All of my life I’ve heard people – politicians, journalists, pundits – yearn wistfully for peace in the Middle East. As a kid I didn’t think about it much, I was more interested in sports, and my analysis didn’t go much beyond the determination that peace=good and war=bad.

I was in college when the peace process ramped up again in 1991. Madrid was followed by Oslo which was followed by eight other conferences, summits, road maps, or memoranda. Keeping up with all of the agreements, disagreements, claims, counterclaims, violations, attacks, et cetera ad nauseum, is a full time job for those so inclined. But what I’ve always wondered is, if so may people want peace in the Middle East, why isn’t there peace?
The obvious answer is not everyone involved in this conflict wants peace. By most accounts, including that of Bill Clinton, the primarily opposition to peace is Palestinian. Arafat had his reasons for rejecting the peace deal Clinton brokered, but the only conclusion one can draw from his decision is that while he may have desired peace he wanted it on his terms. He placed a higher priority on those terms than he did on peace itself.
Fast forward to 2014 and the current military conflict. Israel is still committed to a two-state peace process, but Hamas "will not recognize Israel" according to the deputy chairman of their political bureau, who went on to say that "we would have spared ourselves seven years of misery under the siege and two wars in 2008 and 2012 had we wanted to recognize Israel."
So Hamas doesn’t want peace if that peace includes the existence of Israel as a nation. If you’re an Israeli, it’s kind of hard to negotiate with that as a starting point. One side wants peace, the other side wants them to leave or die.
As a result, Hamas has continually attacked Israel using rockets and mortars, so much so that there’s a Wikipedia page detailing the attacks by month and year. Hamas kidnapped and murdered three teenagers in June, contributing to the current Israeli military incursion (there were also retaliations by Israelis).
Given this background (and I realize I’ve barely scratched the surface) I find the current demonization of Israel quite curious. Dozens of Nobel Laureates, academics, journalists and politicians signed a letter condemning Israel. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators torched cars and Israeli flags in France. Not even the Israeli soccer team issafe.
It takes two sides to create peace, and Hamas has clearly said they’re not interested. That’s their prerogative of course, and they’re trying to win the long war and increase their status and negotiating position through highlighting perceived Israeli overreactions to their provocations. What’s surprising is that so many people, including prominent peace activists, fall for it.
I’ll believe Hamas wants peace when Hamas starts acting like it wants peace. Until then, peace in the Middle East looks to be unattainable.
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