Amazing, funny, dangerous, annoying? Take your pick about three items in the news. Each may have legs, and keep running until something real happens. Or each may be a passing blip to be ignored in the continuing stream of events that turn out to be more important.
One is Sarah Palin's comment about blood libel. Another is the resignation of Hizbollah and allies from the Lebanese government over the likelihood that a United Nations organ will have the temerity to accuse its operatives of murdering the former prime minister and father of the present prime minister. Yet another are the results of an American-sponsored public opinion poll among the Arabs of East Jerusalem indicating that more of them prefer to remain with Israel than become citizens of Palestine.
No great surprise from our neighbors to the north. Lebanon is closer to a failed state than a well ordered democracy. Currently it may be on the verge of another event in its history of religious violence. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Hizbollah will begin a war with Israel in an effort to lessen the pressure from Sunni Muslims, Druze, and/or Christians. Tens of thousands of missiles shipped to it by Iran and Syria can hurt us, and the IDF's response will produce considerable destruction in Lebanon and maybe elsewhere.
Some are blaming another blunder of the Obama White House and the Clinton State Department for ratcheting up the heat. American insistence that Lebanon accept the results of the UN inquiry into Harari's killing bears some resemblance to the demand that Israel stop construction in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. The linkage is a failure to understand the people of the Middle East who the White House/State Department wish to manipulate. The Jews of Israel may be as strange to Obama and Clinton as the mix of folks in Lebanon. An American error in Lebanon can be more costly than its fumbling in East Jerusalem, but it is too early to order the coffins.
This is the first indication I have noticed that someone is actually asking the Arabs living here what they prefer. More said Israel than Palestine, and a fair number chose not to answer.
Another problem for the peace process that the Palestinians and their friends have sought to solve via Washington, the United Nations and Latin America? And a problem of equal weight for the White House that has trumpeted the reassignment of people who do not want to be reassigned?
One can guess that one-third of the sample who chose not to answer are trying to stay out of trouble. There has also been an up-tick in the incidence of applications for Israeli citizenship from the residents of East Jerusalem. It is not a mass movement. The acts of accepting Israeli citizenship or saying that one prefers Israel over Palestine may be almost as dangerous as selling land to a Jew. http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?ID=203269&R=R1
Was Sarah Palin ignorant or only insensitive in comparing the commentary about incendiary rhetoric to a blood libel? She is getting more attention with this remark than was given to the news that Gabrielle Giffords is Jewish. Whatever the explanation of Palin's comment, she touched a hot button. J Street is among her critics. There are probably not many votes in that corner of American Jewry for Palin to lose, but she may have nudged a few wanderers back into the Obama fold.
For me, she provokes another moment of wonder about a pretty and articulate creature who rocketed from the politics of Wasilla to presidential contention..
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem