A word of advice from Northern Ireland
By NIGEL DODDS
In our process we were told of so-called benefits of ‘constructive ambiguity,’ but, its disadvantages far outweighed advantages.
Since its foundation, Israel has been a flame of light in a region of despotic darkness. It is a flame of freedom, of democracy and of human rights. In a region plagued by dictatorship, nepotism and corruption, such light is sorely needed.
Israel’s nurturing of this flame has been a startling achievement. Throughout its existence, the State of Israel has lived under a relentless, genocidal threat. It would have been easy to justify divergence from the path of democracy in such circumstances, but it has held true.
It is the duty of Western democracies to ensure that this flame is not diminished but rather shines brighter than ever before. It is our duty to ensure a future for Israel free from threat. It is our duty to ensure that Israel achieves a right and deserved peace. Regrettably, too many in the West fail to accept these responsibilities, and so it falls to us to fight to change that.
While we fight this battle for hearts and minds, Israel is trying once again to make a peace. It does so under the most difficult of circumstances. Some Palestinian leaders continue to endorse the use of terrorism including its most vile form – the suicide bomber. Israel is asked to negotiate with Palestinians whose authority to do so is extremely dubious, and whose ability (and willingness) to deliver is fundamentally questionable. In the background it is faced by interfering Arab regimes who mouth peace while paying for, sustaining and justifying terror. The naivety of American foreign policy under Barack Obama exacerbates the situation.
It would be easy to despair, and not try, but the goal of a right, proper and deserved peace for Israel is worth striving for regardless. Despair is understandable when one considers the abject failure of those who should know better yet who acquiesce in, or give support to, the blatant anti-Semitism of extreme Islamists. The media and the chattering classes are silent when Hamas, Hizbullah and preachers of hate mouth their poisonous diatribes calling for Israel to be wiped from the face of the earth. But these same people are quick to single out Israel for disproportionately unfair criticism on a continual basis.
But we must not succumb to despair.
AS ONE who has been through the tortuous process of lengthy and intense negotiations – in my case relating to Northern Ireland – I offer the following word of advice:
Focus. Israel must clearly identify what its needs are, and throughout the process maintain an unfaltering focus upon this. What are the threats to maintaining this focus?
Moral equivalence. Palestinians, Arab regimes and various NGOs have become experts at making false claims or exaggerating minor imperfections about Israel into scandals. Arab regimes that don’t even try to subscribe to the most basic of democratic standards. This demonization is not only driven to create a false moral equivalence. It also aims to disrupt and distract Israel.
Do not let it.
Generation exhaustion. Israel is like the guards on the walls of a besieged city. They have stood on that wall day after day. The desire to protect the city drives them on in the face of repeated attacks, but with each day the desire for respite grows. After a siege of many years, the desire for it to end can overwhelm the goal of permanent security. Do not let it.
Then there are the international players, and you will be very familiar with the cast. As key actors in the Northern Ireland political process, we are all too familiar with the ways and wiles of the Tony Blairs, Bill Clintons and George Mitchells of this world. While good will and friendship should never be rejected, it should always be remembered that it is Israel and its people that will have to live with the day-to-day consequences of any agreement. A deal that wins Nobel Prizes but fails helps no one. International actors will always be driven more by a desire that the process achieves an outcome rather than by what that outcome is.
Do not let it.
The focus must be on an agreement that is comprehensive and detailed, leaving little to later interpretation or vagueness. In our process we were told of the so-called benefits of “constructive ambiguity.”
The disadvantages far outweighed the advantages. I am also of a political party that has been often associated with the word no.
We must always be ready to say yes when the terms are right, but equally if what is offered to Israel does not secure the right, proper and deserved peace, remember that sometimes it’s right to say no