You do not make peace with enemies. You make peace with former enemies.
By Bret Stephens
In the history of political clichés, has there ever been one quite so misjudged as the line—some version of which is attributed either to Israel’s martyred Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin or fabled Defense Minister Moshe Dayan—that “you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends”?
OK, “give peace a chance” and “nation building at home” are worse. But the Rabin-Dayan line is an expression of the higher mindlessness that passes for wisdom among people who think they are smart. After Monday’s make-nice session between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it’s time for a reconsideration.
To wit: You do not make peace with enemies. You make peace with former enemies—either because you have defeated them, as we defeated the Axis Powers in World War II; or because they collapse, as the Soviet Union did after the fall of the Berlin Wall; or because they have defeated you and you’re able to come to terms with the outcome from a safe distance. Witness Vietnam.
On rare precious occasions, both sides realize their interests are best served through a negotiated settlement they’re prepared to honor. That was the miracle of 1977, when Egypt’s Anwar Sadat flew to Israel to show he sincerely accepted the Jewish state’s right to exist. He paid for the gesture with his life.
Enemies, however, do not make peace. They may desist from open combat, as Pakistan and India have, even as Islamabad continues to support anti-Indian terrorist proxies. They may arrange a long-term armistice of the kind South Korea has with the North. But that’s a peace preserved by 700,000 active-duty South Korean and U.S. troops, plus a million land mines in the DMZ.
For the past 22 years—ever since Rabin signed the Oslo Accord with the PLO’s Yasser Arafat—Israel has been trying to achieve something historically unprecedented: To make peace with an enemy that shows no interest in becoming an ex-enemy.
Daniel Polisar, an Israeli political scientist, recently published a fascinating study in Mosaic magazine of Palestinian public opinion based on 330 polls conducted over many years. It makes for some bracing reading.
“When asked hypothetically if Israel’s use of chemical or biological weapons against Palestinians would constitute terror, 93 percent said yes,” notes Mr. Polisar. “But when the identical question was posed regarding the use of such weapons of mass destruction by Palestinians against Israelis, only 25 percent responded affirmatively.”
Other details: A 2011 poll found that 61% of Palestinians thought it was morally right to name Palestinian streets after suicide bombers. In December 2014, 78% of Palestinians expressed support for “attempts to stab or run over Israelis” in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Only 20% were opposed. Palestinians have also consistently supported terrorist attacks against Israelis within Israel’s original borders, “often by as much as six to one.”
Palestinians routinely blame Israel for problems over which it has no control, such as the bloody 2007 coup through which Hamas wrested power from Fatah in the Gaza Strip. Ninety-four percent of Palestinians report a “very unfavorable” opinion of Jews. A majority of Palestinians believe Israel will “destroy the al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques and build a synagogue in their place.”
As for the idea of sharing the land, only 12% of Palestinians agreed that “both Jews and Palestinians have rights to the land.” More than 80% felt “this is Palestinian land and Jews have no rights to it.” Most Palestinians also think Israel won’t be around in 30 or 40 years, either “because Arab or Muslim resistance will destroy it” or on account of its “internal contradictions.”
Where is the sense in agreeing to relinquish through negotiations what is yours by right today and will be yours in deed tomorrow?
None of this is helped by Palestinian leaders who, when not inciting violence or alleging Israeli conspiracies, are peddling the lie that Israel is creating an apartheid state. The only person standing in the way of Palestinian democracy is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who hasn’t held an election in a decade. The only force standing in the way of a Palestinian state are the Palestinian people, who think they can gain their rights by stabbing their neighbors.
Which brings us back to Monday’s Oval Office meeting. Along with the forced bonhomie, the administration has been sounding the usual two-minutes-to-midnight warnings about the supposed end of the two-state solution. “For Israel, the more there is settlement construction, the more it undermines the ability to achieve peace,” says Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, in an interview with Haaretz.
How sweet it would be if all Israel had to do to make peace was dismantle its settlements. How much sweeter if the American president would find less to fault with an Israeli government’s housing policies than a Palestinian political culture still so intent on killing Jews. If Mr. Obama wants to know why he’s so disliked by Israelis, there’s the reason.