“I’m ready to negotiate with the PLO. I believe we should sit with them and tell them, No.” Rabbi Meir Kahane
Arab countries don’t care much about Jews getting a tiny state somewhere in the unruly lands of Palestine—unruly to the extent that even Ibrahim Pasha’s army, acting atrociously, hardly enforced a semblance of order here. Like the kids from a bad neighborhood, they tested the newcomer with kicks and found him okay. Arab rulers judge the issue of Israel pragmatically: in 1967, for example, the annihilation of Israel would have given Nasser the laurels of an indisputable pan-Arab leader and solidified his support at home. Today, Egypt finds its peace treaty with Israel highly useful, as it allows Egypt to receive massive American aid, build an advanced army, bug Israel with the time-tested fellaheen strategy, and feel safe from Israeli retaliation. Egypt’s domestic propaganda uses Israel to vent the mob’s feelings, and its security services steer radical Muslim organizations to fight Israel rather than the Egyptian government. Egypt thus is perfectly fine with its status quo vis-a-vis Israel.
The Saudis enjoy both the laurels of peacemakers and pan-Arab diplomatic leaders, and are regarded as the flagship of Islamic anti-Israel struggle which supports Fatah, Hamas, PIJ, and other terrorist organizations. Just like Egypt, Saudi Arabia finds Israel useful to suck the energies of domestic radicals.
In a famous piece of folly, Moshe Dayan announced after the 1967 victory, “I’m waiting for a phone call from Hussein.” The idea was that the Arabs would rush to get back their lands in return for peace. Rational Jews like Moshe Dayan have long forgotten that national pride is not for sale; for those Jews, everything has a price tag. Naturally, Arabs reacted contrary to Dayan’s expectation with their famous Three No’s: no to negotiations, no to peace, and no to recognition of Israel. Syria cared very little about the Golan Heights, which it had only acquired decades before. Jordan accepted losing the West Bank, which was never its major concern anyway, and Egypt couldn’t care less about the Sinai: a useless desert settled by hostile, unruly Bedouin far away from Egypt’s traditional sphere of influence and from the Nile farmers’ mentality. The Arabs were smart enough to sense that Israel seeks peace, and that she would eventually give way to their demands, especially as implacable Arab hostility pushed the West to push Israel for a settlement. Cunning politicians imagine that they can fool their opponents in artful negotiations; in reality, the simple, straightforward, firm positions often win. The Soviet Union routinely prevailed in diplomatic encounters, with Foreign Minister Molotoff earning the nickname of “Mister No,” and so do the Arabs. When one side refuses to give in, the other side does.
Israeli peace mavens (and the Talmud describes doves as the most cruel beings) imagine that Arabs want economic and financial cooperation with Israel. Those countries, however, are so backward that they cannot even refine their own oil into petroleum. The idea of economic development is alien to the Arab mind. Economic cycles in Arab countries proceed in this manner: pump oil, waste the proceeds, steal the balance. Even if the Arabs miraculously convert to Adam Smith’s faith, they have plenty of qualified pastors with the best economic degrees from England, France, Germany, and the United States. They simply don’t need Israel. Besides, there is not much of the touted Arab wealth. The ten-fold population increase in the twentieth century created huge pressure on Arab budgets, for which no oil can compensate. Unable and unwilling to work productively—work is just not a part of their Bedouin culture—Arabs consume oil revenues for welfare in real time, and per-person allocations continue to shrink.
There are other, non-Bedouin Muslims, mainly in the Nile Delta of Egypt and in the river plains of Iran and Iraq. The millennia-long agricultural heritage imbued them with certain work ethics, but their habits are still tremendously behind those required in the technological age. It is not for nothing that even in Israel, Arab graduates of Jewish universities lag far behind the Jews in employment. Or that the Israeli Arab farmers are backward compared to Jewish farmers just a few miles away from them. The world’s economy is satiated with the diligent hands of China and Southeast Asia: there is no demand for Arab hands. The Agricultural revolution, which touches the Islamic world only now, will produce huge unemployment in agriculture, flood Muslim cities with jobless, unskilled peasants, and radicalize their societies—as happened in Russia in the early twentieth century and as happens in Turkey today. No amount of Israeli involvement would significantly improve Arab economies.
The current Middle East is different from that of sixty years ago. The Arabs bullied a new kid on the block, found him tough, and accepted him—without saying so much. A watershed comment was reported recently in the Jerusalem Post: a senior Kuwaiti adviser said that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear reactor would be preferable to an American one. On the surface, he meant that Israel is Kuwait’s enemy, America is a friend, and Kuwait would be embarrassed if its friend attacked Iran. But the fellow said, “less embarrassing,” implying that an Israeli strike wouldn’t differ from an American qualitatively. His point was that Israel is “one of us,” and so can exert a sort of brotherly admonition on Iran. Russians exhibit a love-hate relationship with America, which parallels the Arab hate-and-admiration attitude toward Israel. So long as Israel acts strongly and avoids pleading for peace, Arabs will respect her and eventually enter into a de facto peace.
What should be done about peace talks with Arabs is simple: nothing. Israel gains nothing from peace treaties with Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and the like. We will not risk substantially reducing the IDF, and Arabs will not start loving us as cousins. Palestinian peace advances should be ignored: if they want a state, let them proclaim it in whatever areas they actually possess. If they continue fighting us, we will fight back as one fights states. If they carp about Jerusalem or the settlement blocs, we will repel that aggressor state. No Palestinian migrant workers in Israel, no trade with Palestine, no services provided to it, just abandon the areas densely settled by Arabs. Many countries have unruly border areas, and Israel can live with an unruly West Bank. Don’t object to Palestinian statehood and don’t agree to it, but ignore it. In any negotiations, Israel only gives, but takes nothing. Abandoning all negotiations with Arabs is objectively the most beneficial approach Israel can take.