In “Peace between unequal parties” Andrew J. Bacevich argued that Israel introduced unreasonable demands into negotiations with the Palestinians in order to sabotage the peace process or gain unfair advantage. His evidence for this proposition was that Israel, the stronger of the two parties, had the power to make unreasonable demands, and that therefore, given the laws of realpolitik, it must have done so. Bacevich then used this contention to vitiate the possibility that Israeli negotiators were guided by legitimate and defensible interests. We beg to differ.
Israel is surrounded by hostile populations who live in politically unstable countries. The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, recently entered into a unity agreement with Hamas, which rejects Israel’s right to exist, advocates violent resistance, and is a plausible contender to lead a future Palestinian government.
This same Palestinian Authority refuses to accept any accord with Israel as final disposition of all claims and does little to restrain those who reject Israel’s legitimacy.
Should the day come that an agreement is finally achieved, Israel will find that 90 percent of its population will be in range of small-arms fire.
Israeli negotiators are justifiably interested in seeing this danger mitigated. Bacevich airbrushed this legitimate interest from his portrayal of the negotiations. This insistence on a singular and sanitized portrait of the problem mirrors the intransigent polemics that have made the process of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians so intractable.