Why Realists Ought to Be Skeptics

Why Realists Ought to Be Skeptics

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

When it comes to Middle East negotiations it is wonderful to be optimistic and hope that Secretary Kerry actually has breathed new life into efforts to revive the peace talks which had been wallowing now for several years. In fact, the first phase of talks in Washington on Monday night and Tuesday went off very well. It included a 30 minute visit with the President, polite upbeat statements from both negotiators, and an agreement to resume the meetings shortly in the region. Best of all both sides appear to have complied with Secretary Kerry’s request that there would be no press leaks or side comments and that all announcements would emanate from the State Department.  From the outside, it appears things could not have gone better.

Unfortunately, on the ground from Egypt where President Mahmoud Abbas was visiting the new Egyptian President—probably a total waste of air fuel—a statement was released by Abbas which made one pinch oneself.  In commenting on the talks which had just begun in Washington and the type of Palestinian state that the negotiations should produce, the L.A. Times reported that Abbas said: “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands, .…” In other words Abbas wants the country to be judenrein (cleansed of Jews as the Nazis phrased it), except he called for it to be cleansed of Israelis!

While Abbas did not call for the killing of all Jews, this kind of language at the onset of negotiations with a neighbor with whom you wish to live in peace and security sounds mighty suspect. It reflects some of the ugliest, most odious commentaries that pervade the history of anti-Semitism. To quote the famous story about the scorpion’s comment to the tortoise after stinging his ferry in the middle of the river, as they were both about to sink: “I don’t know why I stung you; it’s just the Middle East.”

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