A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is turning her attention to the Middle East Peace Process, and certainly clear thinking people of all inclinations can join in wishing her well.
But some things are so simple they become difficult. Since the 1967 Arab/Israeli War, U.S. Presidents and Secretaries of State of BOTH parties have been pursuing the peace "process" in the Middle East. It has become all but obligatory, the diplomatic and political equivalent of a physical reflex. The actual achievement of PEACE has become secondary. As long as the all-important "process" is engaged, that's the important thing.
The seminal question I have always had on this matter is this: "How does one seriously negotiate ANYTHING with parties that are sworn to accomplish your violent death and destruction"? Can we not begin to unravel the Gordian Knot that is Middle East geopolitics by confronting such indendiary statements? Consider Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel. How does one say to him, a man whose first responsibility is the safety and security of his people, "come now Benjamin; it is time to make an agreement with Nations that are publicly on record as demanding your annihilation". Why would Secretary Clinton, and all those who have preceeded her, even bother to board a plane without first publicly demanding the retraction of such tripe? The "process" has become so dysfunctionally convoluted that we can no longer see the obvious and quintissential beginning point.
What if Secretary Clinton said to the Arabs something like this, wrapped of course in the appropriate diplomatically polished prose:
"Look guys - all this talk of Israel having no right to exist, and how it is your life's mission to wipe it off the face of the earth - well, that's really not helping matters. And the Obama Administration won't be spending one iota of time, money, or polticial capital to support the "process" until you can bring yourself to acknowledge what the entire world already knows: Israel IS a legitimate State and they DO have a right to exist. That question was settled way back in 1948 - remember"??!!
What possible progress can Ms. Clinton or anyone else make without a retreat from this committment to Armageddon?
And if Ahmadinejad and his lunatic band of ruling Mullahs were to publicly confirm Israel's right to exist as a political entity and a free people, Ms. Clinton might then be able to say to Netanyahu : "Hey Ben - now that those other guys have sobered up a bit, can you agree to begin the serious work of establishing a geographically buffered Palestianian State, and dedicate yourself to a meaningful plan for its implementation"?
Of what possible use are more meetings and conferences? They are nothing more than diplomatically sanitized photo. ops.; an insult to the thousands who have died and to the living who rely on their leaders to do the serious work of finding a peace.
Centuries ago Augustine wrote in his seminal work The City of God that , "it is one thing to see from a mountaintop the land of peace. It is quite another to walk the paths that lead to it".
Anything else is just so much diplomatic window dressing, and we should have the courage to say so.