“Everything would be all right, if only Hitler hadn’t lied to me.” Those words – attributed by some to Neville Chamberlain, as his last – epitomize everything that is wrong with the way the Western world negotiates with those dedicated to upending it.
Chamberlain will forever be remembered. He preached peace. And brought war.
“We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analyzing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will. I cannot believe that such a program would be rejected by the people of this country, even if it does mean the establishment of personal contact with the dictators.”
Yes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and millions of innocent dead.
The number of Westerners who have returned home – to Europe or North America – smug in their misbegotten belief that they had bested the uneducated or even “uncivilized” carpet merchant are too many to count.
It is a mistake made time and again. It is a mistake that will soon be made again; in the Middle East, where future historians will wonder why so many smart people did so many stupid things. Maybe, just maybe, they weren’t that smart after all, they will conclude.
Let us offer the simplest of all explanations.
If any Western tourist has ever traveled to the Middle East and thought that their guile – that artful cunning in attaining a goal – allowed them to negotiate a clever purchase from one of the natives at a local shuk, well, they would be mistaken. It just doesn’t happen. And yet, the number of Westerners who have returned home – to Europe or North America – smug in their misbegotten belief that they had bested the uneducated or even “uncivilized” carpet merchant are too many to count.
It is happening once again, between the time that this paragraph was written, and later read.
You see, that Muslim carpet merchant would never sell a rug to any foreigner for anything less than a price many times its real value. And he would do so while successfully convincing the buyer that he was fortunate to have acquired it at such a bargain price. You see, the merchant possesses an almost Machiavellian cunning in attaining his goal – the sale of a cheap rug as a valuable carpet. The artful deception can be attributed to both a cultural cleverness on his part and an equally unsophisticated and naïve misunderstanding of way the game is played on the part of the foreign buyer.
In dealing with the Middle East, it happens to diplomats all the time. And they never catch on. They are either terribly naïve or just not very smart. It is about to happen again.
There are two examples that we shall address: One, by way of reference, has already happened multiple times – and another that will happen soon, if Joe Biden is sworn in as the next president of the United States. The two are symbiotically connected by virtue of the fact that the Muslim merchant understands all too well the nature of the stooge who is shopping for that special deal.
And as certain as the sunrise, after the extensive haggling that is a requisite part of negotiating the deal, the uneducated Muslim will once again school the Western fool.
The two examples – the Palestinian Arab leadership (PLO/PA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Twin elements unite them: The malevolent nature of Islamists, and their shared understanding of the way the Western world so readily hoists the flag of appeasement in order to mollify the unbridled belligerence of the Muslim/Arab world. Still, it never ameliorates the savage.
It remains unfathomable, but it is a formula that works well in confronting the West.
Historians will one day look back and remember September 13, 1993 as the darkest day in the history of modern-day Israel. It was the day that Israel, in its enduring and single-minded determination to find peace, pretended to find it in Yasir Arafat, and signed the Oslo Accords, effectively calling the mass murderer its peace partner.
The Arafat stratagem was transparently obvious. Inform the Israelis that the Palestinian Arabs would offer a peace if certain conditions were met, or suffer the fate that Israelis would continue to fall victim to Islamic terrorism. If you give us what we demand, we will stop murdering your children. The sewer rat, who had spent many years living in various underground bunkers throughout the Arab world, fearful that Israel would end him, was now dictating the conditions – the first of others to follow – to the superpower that yearned for peace.
Israel offered peace. And concessions. With others to follow. And the newly structured Palestinian Authority – a cosmetic upgrade of the PLO – having tasted the fruits of Israeli appeasement, demanded more. And murdered more – at a pace heretofore unknown.
Look at the statistical numbers – and how tragic it is that Israeli victims had now been relegated to being statistics – and wonder why it is that Oslo II actually followed in 1995. It followed, as did so many other peace negotiations – Hevron Agreement, Wye River Memorandum, Camp David 2000 Summit, Taba, Road Map, Annapolis Conference – because the Israelis thirsted for peace, and quiet. All failed, miserably. But the Arab formula remained the same. If you offer us concessions – on our terms – then we will stop our violence. That was the only card they had to play.
The lesson was not lost on the Islamic Republic of Iran. Employ the Palestinian stratagem that worked so well – with the vanquished dictating terms to the victor.
Having duped the Obama Administration in 2015 – against the intense objections of Israel – the United States brokered a deal with the ayatollahs that was the quintessential act of appeasement. Obama, with Secretary of State John Kerry leading the negotiations – those that were known and those that were kept secret – ignored the dictate of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “No man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning with an incendiary bomb.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden was there. As were Susan Rice, Anthony Blinken, Samantha Power, and Avril Haines. All will, in some capacity, serve Team Biden as important foreign policy advisors. They are united in thinking that the Iran nuke deal was a deal worth revising, and will labor to give it life again. Replete with concessions. The ayatollah’s have certainly noticed. And they will soon up the ante.
Two weeks ago, in response to President Donald Trump’s promise to intensify sanctions against it, Iran confessed quite publicly that it was accelerating the reconstruction of the Natanz nuclear enrichment center which had been damaged on July 2, 2020, in what the Iranians described at the time as an “accident.” Sure – an Israeli inspired accident. Iranian spokesman, Ali Akbar Salehi, of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, brazenly boasted of “a new centrifuge manufacturing facility in the heart of the mountains” near the Natanz facility. It was done in defiance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s efforts to restrict nuclear proliferation, but more so, to garner future concessions.
True, the Iranians have publicly threatened to advance their nuclear military capability before – in order to goad the Americans into negotiating the types of concessions that they offered in 2015. But never with the fervor that this did last week. Moreover, Iranian officials went beyond simply hinting. In a well-calculated announcement, the Iranian foreign policy spokesmen admitted that the haste by which they are advancing the development of its nuclear program, they would quite soon exceed the necessary uranium enrichment to develop a military capability. A bomb.
It was meant to alarm. It was meant to send a message to the Americans (and to the Europeans who would press the US) to offer some conciliatory compromises the way Obama did. Amos Hockstein, former State Department special envoy for international energy affairs confirmed his belief last week that striking a deal with Iran will be a Biden foreign policy imperative. The Iranians listened and strategized. They would expect, no less, that the US would prevent Israel from any endeavor to sabotage their installations as well. Otherwise, no peace. Only the implied threat of violence, and a destabilized Middle East. As per the Palestinians, ever since 1993.
The narrative was crystal clear. Appease us, or suffer the consequences. Appease us, or things take a turn for the worse. And for good measure, bring the Palestinian issue back into play.
And as certain as the sunrise, a Biden Administration will. You see, the Muslim merchant knows exactly how to sell, skillful enough to get the buyer to think that he negotiated a good deal.
And one day, future historians will recall Biden’s last words as well: “Everything would have been all right, if only the ayatollahs hadn’t lied to us.”
Meir Jolovitz is a past national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, and formerly associated with the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.