I admit to predispositions. The news about Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay recognizing Palestine reached a brain that spent half its life in the United States, and learned that anything south of the Rio Grande is less than upstanding or reliable. The latest Mexican civil war reinforces the image, even though this one is about supplying drugs to Americans. It's what the British call the wogs: most everyone over the Channel, south of Holland and Germany, and west of Poland. Or what the Germans call the untermenschen.
(I know the history of that word. Here the locals consider me an Anglo-Saxon. I am less valued than the folks who came from Eastern Europe before 1970, providing that they originated north of Romania. No one during the first half of my life called me an Anglo-Saxon. And the latest news from the Nixon archives leaves me wondering if he would view me as an undesirable Jew or an Israeli worthy of admiration. My vote against George McGovern might inch me over Nixon's wavy line, but his comments about Kissinger do not give me a great deal of comfort.)
None of the above leads me to expect a political earthquake as a result of those Latin Americans. The movement may spread, but it will take a lot more for us to move from French Hill. And I would not recommend any expectations for our neighbors in Issaweea. Their most recent uppityness cost them several days intensive visits from the Border Police, the Israel gendarmerie not noted for gentleness.
The chain of events that I see as leading to the Latin American recognition of Palestine begins in the White House. All was reasonably well in the West Bank and Israel until President Obama announced his mission to bring his view of peace to the Middle East within a year. He angered the Israelis with a demand about Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem that led me to speak with Varda about new curtains, and prodded the Palestinians away from what was looking like a good effort to develop the West Bank and deal with violent gangs that threatened Palestinians as well as Israelis. If the Americans were demanding an end to construction in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, the Palestinians could expect no less as a price for talking with Israelis.
Forced into a peace process by American aspirations for a place in the Paradise reserved for politicians who have done good, Palestinians and Israelis came to the same dead ends they have known for a century. Wisdom would advise avoiding the process, but what can the locals do in this distant and tiny province of the American empire? The blessing for the Czar that appears in Fiddler on the Roof remains appropriate. May God bless and keep the Czar... far away from us.
The Jews of Israel may be more powerful than those of Anatevka, but not powerful enough to ignore Barack Obama while he remains a resident of the White House. And in case you haven't noticed, the Palestinians are even weaker than us.
Is it any more than a game that has been played by Israeli and Palestinian leaders?
No doubt there are Israelis and Palestinians who think it is possible, and work hard to achieve what others see as unachievable. Some Israelis and Palestinians are doing nothing more than paying lip service, or going through the motions in order to avoid offending the world's most powerful office holder. Both Israelis and Palestinians owe a great deal to American decency and generosity, and some of that lip service has a degree of genuineness. The good folks who produce Ha'aretz may be among those who seriously aspire to a declared peace. Their headline this morning, "Hillary Clinton: Decide Now on Permanent Borders" may one day hang in a museum, but it seems more likely to be wrapping for this evening's garbage.
The dynamics of Israeli politics include a role for the settlers, and a disinclination to weigh heavily on them in the absence of a real opportunity for an agreement with the Palestinians.
The dynamics of Palestinians have produced a range of statements that include Mahmoud Abbas' latest threat to resign and dismantle the Palestine National Authority, another threat to cancel the Oslo Accords and cease the campaign against terrorism, and blaming Israel for the failure of negotiations and moving to obtain international recognition of a Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders and a capital in Jerusalem.
The dynamics of the near and distant future are beyond our capacity to project with certainty. Tension is more certain than either political or military action. Not far away are Iran, Syria, Hizbollah, Hamas, and restive Palestinians in the West Bank, including those across the street in Issaweea. The trigger of something unpleasant can come from a routine incident like a traffic accident or an arrest that goes bad, or Hizbollah's reaction against an international accusation that its people killed Rafik Harari. Among the unpleasantness is the denunciation of Israeli settler activity signed by prominent Europeans, and the convenience of blaming Prime Minister Netanyahu for the failure of the American peace campaign. Also in the air is a dispute among rabbis as to whether religious law does or does not forbid the selling or renting property to Arabs and other non-Jews.
The suicide bombing in Stockholm may lead some Europeans to lessen their pressure on us, or others to appeasement of Islam.
Life is good. We hope for better. The gates of Paradise are not yet on our horizon, Or anyone else's.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem