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June 16, 2007

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That came out too harsh I think. I do feel sorry for any innocents trapped in this mess. I do understand that there are people just trying to raise a family and get though the day. This is just one of those emotional topics and I’ve been up almost 24 hours now. So consider that last dialed back a few notches.

Of course there is no blame for the Palestinians themselves.

OCSteve, I don't know how you can read that and conclude that he has no blame for the Palestinians. That he feels there is some blame to be placed on others does nothing to negate that.

Larv: You are right, he does. I overstated.

I lost it at the same point OCSteve did; Are we supposed to keep pumping resources into a society as corrupt and murderous as Hossam himself describes Palestinian society? Why, so that it can be used to buy explosives for suicide bombers?

It may be possible that there's a tipping point beyond which a society is incapable of being rescued. Beyond which the evil becomes self-perpetuating. Doubtless there are a lot of innocent people in the Palestinian territories. Maybe even a majority. How do we sort them out, and only help the innocent?

What's needed, I think, is a way for the innocent to leave. Get out of that disfunctional society, to some place where society works, and whatever lingering traces they will doubtless carry of the attitudes and assumptions which maintained that society will be dilluted below a toxic level, and not passed on.

The problem being, that whatever society volunteered to be the target of such immigration would be letting itself in for a massive increase in crime, and everybody knows it.

It's a difficult problem, but just pretending that it's easy to solve won't make it so.

The problem being, that whatever society volunteered to be the target of such immigration would be letting itself in for a massive increase in crime, and everybody knows it.

Not necessarily.

Our previous crime waves have been associated with immigrants who were discriminated against. Irish, italians, chinese, koreans, vietnamese, etc. When they could find enough adequate-paying jobs, they gave up the crime that didn't atually pay all that well considering.

We have a labor surplus but we have lots of minimum-wage jobs, and for someone who's been living on $2/day, minimum wage is a big step up.

What we'd need more than anything else is that they not bring the old antagonism here. So we'd need to defuse that issue. Not allow double citizenship. You can be an israeli citizen or a palestinian citizen or a US citizen, but not any two. Make it completely clear that US citizens will not participate in the zionist/palestinian issue in any way.

It could work fine, but it would take some adjustments on our part.

The thing that really gets me is what could have been. What if…

When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and parts of West Bank the Palestinians had just taken stock and said “Whoa, this is our chance”.

What if they had elected moderates who actually had enough popular support to govern effectively?
What if they had renounced violence in all forms and disarmed the militants?
What if they had made use of those greenhouses instead of trashing them?
What if there were no Qassam rockets and kidnapping of IDF soldiers?
What if they had just gotten it together and formed a state in Gaza?

World opinion would be on their side. Israel would be in a position to do nothing but be helpful, possibly to make yet more concessions. Aid money would be pouring in from around the world. Foreign investment would be pouring in. Heck I might be booking my next beach vacation there.

They had their best chance in generations and they spit on it. Then they blew it up, threw it off a rooftop, pumped it full of bullets, dragged it through the street, and hung it from a lamp pole.

The saddest lament I’ve heard yet in all this is “Why are we killing each other? We need to focus on killing the Jews!”

Brett: I wasn't aware that I was giving the impression that this was easy to solve. I think it's horribly difficult. When I lived in Israel, in '82-3, I thought it was almost intractably difficult, and things have gotten a lot worse then.

OCSteve: I think that in this conflict, more or less everyone is to blame to some extent. That's what makes alleged dialogues between representatives of Israel and the Palestinians on TV so unbearable to watch: it seems to be absolutely impossible for either side to refrain from pointing out all the other's numberless horrible deeds, and I, at least, always find myself wanting to reach into the TV and shake them and say: geez, try thinking about your own faults and what you might do for a change!!.

The thing is, your last paragraph is true, but one could write an analogous paragraph about the Israelis, and another about US policy, which has been pretty staggeringly counterproductive of late. Any assessment of our blame ought to begin with a recognition of the obvious fact that we are not the ones who are actually killing people there, but it ought then to proceed to the fact that the choices we have made about what to do there have not, not been helpful.

OCSteve- When you call Islam a death cult you are simply perpetuating a slur. Christianity has the same stuff in it, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." All the early saints were martyrs. Then there is the ritual canabalism thing.

Probably you wouldn't be bothered if I described Christianity as a kooky death cult, but you probably know some people that would make it difficult to negotiate with.

I guess what I am saying is try to be less bigoted.

I didn't take OCS to be calling all of Islam a death cult, just the sort practiced by those in the linked piece. I don't think he's entirely off the mark in that, either. I think that calling him bigoted is way over the line.

What Larv said.

Tony Karon's post on the recent developments expresses my p.o.v. exactly.

There could have been an accommodation betweeen Hamas and Fatah, but the U.S. and Israel undermined it at every turn. It's a hideously bad idea to take sides in a civil war to begin with; it's a worse one to pick the weaker, more corrupt side. My government has done so again and again.

OCSteve, I don't even know where to begin. It's as if nothing the Israelis or the US has done has anything at all to do with this when I read you. Yes, the Palestinian political culture is sick. But terrorism? Gasp. Who would ever use terrorist tactics to establish their state? Guess you don't know much about what happened in 1948.

I remember this same discussion during the 80's with South Africa. The young thugs in the ANC and the Inkatha party took turns murdering each other and innocent civilians and of course this "proved" South African blacks weren't ready for democracy, and that we should sympathize with the whites with all the savagery they had to put up with. Of course, it turns out, just as the ANC said, that the white South African government was supporting Inkatha, the "moderate" black faction that many American conservatives supported as well.

History repeats itself

Hilzoy: I understand what you are saying, but how many initiatives have we tried over the decades? Can you point to one that you thought might actually work and why it did not in the end? What should our policy have been from the time Israel withdrew from Gaza?

Frank: The funny thing is that Islam never entered my mind at all in reading the post or in either of my comments here. I wouldn’t even refer to Islam as a cult, much less a death cult. What I meant by death cult was, well, a cult of death. I don’t know another term to describe indoctrinating children into this madness. A kindergarten graduation ceremony normally shows off some of what the kids learned, to make mom and dad proud of their little ones. Were mom and dad really proud here? Ahh, look honey, junior wants to give his life for the cause… This is intended to foster the hatred in the next generation. How can I believe that people who can do that actually have any interest in piece?

The saddest lament I’ve heard yet in all this is “Why are we killing each other? We need to focus on killing the Jews!”

Surely the zionists would have been better off if they had been pacifists from the start, right? But somehow after WWII they didn't feel like it.

Nonviolence worked in india, where an overstretched british empire simply couldn't enforce their will without massive native cooperation.

And it worked in the USA, where there were tremendous southern riches to be developed if we could just get the race issue settled and bring in the northern investment.

But israel/palestine doesn't have much in the way of resources. Not nearly enough water for the population. No oil to speak of. To run an honest economy they have to be mercantilists, they have to arrange to import their fuel and raw materials and export finished goods at much higher prices. And they have a labor surplus.

What would "the palestinians" have to do to get terrorism against israelis down to the point that they'd get massive international support? I can hardly imagine it. Who in palestine has the strength to catch every terrorist? How long could they keep everybody from trying to make reprisals for israeli atrocities?

ML King did a great job in the USA, but it helped a whole lot that we gave him most of the publicity, and we didn't blame him for every action by armed blacks. If we had used every armed robbery by blacks as evidence that there was really no nonviolent protest going on....

Israel has as much control of that situation as they possibly could, and they did a "unilateral withdrawal" because they didn't want to pay what it cost in money or israeli lives to continue as they were. They wanted the palestinians to occupy themselves.

And it's working. Given that palestinians aren't likely to forgive israel without some sort of incentive, what better outcome is there than for palestinians to be locked up and starving and killing each other, and getting bad media attention to boot?

Well, if one side wins enough to get limited food provided they can continue to suppress everybody who might attack israel, that would be better.

If after every attack the new palestinian government provides israel with prisoners that they claim did it, that would be pretty good. Whether or not they get the right people, it would make the status relationship clear. Say, every time there are 5 israeli casualties the palestinian government provides at least 50 palestinians as the putatlve culprits....

It's only natural to blame the victims in this case. Because they aren't completely well-behaved victims. If only they were better victims, if only they did everything right the way victims should, then we'd sympathise with them. But they're mean victims. If the tables were turned they'd surely act the same way. So no sympathy for them. All our sympathy is with the poor israelis who have to find some more effective way to suppress with them.

That reminds me of...

We cannot get out. We cannot get out. They have taken the Bridge and second hall. Frár and Lóni and Náli fell there... went five days ago... the pool is up to the wall at Westgate. The Watcher in the Water took Óin. We cannot get out. The end comes... drums, drums in the deep... they are coming.

not that I condone Hamas death cult kindergarten ceremonies, but dying for your country and elevating those who do the killing and blowing up stuff part to hero status seems to be a pretty popular meme in the US too

I give. I know better than to get into I/P threads. See ya’ in the next thread.

OCSteve, I want to point out that you *didn't* know better than to get into this thread. You jumped in headfirst with both feet. You were the first, second, and fourth commenter.

It makes good sense to back out now. Next time think whether you want to start it up, or just not get into it. You get to choose.

OC Steve:

You are right about the death cult practices. But to some extent your lament is of the nature of "why won't the prisoners just live peacefully in their miserable conditions."

Huge factions on both sides of the Arab/Israeli struggle do not want peace, and it will not happen for that reason more than any. I think this post at TPM says a lot about how Hamas and the chaos serves the purposes of the extremists on both sides of the dispute.

Ugh, the quote I was thinking of was from Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, "Someday, this war's gonna end."

And someday it will. Personally, I think it will end after the oil runs out and the rest of the world loses interest in the problems of the Middle East. But not a day sooner.

J Thomas, nobody likes a sore winner.

Maybe my last comment was too harsh. But OCSteve always debates in good faith, and you didn't have to kick him as he was leaving.

This has to stop; these young killers in the street are just boys. They're 17, 19, and 21 years old.

Maybe this will help explain some of it:

Why Gaza is fertile groundfor angry young men

From the Financial Times
By Gunnar Heinsohn

Published: June 14 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 14 2007 03:00

On September 11 2005, Israel left the Gaza Strip. The next day, four synagogues went up in flames. A cheering alliance of young men from Hamas and Fatah hailed these desecrations as bonfires celebrating the future of an independent Palestine.

Eighteen months later, fighters from the two organisations were still co-operating in attacks on their hated neighbour. By June 2007 their Kassam missiles had killed 11 Israelis. In that same period, some 600 Palestinians became victims of internecine warfare. Thousands more were wounded and half the population traumatised by a relentless chain of revenge slayings. Hidden behind masks, even brothers were at each other's throats.


Who is to blame for all this violence and conflict? There are many answers to that, but it is interesting to note that Ahmed Youssef, a top Hamas man and political adviser to Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, does not blame Gaza's troubles on either "the Jews" or the lack of religious faith among his secular opponents in Fatah. In May 2007 he told Cairo's Al Ahram newspaper that the main problem was the inability of both Fatah and Hamas "to control their men in the streets".

But why has violence exploded out of control in a culture where obedience is an uncontested virtue? The answer lies in a different kind of explosion.

Gaza has been overwhelmed by a demographic boom that shows no sign of abating. Between 1950 and 2007, its population has jumped from 240,000 to nearly 1.5m. How was such rapid growth possible in a small territory that has no economy to speak of?

This extraordinary achievement was accomplished by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. UNRWA - in accordance with international law - treats every resident of Gaza as a refugee. It provides housing, schooling and medication for every newborn - whether a first child or a 10th sibling.

As a result of UNRWA's policies and programmes, a Jewish majority in Israel and the territories has been turned into a minority. In the over-60 age bracket, Jews enjoy a three to one lead in population. But they lose ground in the younger generations that will wage the wars of the coming decades. In 2005 there were 640,000 Jewish boys under 15, against 1.1m in the Arab sector. Many young Jews are their families' only sons, who concentrate on future vocations. However, more than two-thirds of the Arab boys are second, third and even fourth brothers. Neither their fathers nor UNRWA will leave them any property or prepare them for a decent place in life.

Mr Haniya, for example, was born in 1962 and brought up by western aid money. He is the father of 13 children. In Mr Haniya's age bracket of 45 to 59 years, Gaza, in 2007, has 46,000 men. In the age bracket 0 to 14 years, there are 343,000 boys. In the US, every 1,000 men in the age bracket 45 to 49 are followed by only 945 boys in the age bracket 0 to 4. For Israeli Jews, the ratio is about 1,000 to 1,500. In Gaza, however, every 1,000 men from 45 to 49 are followed by nearly 6,200 boys from 0 to 4.

Had the people of the US multiplied at the same rate as the people of Gaza, the US would have gone from a population of 152m in 1950 to 945m in 2007, more than triple the size of its current population of 301m. It would be home not to 31m males between the traditional fighting age of 15 and 29, but to 120m. Faced with such a population explosion, would America's politicians and cultural organisations be able "to control their men in the streets"?

Over the next 15 years many more angry young males will roam the streets of Palestine, because of a birth defect of the Arafat-Rabin peace process. A western promise to support all children already born but to cut from international welfare Palestinian children born after 1992, and, simultaneously, to stop new Israeli settlements, should have been the first step of the Oslo process. As in Algeria or Tunisia, where total fertility fell from 7 to below 2 and where terror has ceased, Gaza, in 2007, would have seen nearly all of its boys turning 15 as only sons. They would have had little incentive to kill their own people or Israelis. Yet today Gaza's total fertility is still close to 6. This demographic armament will continue to provide large numbers of young men who have no prospects for employment and no place in society, and whose only hope is to fight for one.

The writer is the director of Raphael-Lemkin-Institut at the University of Bremen, Europe's first institute devoted to comparative genocide research. He is the author of Sons and World Power: Terror in the Rise and Fall of Nations (Söhne und Weltmacht)

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

OCSteve- Thanks for your gracious response. I guess I should clarify. I don't think you are a bigot. I do think calling Islam a death cult is a bigoted statement though. I accept that you didn't mean to slur Islam, but there really isn't anything in that bit you quoted that isn't Islam as far as I can tell. I happen to think encouraging children to seek martyrdom is bad, but I don't think there is anything wrong with valuing martyrdom highly. Christianity certainly wouldn't exist without it.

Jay,
Though you don't include any of your own thoughts with the article, can I assume that you feel that the providing of medical care is the root of the problem? Or that Palestinians breed too much?

When people feel a certain amount of sympathy for a group, and their ability to affect the situation is sharply curtailed, their generosity will be channelled in certain ways, so one might view the UNRWA as a channel that sympathy for Palestinians is allowed to flow in. This also speaks to the fact that the Palestinians have essentially been refugees because there has not been a solution to either given them their own government or grant them Israeli citizenship, which I believe is because no one wants to somehow support a right of return (though a lot of folks here are a lot more knowledgeable about this than I am and will step in to correct me, I am sure)

I'm also interested to know what you think this article would suggest as the next step. I should also note, if the UNRWA offers access to abortions or offer education about abortions and birth control, under the global gag rule, it would be ineligible for US funding.

Liberal japonicus--A Palestinian right of return is the same thing as not recognizing Israel's right to exist (as a Jewish state). Hence the conflict over the past 60 years or so.

FWIW it seems to me that there is a reasonable chance that this will actually increase the chance of peace. There's the West-Bank-First model, where Abu Mazen and Israel set up a stable Palestine in the WB and use that accomplishment to extend to Gaza. There's a great deal of talk in Jordan about going back to a Transjordan model - that also might lead to new effort toward peace and new ideas about how to make it work.

Frank: it's one thing to value martyrdom highly, and another to say, as what OCSteve quoted, "What is your most lofty aspiration? Death for the sake of Allah. What is your most lofty aspiration? Death for the sake of Allah." That's not, as far as I know, part of Islam generally.

The overpopulation of the Gaza strip is a huge problem. The median age in Gaza -- the median -- is 16. But I honestly can't see blaming this on the relief organizations who kept children from starving or sleeping in the streets.

I'll correct myself -- A Palestinian right of return could be a face-saving way for both sides to reach peace, so long as it was understood that the number of returning Palestinians wouldn't actually change Israel's demographic balance. Some people say that could be arranged, though I'm not quite sure how it could be guaranteed. If it did change the balance, then we're talking about the one state solution.

Donald, my understanding is that the definition of refugee (like everything else in I/P discussions) is subject to stresses and strains and I just tried to label it with the problems of the Palestinian demand of a right of return to suggest that blaming relief organizations is pretty creative (which I don't mean in a good way). Of course, when you have multi generational refugees, it kinda erodes the general conception of refugee (which is not to take sides, just to note that in normal usage, refugee is taken to be a single generation)

"There could have been an accommodation betweeen Hamas and Fatah, but the U.S. and Israel undermined it at every turn."

Do you foresee useful results flowing from such an accomodation if the U.S. and Israel had supported it, or been neutral towards it? What was the sticking point, in your view, that led the U.S. and Israel to oppose it?

But OCSteve always debates in good faith, and you didn't have to kick him as he was leaving.

Sorry, ThirdGorchBro. And sorry, OCSteve if it felt that way to you.

My thought wasn't to kick OCSteve while he was down. I didn't see that he and his were losing, it looked to me like he just didn't want to play the game.

And that makes perfect sense to me. Once we get some people who have decided ahead of time that israel is fundamentally justified and others who don't particularly see anybody is justified, then it's hard to get any common ground. It turns into a big argument about who's right and who's wrong, and there's no room for constructive ideas.

Because when one side is justified, then the entire result is that the bad guys need to stop doing wrong and start doing right and then they can get what they deserve, and until they stop doing wrong all they deserve is death. As long as it's good guys versus bad guys, and the good guys are justified in anything they do to bad guys because the bad guys are bad, there isn't much room for argument.

So these discussions are consistently unproductive. As long as it's about who's at fault, then the blameless ones can say they can do nothing better than kill bad guys until the bad guys reform.

And of course, until palestinians stop blaming israelis for taking their land, there can be no real peace. Palestinians have to sincerely agree that israel was right to take their land or they'll harbor dangerous resentments. Israelis can never have peace with palestinians until all the palestinians have decided not to hate them -- in the meantime israelis must kill the dangerous palestinians. Which means kill any armed palestinians, since no palestinians are really trustworthy, they all harbor resentments.

What we've got is as close to a solution as israel can accept, given their beliefs about palestinians.

But I believe this is something that might eventually be lived through. Israelis don't particularly hate germans even though there are israelis alive today who were treated worse by germans for a few years than israelis have treated palestinians. If matters somehow turn out that bad relations between israelis and palestinians stop, I believe almost all palestinians might stop hating israelis within the lifetimes of some people who are alive today.

The overpopulation of the Gaza strip is a huge problem. The median age in Gaza -- the median -- is 16. But I honestly can't see blaming this on the relief organizations who kept children from starving or sleeping in the streets.

"blaming" may be the wrong descriptive: it's cause and effect -- "A' happened and "B" resulted.

Heinsohn's written about this 'youth buldge' extensively. His contention is that if the proportion of teenage and young men gets too high, violence always follows. He claims that when nations produce a surplus of sons, it creates troubles of all kinds --problems that are multiplied when they have limited prospects for success.

There's a translation of an interview with Heinsohn here... He has a bleak view of the future... and though you may not agree with his suppositions or conclusions, the profile he presents appears to fit what's happening in Gaza now, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

My cup of sympathy for the Palestinians was drained long ago. They have a consistent and uncanny ability to shoot themselves in the head (metaphorically and literally) every chance they get.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Palestinians made a hero out of Saddam Hussein. Why? Because they hoped it would be the opening shot in a glorious war that would drive the US out of the Mid-East and destroy Israel. They've always supported the latest great dream of driving the US out of the Mid-East and destroying Israel, supported it to the point of not thinking about anything else, and what do they have to show for it?

Take Gaza. When the Israelis pulled out and the Palestinians took over, what did they do? They blew up houses and university buildings. Why? What did it get them - a momentary feeling of gratification, destroying what Israelis had built? Preferring the immediate, usually destructive, F-U gesture over a long-term constructive effort is typical of Palestinian politics.

Take the Oslo Accords. They were working. They were working so well that Hamas and various splinter groups sent out suicide bombers to sabotage them. That worked out really well for the Palestinians, didn't it?

The deal Barak offered at Camp David was lousy, eh? Would've created a sovereign Palestinian state in bits and pieces, eh? Well, turning it down sure worked aces, didn't it?

When life hands the Palestinians lemons, they smash the lemons and then complain no one gave them lemonade.

Preferring the immediate, usually destructive, F-U gesture over a long-term constructive effort is typical of Palestinian politics.

This seems to be the M.O. of the Bush Administration, incidentally.

"I honestly can't see blaming this on the relief organizations who kept children from starving or sleeping in the streets."

"blaming" may be the wrong descriptive: it's cause and effect -- "A' happened and "B" resulted.

There's some documentation that this was the response of the hebrews in egypt, back when they were a permanent underclass there. They had lots of children. The egyptian idea of killing excess hebrew babies (particularly male babies) didn't actually keep their population from expanding.

Human populations switch to r-selection strategies when they are r-selected instead of K-selected. Persuade palestinians that most of their sons will survive and they'll switch to a K-selection strategy. But they have no such assurance now.

This seems to be the M.O. of the Bush Administration, incidentally.

Yup. And its supporters. I don't have any sympathy for them, either.

My sympathies lean toward the Israelis - they're Westernized and modern, and pro-American, and a functioning democracy. On the other hand, I don't much care for Arabs as a culture. I view them as the products of a once-great civilization that has decayed into corruption, violent tribalism, and anti-modernism, one that hasn't had a new idea in about 600 years and seems incapable of constructing a modern society.

BUT!

When it comes to foreign policy prescriptions, I believe that it is in the best interests of the United States to reduce tensions and conflicts in the Middle East. And since Israel is the stronger party in this dispute, I think we should put pressure on them to make the most concessions. I also think we should encourage the Palestinian factions to come to an accord with each other, so they can assert control over their own people and enforce any agreements made with Israel. And I also think that if Hamas is willing to offer a 50-year truce to Israel, which is a de facto peace treaty, then Israel should take them up on their offer. Let Hamas keep their pride and not officially recognize Israel, if it results in a genuine peace.

So, my views are chauvinistic and my goals naught but cold realpolitik, and yet I wind up pushing for the same end-game as any liberal - peace. How's that grab ya?

I view them as the products of a once-great civilization that has decayed into corruption, violent tribalism, and anti-modernism, one that hasn't had a new idea in about 600 years and seems incapable of constructing a modern society.

Wow. Is that science and art?

ThirdGorchBro, what do you think about palestinians controlling their own borders with egypt and jordan?

Israel has consistently refused that, israel has demanded the right to inspect anything that crosses palestine's borders. Because when the next incursion comes israelis want palestinians not to have antitank weapons etc.

If israelis believed in a peace treaty or truce enough to let palestinians arm (if they choose to), then there might be peace. Or there might be a war that was somewhat less one-sided. Or there might be a WMD-style genocide to prevent a less-one-sided war. But how can there be a real peace when israelis control palestinian borders?

And how can they possibly agree about water rights? Palestinians get less than 10% as much water as israelis, per capita. And untreated palestinian sewage is contaminating israeli aquifers -- palestinians can't afford to treat it, and israelis won't pay for it, and anyway why should palestinians bother when the israelis have taken the water anyway? If a fair agreement on water rights resulted in israel getting only 80% as much water as they have now, would they do it? What could palestinians offer then that would be worth losing that water?

I think any genuine peace agreement would have to include the Palestinians controlling their own borders, and a water-sharing agreement, and would involve massive U.S. and European investments in building (or re-building) Palestinian infrastructure, as well as solutions to a dozen other incredibly complex issues.

Like I said above, I don't believe a real peace agreement will be reached for a very long time. But if I were in charge of U.S. foreign policy, I would use whatever leverage I had with both sides to get some forward progress started again.

Gary: Do you foresee useful results flowing from such an accomodation if the U.S. and Israel had supported it, or been neutral towards it? What was the sticking point, in your view, that led the U.S. and Israel to oppose it?

In response to your first question: Yes. Useful results include everything that normally flows from a government that can function -- political stability, diminution of violence, economic improvements in the absence of the economic blockade (closures, withholding of tax payments collected by Israel, greatly diminished foreign aid and loans due to U.S. pressure).

Conceivably, a functioning unity government with which Israel and the U.S. were willing to negotiate could also have ended (or reduced dramatically) the Qassam rocket attacks.

In response to your second question -- what led Israel and the U.S. to take the approach of undermining the Hamas government through the economic blockade and promoting Fatah military attacks -- well, whatever has motivated right-wing Zionists all along. Ask Elliot Abrams and Condoleeza Rice; it's their policy.

"Conceivably, a functioning unity government with which Israel and the U.S. were willing to negotiate could also have ended (or reduced dramatically) the Qassam rocket attacks."

Is Islamic Jihad interested in ending Qassam rocket attacks? Would a "functioning unity government" include Khaled Meshal? Is he going to agree to that? Are his supporters in Gaza? Which is to say, actual Hamas members with guns, in Gaza.

Answering "What was the sticking point, in your view, that led the U.S. and Israel to oppose [an accomodation with Hamas]?

"well, whatever has motivated right-wing Zionists all along."

So it's just some inexplicable mystery. There couldn't be any possible rational aspect to not wanting to turn over tax money to people who refuse to acknowledge the existence of your country, and who seek as their raison d'etre to destroy it, and to kill you?

"Useful results include everything that normally flows from a government that can function -- political stability, diminution of violence, economic improvements in the absence of the economic blockade (closures, withholding of tax payments collected by Israel, greatly diminished foreign aid and loans due to U.S. pressure)."

What does Israel get, in turn?

And what leads you to believe that Hamas and Fatah are capable of a peaceful unity government that will bring "political stability, diminution of violence, economic improvements"?

My cup of sympathy for the Palestinians was drained long ago. "

How lovely. My cup of sympathy for people who offer up one-sided portrayals of a conflict with plenty of atrocities on both sides was empty from the start. Posting rules limit what I can say on that subject. I will say that this kind of attitude is part of why it is ridiculous to expect Americans to act as honest brokers in this conflict.

"Take the Oslo Accords. They were working. They were working so well that Hamas and various splinter groups sent out suicide bombers to sabotage them. That worked out really well for the Palestinians, didn't it?"

Oh, those Oslo Accords were working great. Settlement expansion never stopped. Of course it's only Palestinian violations that matter. Palestinian complaints about Israeli violations are not worthy of note.

"When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Palestinians made a hero out of Saddam Hussein. Why? Because they hoped it would be the opening shot in a glorious war that would drive the US out of the Mid-East and destroy Israel."

Yeah, imagine the US or Israel supporting some monstrous dictator for purely self-interested motives, not even in hopes of freeing themselves from occupation, but for much smaller reasons. Like Israel supporting various Third World dictatorships--Guatemala for one. Real security concerns there, lots of reasons to do it.

"They've always supported the latest great dream of driving the US out of the Mid-East and destroying Israel, supported it to the point of not thinking about anything else, and what do they have to show for it?"

Oh, I see. Your criticism is not the support of Saddam, but simply the fact that it didn't work out for them. Well, that makes sense. Couldn't agree more. I wouldn't want to think you were holding the Palestinians to moral standards you don't apply to Israel and the US, both of whom have supported vicious dictators for immoral, indefensible reasons, but at least this support didn't necessarily blow back in their faces.


"The deal Barak offered at Camp David was lousy, eh? Would've created a sovereign Palestinian state in bits and pieces, eh? Well, turning it down sure worked aces, didn't it?"

Yeah, if you offer someone a bad deal and they turn it down, they are entirely responsible for the consequences. Steal land, offer part of it back, and of course the recipients should react with fawning gratitude to the morally superior culture. That's been the problem from the very start--the Palestinians don't know their place. You could at least distinguish between Camp David and what came months later, but why sully the purity of your disdain with any factual content?

Daniel Levy's ideas

"Useful results include everything that normally flows from a government that can function -- political stability, diminution of violence, economic improvements in the absence of the economic blockade (closures, withholding of tax payments collected by Israel, greatly diminished foreign aid and loans due to U.S. pressure)."

What does Israel get, in turn?

This is the key question that has never been answered. As it is, israel has an implacable but utterly impotent enemy that they can dust off and drag out whenever it's useful. And they get to collect "taxes" from this enemy and spend the money, and only have to replace that money if someday they choose to negotiate. They get water and a toxic waste dump. They get a place to park their own crazy fanatics who might otherwise be doing terrorism in israel against israelis. They get US aid to deal with the media-magnified threat. Etc.

And if they agreed to a "peace", what wouid they get? They'd have a whole lot of negotiating to do with people who have nothing whatsoever to offer them except "peace", when without "peace" they don't have to nogotiate at all -- they can take whatever they want.

If the "peace" was successful they'd get less US aid and less US support. They'd get a lot less private zionist support from the USA, since US zionists get their thrills from imagining israel at risk. They'd have to watch their old victims collect weapons and not do anything about it, knowing that would make reconquest far more difficult.

If the "peace" broke down then the people who negotiated it would have political opponents who would claim they had been played for suckers, that israel would be far better off if they'd continued to murder palestinian leaders and technicians etc. Every palestinian hospital or power plant or police bunker built before things broke down would be one more target they wouldn't have had to destroy if they'd only had the sense to prevent it from belng built in the first place. Every palestinian IED that damaged an israeli tank would be an indictment of the stupid politicians who tried for peace.

There are simply no plausible rewards for israel in a peace agreement. Their current losses are quite acceptable. Their probable losses from "peace" would probably not be.

So if we want peace for israel, we have to figure out what we can offer them for it.

How about $60 billion / year, each year that there are no incursions, no airstrikes, and no israelis disguised as arabs caught attempting assassinations in palestine. Cut off the money if they do hit back for any reason. $10,000 per year per israeli isn't really that much. Maybe make it $300 billion per year? $50,000 per israeli would be more tempting.

They were willing to accept peace with egypt when we bribed them with sufficient money and military technology. Maybe for enough money they'd accept peace with palestinians too? It's worth a try.

"Maybe for enough money they'd accept peace with palestinians too? It's worth a try."

After all, everyone knows the Jews are all about the money.

Gary:

There couldn't be any possible rational aspect to not wanting to turn over tax money to people who refuse to acknowledge the existence of your country, and who seek as their raison d'etre to destroy it, and to kill you?

Funny how that remark describes Israeli extremists, too.

This conflict is driven by extremists on both sides.

I used to have a sense of the Palestinians being a more violent, but every Lebanese who dies in southern Lebanon from the million plus unexploded cluster bombs dropped by Israel in the recent war is also a terror victim. It's no different than Palestinian suicide bombers.

Sheesh, Gary. Why do you have to bring ethnic stereotypes into it? That's pretty invidious.

Let me repeat, I don't see any incentive whatsoever for an israeli government to pursue peace with palestinians, that comes close to the incentives they have for the status quo or for further withdrawals of troops and settlers accompanied by increased airstrikes and quick-reaction strikes.

If we want them to negotiate seriously we need to give them some sort of incentive, and money is practically all we've got. That isn't great either given the way we depreciate, but it's something. Another possibility would be security guarantees, but those fall short -- israel is not seriously threatened by any nation or by any non-nation, and they have their own nukes, and I don't know what secret security guarantees we've already given them. And they have their own nukes. It isn't clear what further security guarantees from us would be worth.

We already give them all their oil for free, right?

Israeli products already enter the US, canada, EU, EFTA, mexico and turkey duty-free, and they have MFN status with most other countries.

What else can we offer them that they'd want? More of our secret weapons? They probably already have access to all that, and why would they need it? Already no threat from other nations and most of our hi-tech stuff isn't useful against palestinians.

Can you think of an incentive, as opposed to a threat?

"Funny how that remark describes Israeli extremists, too."

Who don't happen to be in charge of Israel. (They still have more influence than is healthy, I agree: but Kach is banned, and Likud is out of power and a small minority; I do agree that Avigdor Lieberman is scum, but he's not prime minister; the government is Kadima and Labour.)

"Sheesh, Gary. Why do you have to bring ethnic stereotypes into it? That's pretty invidious."

Indeed. I'm sure it never occurred to you, which proves your purity of heart. It just coincidentally sailed out of your mouth/fingers as your first suggestion. Your very lack of awareness of any possible connotations of Jews=money demonstrates your inability to knowingly spew anti-semitic tropes.

No, never saw that one before.

And it's so incompatible with the zionists=monsters trope you're selling.

Gary- I don't think JT is really arguing that Israelis are monsters he's just arguing that the secular incentives are all in favor of the status quo, while ignoring the spiritual.

Gary, what incentives can you think of for the USA to offer to israelis to accept peace?

I didn't see any credible incentives but money -- pretty much anything else would involve threatening to withhold things we already give.

Do you see some other incentive we could offer?

And then you come up with this ethnic slur and you repeat it, rather than consider the topic. I hope this does nothing for your credibility. I find your attack extremly offensive.

Frank, yes, exactly. And if the israeli government ignores spiritual incentives they certainly won't be the first.

"How many divisions does the Pope have?"

Gary:

Who don't happen to be in charge of Israel. (They still have more influence than is healthy, I agree...

They have enough power to prevent peace, and to prevent anything meaningful being done about settlements.

The Israeli annexation of chunks of the West Bank for settlements (accompanied by violence and expulsion of Arabs) has as much to do with preventing peace as anything else.

Gary, I'm glad I declined to answer your question about the reasons for the policy of refusing to respect the results of the elections, suspecting that whatever answer I gave would be twisted.

Your response to what I did say -- look to the justifications given by the authors of the policy -- is to impute to me the view that "there is no rational aspect" to the decision, and that "it's an inexplicable mystery". I neither said nor implied either of those things, so your response confirms my disinclination to engage your question.

It appears that you agree with the policy developed by Elliot Abrams and the Bush administration national security team, or at least agree with their reasons for so doing.

Did you agree or disagree with the idea of encouraging the Palestinian elections that resulted in a Hamas victory? The Israeli government disagreed with the Bush administration about encouraging the elections.

When the desired result (Fatah victory) was not achieved, both governments were agreed on the resulting policy of overthrowing the results by extortion/starvation and force.

What does Israel get, in turn?

Israel withdrew from Gaza unilaterally. I don't see why, given that, they have a right to expect that their recognition of the results of elections held there must be accompanied by any kind of concessions on the part of the resulting government.

The Israeli government felt itself capable of doing so because it had the full support of the U.S. government in that attitude.

Israel supported Hamas in its earliest days as a counterweight to the P.L.O. Now Israel and its allies openly support elements in Fatah as a counterweight to Hamas.

It looks very much as if it is convenient for there to be "no one with whom we can negotiate". Next step? If I were Olmert, I'd recognize reality and negotiate with Hamas. But if I were Olmert, I'd have done that in January 2006.

CaseyL: "My cup of sympathy for the Palestinians was drained long ago. (...) When life hands the Palestinians lemons, they smash the lemons and then complain no one gave them lemonade."

Here is where I've always found it important to remember that all the parties are individuals, and that there are some -- a decent number, I think -- on all sides who have tried to stop lemons from being squashed, and some (probably fewer, they are always fewer, but they still exist) who are more or less the Palestinian or Israeli equivalents of, say, Katherine in 2004: someone who was fighting, unsuccessfully, to reverse the policies of the people who held power in her polity. Those of them who live in Gaza, like the person quoted in the main post, will be harmed by what lies ahead just as surely as those who have not tried to work against the violence.

Gary: Fwiw, I don't particularly agree with the assumptions underlying JThomas' comment, but I did not read it as an ethnic slur. In general, I think that that card should be reserved for fairly clear cases -- a view I developed in Israel, when I encountered people (nothing like a majority) for whom every criticism of Israel was a case of anti-Semitism, unless it was offered by a Jew, in which case the critic was a self-hating Jew. Luckily, I had read Popper on unfalsifiable theories.

I'm not suggesting you're doing anything like that; I mentioned that only to indicate why I think that accusations of racism should be reserved for clear cases: because if they aren't, they can distort discussions that really need to proceed undistorted.

As for what Israel gets from anything: plainly, it seems to me, the only way Israel ever gets to live without Qassam rockets hitting Sderot every now and again is if there is some actual settlement of this question. Anything Israel does that places that even further out of reach harms Israel. This is not about niceness. (Or: not only.) It is crucially about Israel's self-interest, over the long run.

"As for what Israel gets from anything: plainly, it seems to me, the only way Israel ever gets to live without Qassam rockets hitting Sderot every now and again is if there is some actual settlement of this question. Anything Israel does that places that even further out of reach harms Israel. This is not about niceness. (Or: not only.) It is crucially about Israel's self-interest, over the long run."

Of course. That's the point. The idea that Israelis need any incentive for peace beyond peace is crazy.

The only possible explanation I can think of for why the majority of Israelis would not be in favor of peace is that they're inhuman monsters who favor evil and war and violence for its own sake. I tend to get testy when people suggest that.

Sane criticism that doesn't assume such motivations is an entirely different matter.

The same is true as regards Palestinians: accusations that all or most Palestinians don't want to live in peace are both monstrous, and untrue. I also grow intemperate and impatient with that claim.

When people make either of these two claims, there are two alternatives: they are making them in good faith, in which case they are speaking like ignorant bigots, or they are making the claims in bad faith.

Better to do neither.

Gary: I assume that everyone, everywhere, wants peace on some terms. In the extreme case, the terms might be something like: so long as I get to be dictator, and everyone on earth has to do what I want. But very few people want peace on any terms at all. The question is just, what terms do they find acceptable? And what are they willing to do in order to get there?

There is a lot of room both for people having terms in mind that the other parties just won't accept (e.g., the views of majorities on both sides about Jerusalem), or for their views about what they would be willing to do to reach peace that do not include any actual means of getting there. And here I'm not talking (only) about a snickering cynical 'sure, I'd like to have peace, but not if it means giving up my RPG!', but things like: finding it incredibly hard to think of making any sort of deal with people who have done you and yours immense harm. That is, I think, a completely understandable emotion, but the more people on either side have it, the more remote any actual peace becomes, since people on both sides have, in fact, done people on the other immense harm (note that this statement deliberately avoids anything about whether what those people did was in any way justifiable.)

In any case, my only point was to head off the tendency, whenever people talk about either side making any kind of concession to humanity, for someone to take this as solely a question of being nice, about which the question, "why should I be nice to them?? might arise. It is not.

j thomas: "Do you see some other incentive we could offer?"

Peace.

"And then you come up with this ethnic slur and you repeat it, rather than consider the topic."

I've made no ethnic slur, of course. However, you did produce the "we can motivate the Jews by money" trope. No one put a gun to your head to make you cough that up as your suggestion.

And no one can make anyone draw any particular conclusion from it. All that happened is that you put it forth, and I noted that you'd done so.

"I hope this does nothing for your credibility. I find your attack extremly offensive."

Oh, but you can't be offended, because, you see, I said nothing derogatory.

Obviously it's therefore impossible for there to be any grounds for you to take offense.

Your rules. Your defense. Your claim. Surely there can't be a problem with your logic?

HTH, HAND.

I really don't see how there will ever be peace without large numbers of dead people. Millions. There has just been too much stupidity, romantic nonsense and duplicity involved in this problem for anyone to expect a solution.

First, we started out with the idealist romanticism of the zionists from a century ago. Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful to move back to the Promised Land! Well, it was not a particularly good idea, but the Jews who moved back were tolerated, even welcomed in a way, as long as they didn't try to gain political power.

Then we had our dear friends, the British Foreign Office, who decided that there wasn't anything around there and no people, so promising everyone everything they wanted wasn't a problem for them -- until some people took their promises seriously.

I suppose that the zionists would have remained a quaint little group if Germany hadn't gone horribly wrong, but it did, so now there was motivation from many more Jews to find or create a homeland. Relying on their interpretation of the FO's inconsistent promises that they wanted to remember, the migration began -- only to run into the fact that there were already people living there, people who really didn't have a lot of places to go, people who supposedly could have gone elsewhere in the old Ottoman Empire, even though it was decades dead.

I think it takes a real twisting of history to claim that Israel is a Western Plot against the Arabs -- that may be the reason for the Holocaust denial that is far too common in Arab states -- but it is true that the Jewish Israelis are very much a part of Western culture and not a part of Arabic or Islamic culture. Even if the intent of the Israelis was to get away from the anti-Semitism of Europe, they still brought their Western traditions with them. In a way, though not the way that anti-Israeli Arabs claim, they are a problem, maybe even a threat, to their neighboring governments.

Of course, the bad faith and foolishness wasn't limited to the British and Israeli immigrants. The Arabic nations have made an effort never to negotiate. Facts on the ground were of no interest to them, and they were no more interested in helping solve the Palestinian refugee problem by resettlement than most of the Palestinians were to be resettled.

So, is there a way to get two different groups who both claim the (God-given) right to dominance in a place to deal? I'm not optimistic. In particular, I'm very pessimistic for the Israeli Jews. They cannot conquer all of the Arab nations. Winning wars against the Palestinians and others nearby who are willing to do battle accomplishes little. No Palestinian has the stature or power to conclude any sort of realistic peace treaty. No neighboring country has shown any willingness to accept Palestinian refugees for resettlement even if they could be persuaded to move. The Israelis, likewise, aren't likely to move to somewhere that is less troublesome on the world stage. Both sides claim the moral high ground but operate from well below it.

I don't anticipate any positive results for years, certainly not as long as there is weak or divided Palestinian leadership, an Israeli government that wants to be secular but continues to be pro-Jewish or unstable countries in the region who cannot help the Palestinians come to the conclusion that they will not get every last hectare back in their lifetime.

Too cynical, freelunch. I sorta agree with most of your historical summary, but it's a little too neat also, in a cynical sort of way. For instance

"The Arabic nations have made an effort never to negotiate."

Isn't really true. Or rather, I think what you're trying to say there isn't really true. At times some Arab nations have made good faith efforts to negotiate, sometimes meeting with success (Egypt, late 70's) and sometimes not (Egypt, pre Yom Kippur War).

And saying millions of people must die for peace to be achieved is just being too glib about the deaths of millions of people. Fortunately it's only a blog comment thread.


Gary--What did you think about the Daniel Levy article I linked to above? Assuming you've read it. It's more or less expressing the viewpoint Nell and I have about what has happened, with recommendations about what to do now.

"Gary, I'm glad I declined to answer your question about the reasons for the policy of refusing to respect the results of the elections, suspecting that whatever answer I gave would be twisted."

This seems distressing like a suggestion that I engage in conversation with you in bad faith. I very much hope to hear back that I misunderstood you.

"Your response to what I did say -- look to the justifications given by the authors of the policy -- is to impute to me the view that 'there is no rational aspect' to the decision, and that 'it's an inexplicable mystery'. I neither said nor implied either of those things, so your response confirms my disinclination to engage your question."

???

I asked you "What was the sticking point, in your view, that led the U.S. and Israel to oppose it?"

You responded:


In response to your second question -- what led Israel and the U.S. to take the approach of undermining the Hamas government through the economic blockade and promoting Fatah military attacks -- well, whatever has motivated right-wing Zionists all along. Ask Elliot Abrams and Condoleeza Rice; it's their policy.
Doing my best to untangle our miscommunication here, I don't see any content here other than "what led them was whatever mysterious motivations right-wing Zionists have."

I'm perfectly willing to believe that you gave a different answer or more of an answer, and I'm just misreading, but you'll have to further explain what it is that I'm misunderstanding about this response, please.

You then say I "impute" -- I'm just trying to understand you -- to you "the view that 'there is no rational aspect' to the decision, and that 'it's an inexplicable mystery'"

I'm not trying "impute" anything. I understand you to have said this. You reject that -- which is fine, and obviously what you should do insofar as I misunderstand you -- but I have absolutely no idea what you were saying, then, if it wasn't that.

You affirm that "I neither said nor implied either of those things"; okay, so what were you saying?

What's the "rational aspect" of "whatever has motivated right-wing Zionists all along" that you explained and I didn't see? Or could you explain it now, please?

What were you implying or intending to communicate by saying "Ask Elliot Abrams and Condoleeza Rice; it's their policy", if not "I don't know, it's a mystery, I can't tell you, ask someone else"?

Because I'm perfectly willing to believe you meant something else, but you'll have to tell me what that something else is. I'm not seeing it here on my own, I'm afraid. All I see is "Ask Elliot Abrams and Condoleeza Rice; it's their policy" and "whatever has motivated right-wing Zionists all along." (To which the actual explanation would be a widely disparate set of often contradictory motivations, of course, depending on which individual and faction is being discussed.)

Then, speaking of imputing, you say "It appears that you agree with the policy developed by Elliot Abrams and the Bush administration national security team, or at least agree with their reasons for so doing."

It appears? Really? What do you base this on?

"Israel withdrew from Gaza unilaterally. I don't see why, given that, they have a right to expect that their recognition of the results of elections held there must be accompanied by any kind of concessions on the part of the resulting government."

Why would Israel be expected to recognize a government that doesn't recognize Israel?

It's not as if Israel has a problem recognizing a Palestinian government that does recognize Israel; it's done that since August 20, 1993.

What government in the world recognizes another government that claims they have no right to exist?

"Did you agree or disagree with the idea of encouraging the Palestinian elections that resulted in a Hamas victory?"

Not having a time machine, I neither agree nor disagree with an event that has happened.

"...but it is true that the Jewish Israelis are very much a part of Western culture and not a part of Arabic or Islamic culture."

Don't know diddly squat about Israel, I see. Might want to look into the word "Mizrahi."

It's easy to miss ~2,500,000 or so Israelis out of ~7,150,000 (only 76.4% of whom are Jewish, so you've only missed noticing about half the Jewish population of Israel).

"an Israeli government that wants to be secular but continues to be pro-Jewish"

Noticeable that you define that as a problem.

DJ: "Gary--What did you think about the Daniel Levy article I linked to above? Assuming you've read it."

Yeah, I read it when it was linked by Matt Yglesias, or Tapped, or whichever of the several people who linked to it yesterday linked to it and I saw it, although I've been glancing sporadically at the PfP blog on my own, anyway.

I think Levy makes sensible points and arguments, and is well worth reading on the issues.

Which is what I say about a bunch of commentators on I/P whom I think are knowledgeable and sensible on the topic, almost all of whom disagree with each other to one degree or another about various matters.

Which is what I don't say about most Americans writing blog comments on the topic, regrettably.

But that's neither here nor there. Beyond that, as usual, it's fairly well impossible to fairly and usefully address most of the serious issues in under a few tens of thousands of words at a time, which I'm not inclined to do very often, if ever.

Otherwise, the exercise almost always consists of more heat than light, which helps no one.

Gary, the Levy article says pretty much what Nell said. He doesn't name names, I don't think (I'd have to check back and see), but from what other articles have said, Elliot Abrams, Condie Rice, and presumably people in the Israeli government armed Dahlan's faction , hoping that either they could pressure Hamas to behave as they wished, or alternatively, overthrow them in a civil war. The Alvaro de Soto report (which I haven't seen mentioned in the New York Times) quotes an American official as being very pleased at Palestinian-on-Palestinian violence.

What were the motives? To topple Hamas. What's hard to understand?

As for why Israel should have tried to negotiate with Hamas, it's there in the Levy piece and in various other places. Hamas could probably enforce a truce if it chose to do so and had incentives. The more rational Hamas members are willing to talk about 100 year truces, as you know better than me. (A safe thing to say most of the time.) Trying to make the Palestinians suffer because they voted a corrupt Fatah party out wasn't smart or moral, and arming Fatah in hopes that they'd win a civil war was even dumber.

Would the alternate policy have worked? Don't know.

Donald - I am cynical about all of the parties involved. I don't think they need to have millions die, but, sadly, I expect it to happen because that is what it appears it will take to get the leaders who need to make the decisions for peace to make those decisions.

Egypt stopped fighting Israel, but they also washed their hands of the Palestinians in Gaza that they had once been to some degree responsible for. Same thing for Jordan and the West Bank. I don't see either being brokers for peace, despite generous payments from the US or other incentives. Egypt, in particular, has a government that is neither popular nor strong. Israel's success in '67 has been at a great cost.

Gary - Yes, I was aware that many Jewish Israelis were people from Arabic countries, but they still appear to identify more with the West than the Arab world and it appears from here in the US that the government of Israel is more driven by Western ideas than Arabic ones. That is the perceived threat to the neighboring governments.

There is a problem when a country that tells the world that it is secular offers huge preferences to a particular religious group, whether in Israel or George Bush's American.

Of course. That's the point. The idea that Israelis need any incentive for peace beyond peace is crazy.

The only possible explanation I can think of for why the majority of Israelis would not be in favor of peace is that they're inhuman monsters who favor evil and war and violence for its own sake. I tend to get testy when people suggest that.

But the behavior of the israeli government is an entirely different matter. A little danger in a small town is quite acceptable, the government can accept that indefinitely -- it adds local color and excitement for tourists.

A far different matter from the public. And whenever the public starts to really wish for peace all it takes is a few suicide bombers getting through to persuade them that sadly peace is unattainable at the moment.

Sane criticism that doesn't assume such motivations is an entirely different matter.

Watch what you assume about other people's motivations. When you assume that the people you're responding to are inhuman monsters how are you better than what you think they are?

(Not that I claim to be fully human, but I am behaving quite within the human tradition in this example.)

freelunch: "that is what it appears it will take to get the leaders who need to make the decisions for peace to make those decisions."

Regrettably, I don't see any reason to believe that the deaths of millions would actually make leaders more willing to make peace, so if millions die, it will probably be entirely in vain.

"I hope this does nothing for your credibility. I find your attack extremly offensive."

Oh, but you can't be offended, because, you see, I said nothing derogatory.

Obviously it's therefore impossible for there to be any grounds for you to take offense.

Your rules. Your defense. Your claim. Surely there can't be a problem with your logic?

Ah. I was curious how you respond to that sort of thing, and what you did this time was to respond as I would, an approach you've said was not legitimate. I can't say you're wrong to abandon your own approach and try mine, since after all I'd just abandoned mine and took yours. But it looks to me like neither of us learned anything from the experience.

"Do you see some other incentive we could offer?"

Peace.

That is not something we can provide for another country. We don't even know how to become peaceful ourselves.

But I argue that "peace" would be expensive for israel. They would have to give up water, probably 20% or more of the water they now use. They would have to give up settlements. They would have to make some kind of deal on jerusalem. If they did get peace they would some of their US military and economic aid, and they would lose a whole lot of their private US contributions. Americans give money to israel because they feel israel is threatened and needs it. Peace would destroy that motivation.

Palestinians are an utterly insignificant danger to israel today, this year, next year, for the foreseeable future. They fire a few mostly-unaimed rockets at minor towns. They slip a few suicide bombers through. They shoot at occasional soldiers who expose themselves to fire. Israelis could live with that for the next hundred years -- as they will in fact do if it seems necessary. They can wish for peace and live with what they've got for a long, long, time.

But peace is a big threat. Before 1967 israel was failing economicly. They were losing more zionists to emigration than they got from immigration and births. The 1967 war turned it around. They got a mythos that worked for them, they got lots and lots of foreign money and lots of immigrants. They've done OK ever since with that same mythos. Peace would destroy it.

The USA can't give israel peace, even if the israeli government wanted it. What incentive can the USA provide?

I came up with one reasonable suggestion and you went off on an ethnic-slur tangent. I don't understand why you'd do that, but unlike you I will not speculate about motives.

Regrettably, I don't see any reason to believe that the deaths of millions would actually make leaders more willing to make peace, so if millions die, it will probably be entirely in vain.

I agree that it would be unlikely to change the minds of weak leaders and would be unnecessary for strong ones. My assumption was that the deaths would be somewhat one-sided and the peace would be as a result of people feeling complete horror about the whole thing, enough to change leaders to those who would engage in peace.

J Thomas: I think you're wrong about where the incentives lie. For example, Jews living outside Israel do not give only because they think Israel is threatened. They give trees, they give to universities, they give all sorts of things that are just unrelated to any threat. You might, of course, say that the sense that Israel is under threat is what accounts for their giving, but I don't see why that would be true in most cases. (And there are always the people who don't give because they don't like what Israel has become to be considered.)

Likewise, I don't think they'd lose any of their aid until it was clear that they had achieved a lasting peace, which would take quite a while, given the history.

I don't know whether or not you've been there, but if you have, I find what you say about the effects of suicide bombers in particular incomprehensible. It is of course true that Israel will not cease to exist because someone blows up a pizza parlor. It is completely false that Israelis can "live with" suicide bombings in any other sense, nor should they. It's a small, relatively tight-knit country, and the bombings just tear at people's souls.

It will take so long to change this violent culture we've become

Bingo!

Well atleast they can run to Israel where they can find safety...

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1181813046677&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull>http://www.jpost.com

I think you're wrong about where the incentives lie. For example, Jews living outside Israel do not give only because they think Israel is threatened.

That's true, I expect I overstated it. I tend to believe a *lot* of donations come from that sense of threat, and particularly I tend to believe that israeli government figures believe that a lot of it comes from that. I could be wrong on both counts.

It is of course true that Israel will not cease to exist because someone blows up a pizza parlor. It is completely false that Israelis can "live with" suicide bombings in any other sense, nor should they.

They *have* done so for some years now, and they *will* continue to do so until things change one way or another, perhaps for another few decades. It isn't unreasonable for israelis to pin their hopes on a better wall more than on achieving "peace".

Here's I'll write out a set of choices and consequences. I could be off by orders of magnitude on the consequences, anyone who'd like to propose their own numbers is welcome to.

Imagine you're an israeli leader who has to choose whether to try to make peace or try to maintain the status quo.

Status quo
==========
Likely result: 80 israeli casualties a year. (320 palestinian casualties.)
$10 million lost in damage to israeli infrastructure.
$300 million lost in expended munitions, supplies, etc.

Make peace and it succeeds
==========================
No israeli casualties per year. Perhaps 20 palestinian casualties due to internal conflicts.
$3 billion/year lost in US military grants including secret grants.
$0.5 billion/year lost in reduced foreign contributions.
$5 billion/year gained in increased tourism.
$50 million gained in increased trade with arab nations.
Eventually, some savings from reduced military spending.
The leader who made it happen would get a lot of reverence. But maybe not stay in a leadership position in a fast-changing nation.

Make peace and it fails
=======================
5000 israeli casualties the first year. (Perhaps 100,000 palestinian casualties.)
$20 billion in lost production during mobilisation.
$25 billion in expended munitions, supplies, etc. (However, the publicity about israeli armor etc in actual combat would increase sales over coming years.)
The leader who tried for peace and failed would be vilified and would almost certainly be rejected as leader.

If you thought the chance of succeeding at peace was 5%, would you try? 25%? 50%?

I suggest that if you would actually attempt that when you thought the chance of success was under 90%, then you are not a politician.

JThomas: if the argument is that people are too risk-averse to gamble, when the odds of failing are great, I agree. I just don't think that you're right about the motives of givers -- at least going by my own experience, I would have said that solidarity (not risk-based, but 'these are my people'-based) is first, followed by the sense that one needs to do something to compensate for not making aliyah oneself. But, of course, I'm speculating.

I also think that the US support would take quite a while to dry up.

Hilzoy, you may well be right about those two. Still, in general I claim the risks are high -- even from "success", and the economic rewards are small -- even from "success".

There's a sicilian saying that goes, "If you find your enemy knee-deep in a mudhole, help him out. If he's waist deep, push him in." The israelis have buried the palestinians neck-deep and they can't get "peace" without pulling them out. What a very risky thing to do!

Yes, Gary, I did mean that I didn't think you asked me the question in good faith. It sounded very much as if whatever answer I gave would offend you unless it was the exact answer you were looking for (Hamas' not recognizing Israel's right to exist.) I'm not taking an algebra test here, so I'm not going to respond to questions posed as if there were only one acceptable answer.

Donald Johnson has managed to respond in the way that I should have done, sticking to the substance of the issues and avoiding the minefield of imputed motives.

On the policy of an overt "tilt" toward Fatah at all costs, there is no question of factions. All the people in any position to affect Middle East policy support it. Our president is a right-wing Zionist. So is the man he's put in charge of Middle East policy. The bipartisan consensus that dominates Congress on the issue is constrained within the limits set by a right-wing Zionist lobby (well to the right of the actual views of Jewish Americans in general). U.S. training, equipping, and reinforcing Dahlan's forces in the middle of the civil war in Gaza was reported on the front page of the Washington Post in a matter-of-fact way.

The people who have made and implemented this policy have been betting that they could, by force and extortion, change a disliked political reality. But they bet wrong, and that has left them with two options: deal with Hamas as the government of Gaza, or kill even larger numbers of Gazans they have up to this point (directly and indirectly). I very much fear that the second choice is the more likely one.

And that isn't because I believe Israelis are "inhuman monsters who favor evil and war and violence for its own sake." Your failure to acknowledge any motivations between choosing peace for its own sake and the opposite does not mean there are none. There is a vast, complicated excluded middle having to do with material and psychological costs and benefits, which several commenters above explore.

Hilzoy,

It sounds to me quite right to say that relief organizations who are trying to protect starving children are doing a good, good thing. But I wonder if this doesn't suggest a broader dilemma. Let's assume some things to be true just to get the hypothetical right. Let's assume that Jay Jerome's point is right: that certain kinds of demographic explosions tax a government without civic infrastructure to the point of near anarchy. Saving each one of those kids is a good thing to do. Saving all of them is a good thing to do. And yet we know it will lead to disastrous consequences a few years down the line -- consequences that will endure for a long, long time to come, well after that cohort passes from the earth.

This isn't just a problem for Gaza, but a problem for the entire developing world, where education and birth control lag behind the benefits of things like vaccination, causing a big population bulge, before people adjust to the fact that they don't need to have 10 children to keep five of them.

A lot of the problems of this form are like Malthusian problems of hypothetical procreation. But this is much more practical, because real actual children really ought to be saved (we're not just talking about potential people). Is this a nonproblem? Is it a bona fide dilemma?

Ara, yes I would say it's a bona fide dilemma.

On the one hand, we can let a whole lot of palestinian babies be born to inevitably live in utter misery. They are a problem for the whole world, a problem for israel, a problem for themselves.

On the other hand perhaps we can keep them from being born. We can, say, require that all palestinian women accept a Norplant or equivalent. We can require that they only get pregnant when the israeli government thinks they should. That would solve a number of problems within a generation or so.

Yes, it's a dilemma. Neither approach is entirely acceptable.

The norplant idea is a non-starter. It would be seen (correctly, I think) as a form of genocide. There's already a lot of talk about "demographic threats", meaning that the Palestinians are growing in population faster than Israeli Jews, so talk of Palestinian birth control would certainly be interpreted as a way to solve that "problem".

J Thomas, the problem I have with some of your posts is that you sometimes say the most hair-raising things (like this requiring Norplant for Palestinian women) in a casual sort of way, when they have absolutely nothing to do with reality. You did this with Cambodia, where you hypothesized a purely imaginary situation where it was a choice between mass murder and even greater starvation. (This had nothing to do with why the Khmer Rouge murdered people.) You raise some good points in some of your posts, but this other stuff is at best a silly distraction and at worst morally offensive.

You'll no doubt respond, but in the interests of not causing (too much) thread drift, I won't respond back. I'm just saying this as a suggestion--don't write down every outrageous scenario that comes to your mind and speaking for myself, I think your posts will be more constructive.

I'd also say, to J Thomas, that when you say "The israelis have buried the palestinians neck-deep and they can't get "peace" without pulling them out", you seem to deny the Palestinians any agency at all. I don't think this is either correct or sufficiently respectful of their capacity to make choices of their own.

Ara: I think that going down the road of asking whether it will, in the long run, be a bad thing that you have saved a child from starvation is a mistake. Offering people family planning services, yes; letting kids starve on purpose, no. That way lies madness and inhumanity.

Donald Johnson, (it isn't clear to me the most polite form of address when criticising or responding to criticism. Saying both names sounds formal and distant, Mr. Johnson even worse, Donald too chummy, etc. At any rate, the impression I'd like to give is sincere good will without an assumption of undue familiarity)

The norplant idea is a non-starter. It would be seen (correctly, I think) as a form of genocide.

Yes, I think it's a nonstarter. So what approach is more workable? So far the only alternative suggestion I've heard was that international aid organisations should give no aid for surplus palestinian children.

"A western promise to support all children already born but to cut from international welfare Palestinian children born after 1992, and, simultaneously, to stop new Israeli settlements, should have been the first step of the Oslo process." quoted by Jay Jerome from the Financial Times.

Attempts to control the palestinian population size through forced contraception, starvation, or direct genocide are not acceptable unless they can be hidden from the western public and probably from the israeli public too. So what should be done about the problem of too many palestinians? If nothing is to be done I suppose we could stand around and say "It's a dam shame!".

You did this with Cambodia, where you hypothesized a purely imaginary situation where it was a choice between mass murder and even greater starvation. (This had nothing to do with why the Khmer Rouge murdered people.)

I believe that it *was* a choice between a mass drive to increase food production with rationing at a level that produced mass malnutrition and considerable starvation, versus even greater starvation. Possibly they could have thrown themselves on the mercy of foreign powers that had shown them absolutely no mercy so far, and depended on those foreign powers to both provide food and to quickly build a transportation system to distribute the food. Like somalia. From the limited evidence I've seen I believe there would have been mass starvation in cambodia regardless after food deliveries failed to the Lon Nol government, even if everybody involved had the best of intentions. I don't claim to know what was actually going on in the mind of any individual khmer rouge member, as you do.

In this particular casd Ara was discussing Jay Jerome's post with Hilzoy, and I was responding to Ara. If it's unacceptable for the palestinian population to increase at its own rate, and it's unacceptable to take action to stop it, that's a dilemma. Two unacceptable choices.

I'll try to restrain my bad habit of suggesting consequences dispassionately. I see that it often does not get the result I want. Rather than agreeing that those consequences are undesirable and looking at how likely they'd be or looking at alternatives, people sometimes get sidetracked thinking about what a monster I am. A useless side issue.

Hilzoy: But isn't it bizarre to think that what one ought to do is implement a policy that threatens that very society with anarchy twenty years down the road?

Of course, what one *ought* to do is provide health services and educate them about family planning, but given that one can't do the latter for whatever reason, then what? Do something that could set the world on fire?

I've asked a few people about this since last night, and I seem to be the only one who thinks there might be a there there. Maybe I have a tin ear.

I'd also say, to J Thomas, that when you say "The israelis have buried the palestinians neck-deep and they can't get "peace" without pulling them out", you seem to deny the Palestinians any agency at all. I don't think this is either correct or sufficiently respectful of their capacity to make choices of their own.

When palestinians can't get food except through israeli checkpoints, even move food twenty miles inside their own OT, that's a whole lot of israeli control.

It's true palestinians can make choices of their own. Like, if your enemy has you shackled to a wall, wrists ankles and neck, you do still have the choice to thank him for his restraint and promise you'll love him forever, or you might choose to spit in his eye. And if he puts his finger in your mouth you have the choice whether to bite.

Palestinians are about as defeated as a people can be. Their privileges of making rockets or shooting handguns at israeli armor etc depend on the israelis not wanting to bother to restrain them further. Their survival depends only on israeli restraint, perhaps influenced by world opinion. If the israelis chose to kill them all and didn't mind using WMDs, in about 8 hours 90%+ of the palestinians would be dead, and within 2 weeks or so all but 1% or less would be mopped up. If they chose not to use WMDs it might take another week to get to 99%.

The only thing that keeps palestinians alive is that israelis don't really want to genocide them. For a long time the palestinians were so defeated they didn't even have a government that could unconditionally surrender. Then the israelis tried to give them a government and there was no point having it officially surrender.

Israelis didn't want to keep occupying palestinians, they wanted them to just go away and stop being such a bother. But palestinians won't leave unless israelis push them out. So they are hoped to have a Vichy-type government with flexible borders and israeli inspections of everything crossing those borders, israeli control of their airspace, israeli permission to bomb anywhere they think should be bombed, etc.

To actually have two states -- a real palestinian state -- the israelis would have to give palestinians far, far more control of their own country than they have now. Once when there was a start at a peace treaty that looked like it had some possibility, the israelis discovered Arafat trying to smuggle weapons into his country. They considered that an utter betrayal. But sovereign nations can choose to buy arms.

Any honest two-state arrangement will have to allow palestinians far more power than they have now. Enough to make it expensive for israel to conquer them again.

I'm not saying that palestinians have no choices. Clearly it would be better for them all to convert to christianity and tell the israelis they love them no matter what, and continually turn the other cheek, and promise they'd never ever do anything unpleasant no matter what. Just as that's probably your best response if you're shackled to a wall.

I'm saying that israelis -- if they agree to an actual peace -- will face a *risky* choice. They'll have to agree to give palestinians a whole lot more chances to hurt them, and hope it doesn't come out that way.

But isn't it bizarre to think that what one ought to do is implement a policy that threatens that very society with anarchy twenty years down the road?

Ara, I'm not Hilzoy but I want to answer you.

It's very very hard to look ahead 20 years. In politics it's very hard to look ahead even 5 years. Most politicians don't look beyond the next election, which leaves the USA with senators being the only ones who have to look too far.

On 9/10/2001, would you have imagined that in less than 6 years we'd be *here*? Can you guess what we'll be facing in another 6 years? I have guesses but no reason to think they'll come out better than they did in 2001.

So when I have the option to do something horrible now to stop something horrible 20 years from now, my instinct is to refrain. Something might come up within 20 years to alleviate or even solve the problem I predicted. Some new problem might arise that the current atrocity would make worse.

How much should you discount the future? Global warming? Nonprolferation is dead. China is growing their economy fast, and in response to our threats they've started modernising their army. Still no cheap alternate energy -- how do you keep a big middle class on expensive energy? Surveillance cameras keep getting cheaper -- the last quote I saw was $25 retail. How long before the $5 camera? $1? Ten cents and the size of a grain of sand? (Physics might stop that last, the smaller the eye the harder to get a clear image.) What kind of privacy laws will we get when observation is so cheap?

I personally tend to discount the future about 10%/year. I can imagine people whose lives are so stable they only discount about 3%/year. My 20-year future is depreciated to about 12%. I suppose rationally that would say it's right to kill 1 person now if I think it would save 8 lives in 20 years. But I tend to wait and hope something turns up, instead. I'm not good at taking drastic irrevocable action without an immediate threat.

So, say you believe there are too many male palestinian babies being born, and you want to kill, say, 20,000 of them a year for 20 years. That's 400,000 people. Do you think you'd be saving even 2 million people 20 years from now? So far in the killing the israelis have been ahead around 4:1. In a standup fight it would be an even better ratio. The future is very uncertain, but suppose it stays the same ratio. Do you want to kill 20,000 palestinian babies this year on the assumption you'll save 5,000 israelis 20 years from now? Wouldn't it be better to just wait and let the israelis kill them when they're ready to?

Joanna Russ wrote a short story where a man with a time machine went back to ancient Tyre and hired a sneak-thief to help him into the palace. He found a nursery and told her to kill the baby. "In 30 years he'll grow up and unjustly kill 50,000 peasants." And she refused. "Kill him in 30 years. I won't kill this baby now and neither will you." Or something like that.

There's a sufi/jewish story where a man is sentenced to death, and he claims he can teach a horse to read. The king gives him 2 years to do it. A friend visits him and laments about it all. He answers, "Ah, in 2 years many things may happen. The king may die. I might die. The horse might die. And who knows, maybe the horse will learn to read."

Don't do the evil stuff until you've given up all hope that some miracle might bail you out instead.

You know, even if you think the particular example of denying children vaccination is barbaric, there are lesser forms of the problem that might be closer to a hard case. After all, most any public health policy change is going to have demographic consequences. And while saving children might be an imperative, some of those possible policies with demographic consequences are less than obligatory for us to assume -- they are within the realm of policy choices we can legitimately decline. We're obligated to save someone if we can, but I doubt we're obligated to establish institutions like first-class health care in Gaza. Let's say some philanthropist did. One the one hand, this is as morally unimpeachable as it gets. On the other hand, it (let's suppose) predictably and reliably leads to a crisis twenty years down the line (discount the future however you want: I don't think time discounting is the issue here). I take it that people are responsible for the predictable and reliable consequences of their actions. If that is the case, why doesn't it call into question the Samaritanism of the philanthropist?

Maybe I'm neglecting something about the priority of different goods.

Ara, I say that time discounting and uncertainty discounting are serious issues. When you say "Let's make sure this baby dies because if we let him live he'll grow up and destabilise society" you're making a whole lot of assumptions about the future that are not at all certain. For example, the USA doesn't have a lot of real stable friends and enemies. Often our priorities shift. In 20 years we could be accepting a lot of palestinians into the US army and giving them US citizenship for it. We might need those recruits. You just don't know.

In your basic claim you seem to be saying there should be one undisputed morality that good people would agree on. I don't think that's so.

You appear to think that we should know the consequences of our actions, and we should do the things that have the best consequences in the long run and avoid the things that on average have worse long-run consequences. But I know some people think that it's better to simply do good yourself, regardless of consequences.

So for example, imagine that there's somebody who doesn't want you to do good. So any time you give money to a beggar, if he finds out about it he'll go find the beggar and hit him in the head with a big club. And if he finds out that you've said something pleasant to a co-worker, he'll go to their house and kill their pets. And if he finds out you've given money to a charity, he'll go to the charity's headquarters and burn it down. If you accept that your good actions usually have bad consequences then you will avoid doing anything good. No smiling, no jokes, no good deeds, etc. Because he is so much more powerful than you, and he can turn your good deeds bad. And then once you let him control you, he can give you commands. "Go to the corner of 17th and B, find a beggar near there and spit in his face. Otherwise I'll kill him." He can make you do evil to prevent worse evil. He can make you do intense evil provided he convinces you that otherwise he'll do something worse. This is not a good way to live.

If we don't know for sure the consequences of our actions, then it makes some sense to do what seems good in the short run and hope the long run works out. Then you don't find yourself later telling Saint Peter "I bombed the subway system and killed 3000 people, but I was doing *good* because otherwise he'd have nuked the whole city.".

But then, people in government face these sorts of questions often. They have to do the best they can with the resources they have -- that's their job. And in general they follow routine. Since they must work in a framework, coordinating with many many other people, if they break out of the framework they'll disrupt the cooperation. Generals spend their time thinking about logistics because if they make a tactical decision that the logistics aren't prepared to back up, they fail. In warfare where there are front lines, pull a unit out of the line to do something innovative and there's a chance the enemy will pour through the hole. It just doesn't work. You have to mostly follow the existing plan.

Similarly if you're running a humanitarian organisation and you tell your people "We're going to let these people over here die in an epidemic because we've decided they're better off dead" then it's likely morale will go bad. The professionals will be dispirited and the volunteers won't want to volunteer. They'll think you've turned political, that you have chosen a side to back and you're ready to kill people for your beliefs.

And they'll be right.

Humanitarian organisations are organised to do humanitarian stuff. If you want to start a humanitarian organisation that involuntarily sterilises women in places that will be overpopulated otherwise, or that works to prevent immunization and to start epidemics trying to optimise population sizes, then go to it. I don't think existing humanitarian organisations fit your framework.

JThomas: For time discounting to be possible here carries with it its own assumptions. For one, it assumes something about how we can relate our alternative courses of action. All we know for sure is that we can rank alternatives. What we don't know is whether the question "How much better is doing X over doing Y?" can have a numerical answer.

Uncertainty is of course a factor in any practical decision. I just think the point I was making doesn't depend on it, so I wanted to keep things as simple as possible and ignore it for the moment.

Your example is a fine one, and I thank my lucky stars every morning that I am not in the grips of an evil demon. But I have to say that I think a person who didn't try to humor the demon to a point to avert the loss of innocent life is misguided. Of course you can slowly narrow the gap between what he asks you to do and what he threatens, but that just means we can be forced by circumstances into no-win situations. I don't think the presence of tough cases at the boundaries means that most cases aren't clear and solvable.

On your last paragraph: I suspect there is a distinction to be made between forcibly harming someone and simply not helping them, even if the outcome is this same for them. That's a distinction that a person who thinks what we ought to do comes down to time discounting alternative outcomes would be inclined to dismiss. But I think the distinction is significant.

After all, both a doctor and a mugger offer you the same ultimatum: "Your money or your life!"

Ara, I say that humanitarian aid is something that people choose to do for whatever reasons they choose it, and there isn't any defined moral reasons that say when it's obligated.

So sure, help anybody you feel like helping. Don't help anybody you don't feel like helping. It's all your choice.

But then there's the more important question about stopping other people who want to help.

Your example is a fine one, and I thank my lucky stars every morning that I am not in the grips of an evil demon. But I have to say that I think a person who didn't try to humor the demon to a point to avert the loss of innocent life is misguided.

You might do better to try to render the "demon" powerless. If you do his work for him, you are his minion. Then when somebody else defeats him and has war crimes trials you can say "I was only following orders.".

Now, back to your general example. There's a well-known factoid that says after child mortality goes way down it takes a couple of generations before people really believe it and adjust their birth rates down. So the population rises for those generations and then it levels off. You argue that the increasing population causes social problems, and so the people would be better off if the infant and child mortality rates don't drop after all. I have some trouble seeing how that's really better -- you want them to have a high birthrate forever?

But then there's the problem that vaccines etc are fairly cheap. Safe water and sewage are not cheap, but vaccines are. If you decide not to vaccinate children, somebody else will do it. So if you think it's better for it not to be done, you have to stop everybody else too. No humanitarian agent can stop all the other humanitarians. If we want to spare palestinians the problems of a too-large population, the US government and/or the israeli government will have to do the work of preventing humanitarian aid.

You can argue that it's really a humanitarian gesture to prevent humanitarian aid. But look back at the story where somebody's keeping you from doing good ... if you follow out this logic and act on it, then you're the demon!

Haggai's view of the way forward.

Interesting link, rilkefan. The article would be better if haggai spent as much time exposing the problems with Fatah, Israel, and the actually existing US as it does discussing Hamas. There are reasonable-sounding people in all factions, including Hamas, but they don't seem to be the ones who control behavior.

If the US really did put as much pressure on Israel as it is always willing to put on the Palestinians to reach something like the Geneva initiative as an end result, it might have a chance of working. But that's unlikely and not just because of Bush. Dennis Ross on the Newshour last night was already giving excuses for Israel not to do much of anything until the Palestinians suppressed terrorism, claiming that the checkpoints inside the West Bank were there to protect Israel proper, not the settlers. I don't doubt that some Israeli military activity inside the West Bank might be necessary if the Palestinians can't or won't control terrorism, but to say that all the checkpoints are necessary to protect Israel itself, not the settlers, shows the kind of bad faith that will continue to discredit America as an honest broker. There also needs to be pressure to constrain Israel's human rights violations, but that never seems to enter into the discussion in the US--it's as if only Palestinians kill civilians (these days more of their own than Israeli, though Israel continues to hold the lead in killing or wounding civilians.)

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