Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” is an interesting book in many ways, but what stuck in my scientifically-oriented and disaster-fascinated mind was what he called “Ice Nine.” Ice Nine is a form of water that is solid at room temperature.* The thing about Ice Nine is that when it comes into contact with ordinary water, it immediately causes it to crystallize into Ice Nine. So when a living creature containing water touches even a tiny quantity of Ice Nine, it immediately freezes solid, killing it. And if Ice Nine were to escape into the environment…well, you can imagine what would happen (in the book, it does).
So why do I bring this up? Because it reminds me of the reaction of American liberals and progressives – including most of the Democratic presidential candidates – to the “Deal of the Century” offered to Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump is Ice Nine to them. They are afraid that they will freeze solid if they touch anything that he has had a hand in. So even though the deal promises to cut the Gordian Knot of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the knot that Clinton, Bush, and Obama failed to untie (Obama pulled it tighter), they won’t touch it.
J Street called it a “sham” and attacked it vehemently. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar signed a letter opposing it along with other Democratic senators. Joe Biden called it “counterproductive” and Pete Buttigieg referred to it as “a political green light to the leader of one [side] for unilateral annexation.”
And these are the relative moderates. I won’t bother to quote the more Palestinized sectors of the Left.
The main thing they all hate about it is that it unashamedly lays down conditions – primarily that the Palestinian “state” that will be created will not be sovereign in all respects – that are required to insure Israel’s security. In addition, it follows UNSC resolution 242 and establishes “secure borders,” as opposed to reversing the outcome of the 1967 war that was demanded by the PLO and (essentially) by President Obama. The stated objection that there has been no Palestinian participation in the plan is somewhat vitiated by the fact that the Palestinians have refused to participate from the beginning, and still do.
But this is precisely why this plan might bring peace. The idea that the PLO, with its unrealistic demands, should be an equal partner, is ridiculous. This process is actually the final settlement of the dispute marked by the hot wars of 1948, 1967, and 1973, as well as the simmering conflict between them which has continued until today. It should be noted that Israel was victorious in those major wars, and in suppressing the interbellum terrorism and mini-wars. Trump’s plan must be viewed as the terms of surrender which the Palestinians and Arab states have no choice but to accept. It is in fact quite generous in allowing them any input at all (on the condition that they agree to provide it). Those who sputter about the unfairness of it all should consider the Nazi-style “settlement” that would certainly have been imposed upon the Jews had the Arabs won any of those wars.
Previous “peace” plans, like the Clinton Parameters, the Road Map, the Arab Peace Plan, and the attempts by Olmert and Obama to reach an agreement, have all implicitly or explicitly accepted the Arab/Palestinian narrative, in which the result of the 1967 war must be reversed. The PLO, in its demand for a right of return for those with “Palestinian refugee” status, in effect also calls for the reversal of the 1948 war and the creation of the State of Israel.
President Trump’s actions from the beginning have been based on the idea that the US should face reality in the region: Israel’s capital is Jerusalem, she is sovereign in the Golan Heights, the Palestinians do not have a “right to resist” by terrorism, stateless refugee status for the descendants of 1948 refugees cannot continue forever, and Jewish communities in the territories are not illegal. With this plan, the US completes the process of recognizing the realities of the region since 1948, and especially since 1967.
Naturally, the PLO is outraged, because they have convinced themselves – with the help of their friends in antisemitic Europe and elsewhere – that their tendentious narrative (I was going to write “fairy tale”) of dispossession by settler-colonialists was accepted by the international community and that community was on the verge of forcing the Jews to surrender and present their necks for slaughter. Fortunately, this so-called community, which is nothing more than the bloc of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation plus some guilt-obsessed European officials, does not have the power to do more than pass resolutions in the UN, which it does, regularly.
The US, on the other hand, has a great deal of economic and military power if it chooses to use it, and by finally recognizing reality, can terminate the conflict and make it possible for Israelis and Palestinian Arabs to have a chance to live normal lives.
I would like to close with a message to American liberals and progressives: I know you hate Trump and would do anything to get rid of him. I know you believe him to be incompetent and dishonest, and that nothing he could do could possibly come out right. But here he is doing precisely the right thing to solve a problem that has been causing pain to millions of people for about a hundred years (I am going back to al-Husseini’s pogroms of the 1920s). Please attack him about something else, and let him finish this job.
All of Israel will be grateful. And although the Palestinian Arabs don’t know it, they should be too.
*Actually, there really is such a substance, but it only exists under conditions of very high pressure. There are a total of 17 known different crystalline phases of ice and there may be more.
In one sense the plan recognizes the realities. But in another sense it is a bit Utopian. It is a plan that is made to bring peace and prosperity to the Israelis and the Palestinians when not even one Palestinian politico, major or minor has indicated that they are open to any peace plan at all. In other words recognizing reality would mean recognizing that there is nothing really to do with or for the Palestinian Arabs so long as they have the mentality and leadership they do.
It thus seems to me that recognizing the reality means understanding the no-peace situation will continue for many years to come. What is good about the Trump plan in this sense is that it does not force Israel to make any concessions before the Palestinians show that they are ready for this.
As for convincing the knee-jerk hate-Trump people to look at his actions on any given issue with some degree of objectivity, this too seems, I am sorry to say, like a Messianic dream.