Saturday, December 04, 2004

# Posted 5:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHOUDA THUNKIT? This may be this first time that OxBlog has had anything good to say about Henry Kissinger. It may also be the last.

Regardless, I'd recommend taking a minute or two out of your day to read old Henry's essay on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in yesterday's WaPo. [No permalink -- due to copyright issues it is only available in the print edition.]

The one point on which I'd take issue with Kissinger is exactly the one you might expect: democracy in the PA. To be fair, Kissinger is actually quite good on this point. His essays speaks out forcefully against corruption and lawlessness while recognizing that transparent institutions (his words, not mine) are critical to the success of a viable (and peaceful) Palestinian state.

The lesser point on which I disagree with Dr. Kissinger is his suggestion that Israel
Must not insist on postponing the beginning of the peace process until democratization on the West Bank is complete. But it has every right to demand the acceptance of genuine coexistence and the disavowal of terrorism before it agrees to move tens of thousands of its settlers from the West Bank.
First of all, I don't believe that Israel has made such a demand. More importantly, as the situation in Iraq illustrates, democratic reforms may actually be considerably easier to achieve than a disavowal of terrorism. Whereas disavowing terrorism represents an outright concession to the Israelis in the West Bank and the Americans in Iraq, democracy is something of a win-win proposition.

Speaking more broadly, Kissinger seems to be making the same conceptual error that damaged John Kerry's proposals for Iraq, i.e. the proposition that stability can be achieved without democratization. This proposition, of course, is an extension of the classic Realist doctrine that the relationship between foreign policy and regime type is tenuous at best.

Yet as Bob Kagan has argued quite persuasively (with OxBlog's hearty endorsement), democratization is the most plausible road to achieving stability, even if its accomplishments so far are less than impressive. Kagan's column was about Iraq, but I think the same lesson applies to the PA.

Since Arafat's legitimacy rested on reputation as anti-Israeli figher, he could not make peace without risking his leadership of the Palestinian movement. In contrast, a Palestinian leader with a popular mandate can make peace without sacrificing his own ambitions.

Naturally, the inherent risk in the election process in the PA is that it may result in the election of a President (e.g. Marwan Barghouti) who refuses to disavow anti-Israeli terrorism. Yet the election of a figure such as Barghouti would at least force the Palestinians to take responsibility for their decisions. After five more years of war, they may well vote for a pro-peace candidate.

Five years is a long time to wait, but what is it compared to the last decade of chaos under Arafat? Throughout that time, Palestinians could blame Israel both for the persistence of conflict as well as the failure of internal reform within the PA.

Barghouti might even turn out to be something of as Sharon -- elected on a hard-line platform only to recognize its futility and then initiate the pursuit of peace. Or perhaps that is only pipe-dream. Even so, the bottom line is that the peace process cannot move forward until Palestinians take joint respoinsibility for its outcome.

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