Joined: 09 Sep 2006
|Posted: Fri Oct 27, 2006 5:25 pm Post subject: Three deadly fallacies
|Three deadly fallacies
Evelyn Gordon, THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 25, 2006
In an interview in last Thursday's Haaretz, Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit
provided a textbook example of what is wrong with Israel's foreign policy.
"The prime minister's main job is presenting us with a timetable for
achieving peace," Sheetrit declared, referring specifically to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "That is the state's guarantee for future
generations. I believe the other side is also tired of wars. There is no
such thing as a government without a diplomatic agenda. I hope [Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert] will work toward achieving a permanent peace. It is
our foremost obligation."
There, in a nutshell, are the three deadly fallacies. First, peace is
essential to Israel's survival: It is "the state's guarantee for future
generations." Second, it must therefore be pursued regardless of the other
side's behavior: "The prime minister's main job is presenting us with a
timetable [i.e., a fixed schedule] for achieving peace." And third, because
it is essential, it must be deemed achievable, even if this requires
misreading the enemy's intentions: "I believe the other side is also tired
TODAY, AFTER the Palestinians responded to Israel's "gesture" of evacuating
the Gaza Strip by electing Hamas, which openly aspires to Israel's
destruction, the third pillar of this tripod seems particularly far-fetched
- especially since repeated polls have refuted the theory that this vote
represented a protest against Fatah's corruption rather than support for
Hamas's political platform. One poll last month, for instance, found that
even after six months of crippling economic sanctions stemming from Hamas's
refusal to recognize Israel, 67 percent of Palestinians support this
decision, while only 30% think that Hamas should recognize Israel. Another
poll last month found that 63% of Palestinians support bombarding Israeli
cities with rockets (only 35% disagree); 57% support suicide bombings
against Israeli civilians; and 75% favor kidnapping Israeli soldiers.
These are hardly the responses of people who are "tired of wars." And
Palestinian actions back this poll data: Since the pullout, southern Israel
has suffered daily rocket fire, and a soldier was kidnapped in a
cross-border raid. But this willful misreading of reality would be unlikely
were it not for the first fallacy, which makes it psychologically necessary:
the idea that peace is essential for Israel's survival.
No would argue that peace is not desirable. But Israel's own history ought
to suffice to disprove its necessity: Despite being at war since its
founding, Israel has not only survived, but thrived. Its population has
quintupled, from 1.4 million to 7.1 million, with the Jewish population
growing almost sevenfold, from 800,000 to 5.4 million. An economy once so
poor that food was rationed now has a Western per capita income. Israel is a
world leader in patent grants and hi-tech startups. In short, despite many
serious problems, it is a success story.
And if more proof were needed, world history amply provides it. India and
Pakistan, for instance, have been at war since their creation in 1947,
including three hot wars interspersed with low-intensity terrorist warfare.
Yet neither country is in danger of disappearing, and one, India, is a
rising economic power.
Or take England and France, which fought each other for centuries - from the
Hundred Years War in the Middle Ages through serial conflicts in the 18th
century to the 19th century's Napoleonic Wars. Yet both countries are alive
and well today. And similar examples abound.
IN FACT, many countries throughout history have survived just fine without
peace. However, there is one caveat: This is possible only if the conflict
is intelligently managed and contained. And that is why the second fallacy -
that the government's "main job" is achieving peace, regardless of its
feasibility - is so deadly.
Moves that might be sensible if both sides genuinely want peace are often
counterproductive if the other side is bent on war.
The disengagement from Gaza was a perfect example. In the context of a
serious peace process, it might have made sense. It demonstrated Israel's
willingness to evacuate settlements - something presumably necessary for any
agreement - while retaining most of Israel's negotiating assets.
But in reality, the disengagement occurred during a bloody terrorist war
that the other side evinced no interest in halting. And the results were
predictable: Palestinian support for violence soared. Repeated polls found
that most Palestinians - 84%, to cite one - interpreted the pullout as a
victory for terrorism. And they therefore unsurprisingly concluded, as
demonstrated in the other polls cited above, that more terror would be even
The Oslo Accords were another example. Had Yasser Arafat truly wanted to
make peace, they might have been constructive. Since he did not, they
resulted in increased violence. The years 2000-2004 alone produced more
Israeli casualties from terrorism than the entire preceding 53 years.
In short, if the other side is not ready for peace, bold initiatives -
"there is no such thing as a government without a diplomatic agenda" - are
often more dangerous than simply trying to manage the conflict until
conditions do become ripe for real peace. Not only do such initiatives
encourage the other side to believe that violence works, they also encourage
it to believe that the peace-seeker is so desperate to end the war that
maintaining the pressure could produce complete capitulation.
In Israeli-Palestinian terms, such capitulation would mean accepting a
"right of return" for some 4 million Palestinian refugees and their
descendants, who could then democratically vote the Jewish state out of
existence. In 13 years of negotiations, during which Israel has repeatedly
abandoned "red lines" (such as Jerusalem), the Palestinians have yet to
budge on this demand. And with good reason: Israel's willingness to abandon
successive red lines for "peace" has - rightly or wrongly - convinced them
that continued violence will eventually lead Israel to abandon this one as
In short, what is truly essential for Israel's survival is not peace, but
abandoning the three fallacies espoused by Sheetrit. Ironically, it is only
by being prepared to live with war until the other side is ready for peace
that genuine peace can ever be achieved.
JUDEA & SAMARIA are clear and unquestionably JEWISH!
MiddleEast Political Expressions