Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Time to learn from mistakes

MJ Rosenberg has a great post on the probably-doomed peace talks between Israel and Syria:
Sadat was primarily interested in the formerly-Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and, particularly, in regaining the east bank of the Suez Canal so he could re-open the canal to international shipping. As for Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and the Palestinian issue, that was for negotiating about later.

Israel took note of Sadat's stated willingness to talk. Prime Minister Golda Meir acknowledged that Sadat was "the first Egyptian leader to say he was ready to make peace." But she was not interested in negotiating with Sadat over Sinai, not in 1971. As Meir said later: "We never had it so good." Israel had security and the territories. Who cared what Sadat offered or withheld?

So when Sadat said that in return for an Israeli pullback of 2-3 miles from the east bank of the canal he would begin negotiations toward a full peace, the Israeli government said "no."...

The war cost Israel 3,000 young lives - all of whom would likely have been spared if Israel had taken up Egypt 's offer. In the end, Israel got peace with Egypt but at the price of surrendering not a mere 2-3 miles of the Sinai, but every last inch of it. And thousands of lost sons, fathers, and brothers. (It is worth noting that the pro-Israel community’s backing of Israel’s resistance to Nixon’s “pressure” contributed to the worst disaster in Israel’s history–a demonstration that unthinking and uncritical “support” is, in fact, anything but).
It's difficult to overstate the importance of, bluntly, racism in Israeli thinking at this point in history. After the immense success of the 1967 war, Israeli military and civilian leaders regularly spoke of the Arab nations as having been so thoroughly humiliated that they wouldn't dare attack Israel for a generation or more.

So even when Arab spies flew in to Tel Aviv with the documents proving an attack was coming the government ignored it, simply believing the documents were forgeries. And Israel came as close as it's ever been to national destruction. This was totally avoidable, and even more tragic considering it was totally unnecessary, as Rosenberg notes.

So the short version is that if Syria is really offering peace, the Israeli government would be insane not to take the opportunity.

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