak of violence or delay the next, Obama — and his successors — must speak up. If there is some way to persuade Hamas that the next volley of rockets will be as useless and counterproductive as the last, we should make the attempt.

No conflict lasts forever, but I remember that in my high school history class we read about the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. I fear the Israelis and Palestinians may eventually set a new record.


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.