Israel and the Arabs: It's about ideology, not territory

Tuesday, September 02, 2008 |  Ryan Jones

Sought-after Israeli expert and former chief of the Israeli army, Moshe Yaalon warned this week that Western efforts notwithstanding, there will never be peace in the Middle East until brokers like the United States acknowledge the true roots of the conflict.

"The central conflict of the Middle East is not territorial but ideological; not about borders but about Islamic Jihadism and Western liberty," wrote Yaalon in a new position paper for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Yaalon explained that the current peace process, which is based on Israeli territorial concessions, is only exacerbating the problem, as evidenced by the fact that the Middle East is far more violent and far more of a threat to world stability today than it was two decades ago.

"No ideology, least of all radical Islam, can be defeated by concessions, which encourage, energize, and inspire Jihadists," noted Yaalon. "Those who wish for peace must face and assimilate this fact, and realize that territorial concessions, or any concessions in any realm in the struggle against militant Islam, have been consistently counterproductive."

Yaalon says the way forward is to turn the peace process on its head, to force the Palestinian Arabs to first prove that they are willing to and capable of governing a free and democratic state at peace with Israel before any territory is turned over.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been purposely sidestepping this requirement by presenting his Western benefactors with a picture of temporary administrative weakness resulting from Israeli security measures, says Yaalon. America and Europe have responded by postponing implementation of the Palestinians' core obligations, while still demanding immediate Israeli compliance.

Yaalon suggests that this is part of a well-thought-out plan by the Palestinians. "The image of political impotence has become a precious asset in the Palestinian strategy."

Yaalon also took issue with the alternative peace strategies of Israeli President Shimon Peres and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, which stress improving the Palestinians' economic situation as a first step toward peace.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made it his mission to secure an ever growing stream of funds for the Palestinians, but Yaalon insists that until Abbas or a new Palestinian leader focuses on educating their people for peace, all the foreign financial assistance in the world will not bring about peace.

"Unless the Palestinians are first convinced through education to give up the extremism which informs their national and religious aspirations, they cannot be expected to be full partners in building a vibrant Palestinian economy."

But with their violent and implacable ideology deeply rooted in Islam's ancient tenets, few expect that Yaalon's plan would result in peace, either. Though it would serve to once and for all expose the lies that the two-state solution is viable and that the Palestine Liberation Organization (under the guise of the Palestinian Authority) is a true peace partner.

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