Great point, David Brooks

This terrific editorial, which ran last week in The New York Times, should be required reading for anyone who thinks he or she can make peace in the mideast by putting the squeeze on Israel and/or employing high-level diplomacy. I would analogize the latter to attempting to make peace between a wife and her abusive, dysfunctional husband by trying to come up with ever more elaborate counseling ideas when counseling has repeatedly failed, or by telling the wife she’s too fat and if she loses weight her husband will stop beating her (this last example, in its illogic and blaming of the victim, is equivalent to telling Israel that if she stops building settlements, those terrorists dedicated to her destruction will be satisfied and there will be peace). In truth, neither the settlements nor anything fundamentally about Israel–other than its existence itself–has ever been the problem. In the eyes of the radicals, who are ascendant now, the entire country is an illegitimate “settlement” which is why carving up Israel and offering pieces to them will never produce peace and will in fact embolden them.

That said, if there were a way to truly empower Palestinian moderates, to the extent any exist, I’d be all for it. Likewise true moderates throughout the mideast. But to keep emboldening the extremists–whose fundamental position is no more reasonable than that of any highly dysfunctional abuser–is a recipe for disaster.

Brooks has it right: It doesn’t matter how great a law professor or diplomat you are. It doesn’t matter how masterly you sequence the negotiations or what magical lines you draw on a map. There won’t be peace so long as depraved regimes are part of the picture. That’s why it’s crazy to get worked into a lather about who said what about the 1967 border. As long as Hamas and the Assad regime are in place, the peace process is going nowhere, just as it’s gone nowhere for lo these many years.

As Americans and people of goodwill, we are oriented, however, toward believing there is a solution to every problem, and we can avoid confrontation if we are reasonable and well-intentioned. All of that is great and may indeed be true in most normal situations, such as the PTA meeting or the kindergarten playground. But these regimes–such as Hamas, and Syria’s government, are not analogous to typical people or groups with their own gripes and points of view who can be appeased with some respect shown to them and some creative problem-solving employed. They are analogous to extremely evil–or, if you are of liberal, psychological orientation, let’s say extremely sick–groups and individuals such as serial killers, neo-Nazis, etc. If you had a friend who was being attacked by individuals or a group like this, would you advise them to make concessions to these people? Would you advise that friend to make some room in their home for someone abusive because that person feels he hasn’t gotten a fair shake in life?

Is there anything we can do? Well, supporting Israel in erecting the security fence was one positive step the U.S. took that actually saved lives on both sides. And perhaps there is hope down the road, if we can support the less sick elements of Palestinian society and the genuinely moderate individuals in the Arab world who are coming to the fore. But the absolute worst thing we can do is to demonize Israel–not only for the sake of Israelis but for the sake of all the people in the middle east, because in blaming Israel, we are only enabling the dysfunctional and sick attitudes and behavior of the extremists.

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