By Daniel Greenfield l November 21, 2011
The “peace process” which created two terrorist states inside Israel may have begun in Oslo, but it ended in Cairo. Normalizing relations with the rest of the Middle East was one of the carrots that got the Jewish state hopping down the appeasement trail — and that carrot is now officially off the table.
The days when Thomas Friedman and his Saudi buddies could talk about normalization have passed. The Arab Spring saw to that and with Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and an unknown number of others sliding into the Islamist camp, and out of reach of negotiations, there’s a New Middle East that has even less in common with the old gentlemanly diplomacy model than the old one did. Some of the dimmer Israeli leaders may still believe that peace is possible with the Islamists of Turkey’s AKP, but not even they think that peace is possible with the Brotherhood.
If Western diplomats could offer regional acceptance twenty years ago, today that has all the credibility of a Rolex sold out of a briefcase just off Central Park. The end of the Camp David Accords has killed the Grand Daddy of appeasement through the territorial surrender template and with Assad looking shaky, the refusal to give up the Golan Heights to Syria seems downright prescient even to peaceniks.
The Brotherhood’s attitude toward Israel is indistinguishable from that of Iran, and with the Islamist way in ascendance, that attitude will be the dominant one throughout the region, turning back the clock on decades of diplomatic efforts. The Islamists will negotiate temporary truces and ceasefires, but not the peace and brotherhood accords so beloved by the U.S. and the EU.
And even the remaining regimes that haven’t fallen look like poor prospects for paying out peace dividends after even the most stable country in the region, Egypt, melted down into mob violence and religious fanaticism. If Egypt can turn into battling mobs who don’t agree on anything except their hatred for religious and ethnic minorities, including a country full of them living next door, then no Muslim nation in the region is safe.
Without normalization on the table, all that’s left is outside pressure. But for the first time in a long time the Arab Spring has given Western diplomats something to do in the region besides denounce Jews living in Jerusalem. And the usual Arab League chorus that the region’s problems would be solved if only there were a Palestinian state sounds silly even to veteran diplomats who usually funnel this sort of nonsense right back to the White House.
Obama’s hostility toward Israel has paradoxically lessened the pressure by removing the leverage. Condoleezza Rice could get on the phone and warn that another house in XYZ would wreck the positive relationship with the White House. But there is as much of a prospect of a positive relationship with the White House as there is with Iran, Hamas and the Brotherhood.
Israel still has a strategic relationship with the United States, but relations with the administration are cold, which also means there is less to be afraid of. Netanyahu’s exchange with Obama was startling for a careful diplomat from a country that usually avoids offending its big brother. The only way it could have happened is if Netanyahu had felt that there was nothing to lose. And he was right.
For the first time since Begin, an Israeli leader pushed back against White House pressure and it led to a slight improvement, not because Obama listened, but because the relationship was so toxic that using the confrontational tactics practiced by the Palestinian Authority actually worked. Only when the relationship hit rock bottom was any attempt made by the White House to salvage it.
The situation is even uglier on the European side, which has not been friendly in a long time, but hasn’t been this hateful either. But all that ugliness also translates into a loss of influence over Israel. You can only slap your allies so many times, denounce them and threaten them before they begin paying a lot less attention to you.
Irrational demands that can’t be fulfilled have brought the situation to that point. It was one thing when the Clinton or Bush administrations were demanding that Israel go to the negotiating table and offer concessions. It was ugly and unfair, but at least it was specific. These days Abbas doesn’t want to go to the negotiating table, and the same demands keep coming out of Washington, D.C. and Brussels. Israel is being ordered to make peace when the other side won’t even bother showing up to negotiate.
How can Israel make peace when the Palestinian Authority has been split into Hamas and Fatah run fiefdoms and neither side is even bothering to pretend to negotiate? It can’t and even diplomats know that, which makes every volley of demands look like messages for the Muslim world. When Helen Clark wanted to sell more New Zealand sheep to the Saudis, her marketing gimmick was a hate campaign against Israel. Clark has gone off to a sinecure at the UN, but most of the West is acting the same way now. Europe isn’t trying to sell sheep; its leaders are acting like sheep in the face of the Islamic demographic destiny spilling across their lands. The Obama Administration lit the fuse of the Arab Spring and is getting nervous as the flames keep rising higher.
Western condemnations of Israel are increasingly no longer directed to Israel, but to the Muslim world, which makes it easier for Israel to ignore them. While the White House claimed that the Biden incident was about the timing of a construction approval announcement in Jerusalem, it was really about showing the Muslim world that this administration really had the knives out for Israel. If it hadn’t been a house in Jerusalem, it would have been a border shooting, a strike in Gaza or a clash at a checkpoint. Something would have been found.
But the more America and Europe have pandered to the Muslim world, the more obvious it has become to Israel that it has no role to play in this exchange, except its time honored position as the scapegoat.
The new normalization is no longer the offer to normalize ties with the Muslim world, but warnings that Israel’s ties to Europe will require the same kind of normalization if Israel’s Prime Minister doesn’t snap his fingers and make peace happen. It would be a more effective threat if the current crop of European leaders didn’t make de Gaulle seem pro-Israel.
Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama, three of the slimiest first world leaders, haven’t made their dislike of Israel such a secret that it took a microphone error for it to be discovered. Merkel has dispensed with the usual show of Gemutlichkeit toward the Jewish state and the situation in Brussels is as ugly as it could be. It all blends into one long angry tantrum about peace dispensed by insecure politicians with a wholly different agenda.
All of that leaves Israel with fewer reasons to participate. The strategic and economic ties still matter, but they’re more mutual than anyone cares to admit. American and European leaders may kick Israel, but it’s also the only reliable ally in the region. And the Arab Spring is a reminder that there is one country that won’t implode and can be counted on as a point of stability.
Obama is capable of cutting off his nose to spite his face, but the Clinton-era foreign policy hands still have enough control that it isn’t likely to happen before the next election– though all bets are off if he gets a second term. European leaders dislike Israel, but they also know that there are times when they need it. It’s a high tech incubator that’s a lot closer than Asia, it’s an arm of the West in the East and if the relationship is sliding under the table that’s the kind of relationship Israel has with much of the world, from China to Saudi Arabia.
The isolation is a problem, but it’s also liberating. The weight of expectations has nearly broken Israel and the Obama Administration may be one of the best things that happened to it by forcing it to recognize that it was alone. Israeli dependence on the United States is not financial as most people think, it is mainly psychological. Alone in a region full of Muslim tyrannies, the need to believe in a close relationship with an admirable global power was powerful.
Friendship with America wasn’t like friendship with Russia or China, the United States is admired by people around the world for its accomplishments and its standing. For all the anti-war rallies, it is a nation that aspires to a higher standard; a virtuous Rome, an Athens without slaves, a standard bearer for the new age of mankind.
Only the United States could make a call for concessions to terrorists sound noble, when it would have sounded hopelessly venal from any European power. But in the age of Obama the nobility has run out and so has the peace. The illusions are dead and Israel is in survival mode, struggling to avoid any attention from Washington, D.C. while keeping the country on track.
The Peace Process, that horrible masochistic program of terrorist empowerment, is a fading mirage that no one believes in anymore. The pretense that the handshake in the Rose Garden overseen by a beaming Clinton was something other than cynicism and bad policymaking mythologized into a transcendent expression of a new age of peace is over and done with. The cost has been high and all of it has been in vain.
As the West follows the Islam appeasement track domestically and internationally, its relationship with Israel will continue to degrade. The Peace Process was an expression of a dying belief in the orderly world of negotiated international peace envisioned by European policymakers for over a hundred years. Now that same world has brought Europe and Israel to the brink of ruin. It’s no wonder that Israel has left the peace process by the side door.
Daniel Greenfield is a New York City-based writer and freelance commentator with a special focus on the War on Terror and the rising threat to Western Civilization. Mr. Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center. He maintains a blog and is a contributor to