The Third Way

Thomas Friedman writes about the Israel-Palestine conflict: “The third way, unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza, has been discredited by Hezbollah’s attack from Lebanon and the Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza.” This is, factually speaking, true. Unilateralism was very popular in Israel and among pro-Israel activists in the diaspora and then rapidly became unpopular when Hamas and Hezbollah continued to fire rockets across the unilaterally established borders.

What I’ve always wondered about this was why this process happened in public opinion? I had thought that the point of unilateralism was that Israelis reached the conclusion (rightly or wrongly) that there was nothing they could agree to that would stop the occasional terrorist attack so that Israel might as well unilaterally withdraw to borders that were practically and morally easier to defend. Agree with that or not, it seems logical enough and it’s not a proposition whose logic is undermined by the fact that some rocket attacks happened.

It seems, though, that what made unilateralism popular was that a large number of people thought that if the Palestinians were unilaterally given substantially less than they’d rejected at Camp David that they would spontaneously — decide to take that new, less favorable non-negotiated offer with such a degree of unanimity that no cross-border rocket attacks owuld ever happen. And, well, of course that theory got discredit — it was always really dumb.