Zionists of the world, relax. Your allies are the Palestinians. They will protect you even from the White House of Barack Obama.
Again the Palestinians have said no to efforts of White House emissaries to extract what they can from Prime Minister Netanyahu. He proposed to negotiate toward a Palestinian state with temporary borders, with the final lines to be decided some time later.
No doubt some will say this was not a serious offer. What self respecting politician can tolerate a state with undefined borders?
Israel is a decent example. From 1948 to 1979 Israel had no defined borders. Then it had one with Egypt. It acquired part of another, with Jordan, only in 1994. There remain problems with the northern border, and that between Israel and Palestine is anyone's guess.
Sixty-two years and counting, this country with indefinite borders is on the World Bank's list of wealthy countries, and is arguably the most successful of the 100 or so new states to emerge after World War II.
Another sticking point for the Palestinians, according to Saeb Erekat, is Israel's refusal to stop construction in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu has refused to take that step. Some say that he has agreed to "avoid provocations" in Jerusalem, whatever that means.
President Obama has said that he cannot force the Israelis and Palestinians to do what they refuse to do, but he keeps trying.
Could it be that the American president has a Messiah complex, feeling that he must solve what has eluded others?
He is not a Muslim, but has identified with their sensitivities due to the slights and insults of others. If he absorbed anything from all those sermons by Jeremiah Wright, he may view Israel as one of the reasons for the ill feelings of other people in this region.
Is it the curse of Americans and those dependent on them that they select attractive and articulate individuals with no experience in international affairs?
George W. Bush created no end of harm by his missions to bring democracy to Iraq and provide Afghanistan with a better regime than the Taliban.
We are still waiting for the results of Obama's engagement with Syria and Iran.
It is not a good time to create a Palestinian State. Hamas, widely viewed as an impossible partner, has control of Gaza. One of its reasonable claims is that rivals in charge of the West Bank are illegitimate, insofar as they remain in office 15 months after the end of their term.
Given the prominence of an assertive Islam, we should not expect Hamas to soften its position about Israel, or for the Fatah cadres around Mahmoud Abbas to depart significantly from their demands.
No one in a key Israeli position can say an explicit "No," or "Leave us alone" to the head of the country that is vital for it economic well being and security.
The essential function of whoever is the prime minister is to avoid the absolute negative, and to demonstrate a willingness to help the American president.
Aid will come from Palestinians' sense of having a monopoly of justice. Their penchant for saying no, without talking to their people about flexibility and compromise, may eventually convince Americans that the game will not end.
Aid is also coming from respectable Americans, such as Ed Koch and Charles Shumer, who are trying to hold the White House to a standard of fairness in apportioning blame to itself and to others for the impasse.
We can conceive any number of scenarios emerging from a failure to achieve peace. No one of them is more certain than any other.
Tensions may continue indefinitely with occasional violence, kept in check by Palestinians not wanting a repeat of what Israel did to Gaza in 2008-09, or before that to both Gaza and the West Bank after 2000.
Violence may flare. We hear threats of a "third intifada." If the most recent decade is an indication, that would weaken the Israeli left, and increase the misery of Palestinians.
Palestinian nationalism can weaken, and people continue to drift away. That may seem unlikely due to assertive Islam and a friendly White House, but several Palestinian Diasporas beckon with economic opportunities.
If the American president views himself with a sacred mission about Palestine and Israel, we won't have a good night's sleep until 2013 or 2017. American demands, echoed by Europeans and Israeli leftists, will produce much nervous scrambling to please, or to look like one is trying to please.
Then whoever comes to the Oval Office may recognize the folly of President Obama, and define this part of the Middle East--perhaps without saying so--as an issue too hot to handle.
Posted by Ira Sharkansky at April 24, 2010 09:10 AM
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem