They’re Very Similar

President Obama urges the Palestinians and Israelis to make peace in this video.

There has been a lot of derision of the president for his implied comparison between the Israeli-Palestine conflict and Canadian-American relations. I understand the point he is trying to make, and it is not as dumb as his critics believe. Relations between the United States and Canada are amicable now, and we have the longest undefended border in the world, but this was not always the case. In fact, the United States invaded Canada, then a British possession, during the War of 1812. There were several naval battles fought on the Great Lakes. There was some support for war against Britain in 1844 over the boundaries of the Oregon territory but President James Polk wisely chose negotiation over fighting a war against Canada at the same time as the Mexican War. British support of the Confederacy during the Civil War also caused some trouble and there even some who proposed a war against Britain as a means of drawing the North and South back together. Even as recently as the beginning of the twentieth, when relations with Britain had much improved, war with Canada was at least conceivable, if only infinitesimally likely. The good relations between Canada and the United States were far from inevitable and history could have turned out differently, if the two nations had not had so much in common, including a willingness to settle their differences peacefully.

All the same though, US-Canadian relations are hardly a model for resolving the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. America, Canada and Britain have similar cultures. We all speak the same language and have the same sort of values. This does not guarantee peace, look at Korea, or the Balkans, but it helps. By contrast, Israel is an outpost of Western civilization. It’s neighbors, including the Palestinians have a historical heritage very different from that of the West. Their languages may be related, but their cultures couldn’t be more disparate. Even worse, the Arabs want to destroy Israel. There is not really much for the two sides to talk about.

I know President Obama would like to earn his Nobel Peace Prize by negotiating some grand plan for peace in the Middle East. Most presidents seem to have had that sort of ambition, which seems to encourage wishful thinking. I think we just need to recognize that there is not going to be peace in that region until the Arabs decide they no longer want to destroy Israel and kill all the Jews. Considering that Muslims have hated Jews since the time of Mohammed, I don’t imagine peace is going to happen anytime soon.