The Down Under case against a permanent peace deal


I’m trying to put my finger on why I like this piece by The Australian’s Greg Sheridan so much.

I don’t endorse or oppose its argument — that the unrest roiling the Middle East coupled with the deepseated Jew hatred permeating parts of the Muslim world undo any case for pressuring Israel into a peace deal.

It’s just that it’s brilliantly written, and deeply ethical to boot.

First, the writing: So often, when a columnist launches his arguments with anecdotes (who does that? Ahem.), a reader is left thinking: Cute, but only relating to the writer’s circumstances, not to objective reality.

Sheridan’s three opening anecdotes are colorful yet generalized enough that they culminate in a devastating case for why Jews need Israel, especially now. The third anecdote — the punchline — took my breath away.

And it’s ethical because it is civil and fair to those with whom Sheridan disagrees. He outlines Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd’s argument for the urgency of peace-making with fairness before outlining why he believes it’s flawed — no straw men here. And he does not disparage Rudd.

He also does not disparage Muslims or Arabs. He does not suggest some ontological element in Arab culture that necessitates racism, he does not say that every single Muslim is predisposed to hate Jews, he simply notes the widespreadedness of the phenomenon, as a 19th century analyst might have assessed central Europe.

Resisting conventional wisdoms, removing personal invective from debate and listening to the other side — we could use a lot more of it.

I won’t reprint the anecdotes — do The Australian a favor and just jump to the link — but for the rushed, I’ll excerpt Sheridan’s four-pronged argument below the jump.


First, Israel cannot will a peace agreement into existence if there is not a partner on the other side both willing and able to make and enforce a peace agreement that provides for Israel’s security.

Second, a failed peace agreement, or one not enforced, could gravely compromise Israel’s security, in far more damaging ways than exist today.

Third, Israel’s security position has grievously deteriorated in recent months, through dynamics that have nothing to do with the Israel-Palestinian dispute, but which provide a far more dangerous context in which to ask Israel to take existential risks.

Fourth, you cannot have a lasting peace settlement when Israel’s neighbours are consumed with hatred for Jews and contempt for Israel as a political entity.

Recommended from JTA