When it comes to Middle East peace-making, there seems to be consensus that the only way forward is trading land for peace. And yet, in the context of other similar conflicts, most insist that swapping land for peace is a monumental mistake.
Russia claims that regions of eastern Ukraine that are mostly Russian-speaking should be within Russia’s borders. In other words, Ukraine is “occupying” historically-Russian territory, and Moscow wants it back.
If only Ukraine would acquiesce, the present conflict between the two nations would come to an end.
But that argument is largely rejected by Western officials, who vehemently rejected Russia’s recent annexation of Donbas. Still wary of the mistake of giving Hitler the Sudetenland when he made similar claims against Czechoslovakia, they say Vladimir Putin’s comparable ambitions must not be fed.
The debate over how to end this conflict is again in the headline after tech billionaire Elon Musk echoed those earlier calls for Ukraine to essentially admit defeat and cede territory to Russia. Musk insisted that he remains pro-Ukraine, but also doesn’t want to see the conflict spiral out of control, possibly even to the point of nuclear war.
Ukraine, of course, was angered by Musk’s proposal. But it also garnered opposition and ridicule from foreign policy experts.
The Atlantic Council, for example, spotted a number of problems in Musk’s line of thinking:
- It “ignores the genocidal reality of the war.” Russia gets away with war crimes.
- It relies on “flawed assumptions of Russia’s behavior and capabilities.” Can we trust the Russians to behave better after an agreement? And, are their threats really that viable?
- Russia itself “has not put forward a single sensible peace plan” since the war began. Why does anyone think the Kremlin actually wants peace?
Indeed, all of these points could just as easily been written about Israel’s Arab foes, who have committed horrendous atrocities against the Jewish state, have repeatedly proved themselves untrustworthy, and, far from putting forward any viable peace proposal of their own, still speak openly of eradicating the “Zionist entity.”
Back to the Atlantic Council, a widely respected Washington-based think tank, which stated:
“When proponents of a supposedly realistic peace agreement call on Ukraine to cede territory, they are actually asking Ukraine to accept genocide.”
Again, the parallels with the Israeli-Arab conflict are clear.
The position paper goes on to note that now is not the time to be pushing Ukraine to surrender when it is winning the war.
“Elon Musk and other self-styled realists fail to grasp that Russia currently has far more reason than Ukraine to seek an off-ramp from the conflict, even if it may be hard to swallow for Russians.”
Israel, too, surprised its numerically superior foes, defeating them in war after war, until finally, from a position of strength, it convinced several of those former enemies to do a complete 180 and normalize relations through the Abraham Accords.
Strength and resilience, not concessions of land, led to that achievement. Just as the Atlantic Council suggests will eventually happen in Ukraine.
In the article’s conclusion, too, the word “Ukrainians” could very easily be replaced by “Israelis”:
“Ukrainians want peace, but not at any price. Crucially, they recognize that unless they are victorious, their homeland will cease to exist.”
In Israel’s case continuing to press the land-for-peace formula is even more egregious since the Jews did agree to such an arrangement initially. But the Arabs rejected it and attacked them.
What would be the international community’s response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreeing to cede Crimea and Donbas in exchange for peace, only to have Putin reject the offer and continue attacking Ukraine?
Because that’s the response the world should have had to the Arab League in decades past, and the PLO/Palestinian Authority today. Israel handed over Jericho, Gaza, Hebron and much of the so-called “West Bank”…and terrorism increased.
Those who insist that the only solution is to defeat the unrepentant aggressor are right. Now they need to apply that logic consistently, to all conflicts.
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