In recent months, there has been a growing sentiment that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is foundering as never before, as the two sides seem to drift still further apart. Just pick up a copy of The Washington Post, or Haaretz for that matter, and you'll see various pundits and commentators on both sides of the ocean expressing a mounting sense of frustration over the impasse, with much of the blame being laid at Israel's doorstep.
Take, for example, veteran columnist Thomas Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times (August 1) that Israel had "misled" and even "manipulated" Washington for the past 40 years on the issue of settlements in Judea and Samaria. Israel's leaders, he warned, need to realize that "they have a real problem with America on settlements," which Friedman believes stand in the way of real progress toward peace.
Such claims are hardly new, of course. If only the Jewish state would stop expanding settlements, we have constantly been told, the chances of resuming talks would brighten.
And if Israel would just cease its policy of "confiscating" additional Palestinian land, it would pave the way for a viable two-state solution to bring about an end to the century-old conflict, the Left frequently asserts.
Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
Indeed, if the Left would put aside its slogans for a moment and consider the present situation rationally and cogently, it would realize that much of its heated rhetoric about settlements is entirely misplaced. For it is precisely the continued expansion of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria which provides the best chance for achieving a long-term, viable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Yes, you read that correctly. More settlements can actually mean more peace, and for that reason the Left should switch gears and support them.
THE LOGIC is really quite simple. For the past 16 years, ever since the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinians have refused to conclude a final deal. Feeling that they have all the time in the world at their disposal, they are in no rush to ink a lasting agreement. Instead, they can sit on the sidelines and watch as the international community directs its ire at Israel and tries to compel it to make even more far-reaching concessions.
That is a recipe for failure, which is exactly what it has produced thus far. In any negotiations of consequence, when one side feels it has nothing to lose - and everything to gain - by dragging out talks, that is just what it will do.
Therefore, anyone who really wants to see a resumption of talks should cheer when the Israeli bulldozers rev up their engines, because that is the most effective way of disabusing the Palestinians of the notion that time is on their side.
Their leadership needs to be made to understand that their dilly-dallying comes at a very tangible price, because the longer they wait, the more territory they will "lose" as the Israeli presence in the areas is strengthened and reinforced.
Now, don't get me wrong - I personally believe Israel should expand Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria because of our divine-given right to these areas. And I do not want Israel to give up control over any part of our ancestral patrimony, nor do I believe the Palestinians are truly interested in peace with us.
But I just cannot help but find it ironic how the Left, by parroting Palestinian demands, is actually undermining the prospects for the very peace that it so ardently says it longs for. For in effect, it is feeding directly into the Palestinian perception that there is no urgent need to get back to the negotiating table.
History is full of examples to buttress my argument. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, for instance, the Soviet Union was busy upgrading its intermediate-range nuclear missile force in Eastern Europe, more than doubling the number of rockets pointed west between 1978 and 1982.
At the time, US president Ronald Reagan decided together with his NATO allies to move ahead with the deployment of a countervailing force of nuclear warheads, over the strenuous objections of the American Left. This, Reagan asserted at the time, was being done both as a deterrent and as "an incentive to the Soviet Union to meet us in serious arms control negotiations." Sure enough, the Soviets quickly agreed to resume talks with Washington. As Reagan told the American people in a March 1983 address to the nation: "The Soviets are now at the negotiating table - and I think it's fair to say that without our planned deployments, they wouldn't be there."
THE SAME principle holds true for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. As long as the Palestinians are made to feel they have nothing to lose by their delaying tactics, they will continue to resort to them.
So rather than howling with anger when Israel moves forward with various housing projects, the Left might just find that a little construction can go a long way. Inspire a little anxiety within the Palestinian leadership, a sense that the sand is rapidly slipping out of the hourglass, and before you know it, they might just be pleading to return to the negotiating table.
Believe it or not - the surest way to bring that about may just be to start filling the horizon outside their windows with red-tile roofed homes inhabited by Jews.