The wave of change now sweeping the Middle East should give pause to those who argue that if only Israel would recognize a Palestinian state, there would be peace, writes James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal.
"In the past few weeks, we've seen revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, a brutal and continuing attempt to put down a rebellion in Libya, and varying degrees of unrest, sometimes violent, in Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Sudan and Yemen," he adds. None of this is related to the Israeli/Palestinian dispute.
Nick Cohen, who writes for the London Observer (described by Taranto as "a British leftist who does not loathe Israel"), criticized others on the left for failing to "stick by universal principles and support a just settlement for the Palestinians while opposing the dictators who kept Arabs subjugated." But few on the left "have been able to oppose oppression in all its forms consistently," according to Cohen.
"Far from being a cause of the revolution, antagonism to Israel everywhere served the interest of oppressors," he adds. Hamas, Saudi monarchs, Syrian Ba'athists, and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi promoted the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Right before the Libyan revolt, Gaddafi used a tactic his anti-Semitic predecessors would have understood - attempting to deflect popular Libyan anger by calling for a Palestinian revolution against Israel.
To Taranto, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "is largely a product of Arab dictators, a point even Thomas Friedman acknowledges in a recent column." Friedman writes: "The Arab tyrants, precisely because they were illegitimate, were the ones who fed their people hatred of Israel as a diversion."
But, according to Taranto, Friedman "manages to get the story backward" - using the possibility of a more democratic Arab world to argue for more Israeli concessions to achieve peace with the Palestinians. Friedman argues that, if such a peace were achieved, Arab voices advocating conflict with Israel "would have legitimate competition, and democratically elected leaders will have to be much more responsive to their people's priorities, which are for more schools, not wars."
But in the past, Friedman has advocated that Israel make concessions to authoritarian, non-democratic Arab rulers. In 2002, Taranto points out, Friedman suggested the Arab states offer Israel "full diplomatic relations, normalized trade and security guarantees" in exchange for a total Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 lines. In 2009 Friedman pushed for a peace settlement involving creation of a Palestinian state and promises by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia aimed at guaranteeing Israel's security.
What if Israel and these Arab rulers had actually made such a deal? Taranto suggests the results would have been dire for Israel:
"From Israel's creation in 1948 until the 1979 Iranian revolution, Jerusalem had close relations with the authoritarian government of the shah. The current regime in Iran is dedicated to Israel's destruction. It's hard to see how Israel would be better off today if it had entrusted its security to the Arab dictators whose own people have suddenly made them an endangered species."