For some time now, Israeli news has been leading off with the latest comments from international worthies about the need for Israel and Palestinians to agree on two states etc etc. This morning an American friend sent me a link to a Time article about the distancing of young American Jews from their parents strong support of whatever Israel does. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2095505,00.html?artId=2095505?contType=article?chn=world
So this is an appropriate time to repeat my assessment that it ain't gonna happen.
That is not my preference. I'd welcome a civilized Palestine 50 meters from these fingers. They can have Isaweea and other Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
The real meaning (subtext) that I hear from the maneuvers and comments of Netanyahu and Abbas is that neither want an agreement. Both are creatures of politics that get in the way of the concessions that might bring them closer. Compare Hamas and other Islamic nationalists to Israel's religious settlers and their friends. Compare secular Palestinians distrustful of Israeli motives, or Jews in general, to secular Israelis distrustful of Palestinians, or Arabs and Muslims in general.
Reciting again all the details producing those attitudes is less important than emphasizing their prominence.
An item published this morning is relevant to this discussion. The murder of yet another Iraqi journalist/intellectual adds to the detritus of the American invasion, and warns that outsiders meddle at their peril in someone else's politics. And in the case of outsiders with the power of the United States, the peril is even greater for those in whose politics they meddle. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/world/middleeast/after-mahdis-murder-optimism-of-intellectuals-ebbs-in-iraq.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
Whether the estimates accepted of Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion is a bit over 100,000 or over a million, they should make my point to any but those Americans who think they know best and that others are nothing but Untermenschen who warrant American enlightenment.
What's likely to happen here?
Lot more talk than action, with much of the talk meant by Palestinians and Israelis to gain credit for themselves among the international audience that they also want to stay out of their affairs. The first part of this is on the surface. Palestinians and Israelis are articulating arguments against the other for the sake of gaining credit as the good guys in international politics. The second part is my assessment of what is behind those comments. That is, both Palestinians and Israelis know that they cannot agree, and would prefer that others would stop pressuring them. Both also recognize, I am sure, that continued pressure can do more harm than good. Palestinian frustration and another intifada, with human and material costs for both Israelis and Palestinians, is more likely to result from continued international pressure than a breakthrough to peace.
American and other international pressures to "make peace now" leads Palestinians and Israelis to actions that add to the distrust. They include the Palestinians' efforts to gain a state via the United Nations without making any concessions, and the spurt of settlement activity and efforts to "annex" portions of the West Bank that are Israeli reactions to Palestinian efforts.
Below the level of international bombast, things are not all that bad. Israel continues to build in "settlements," including French Hill. However, the construction is in those settlements close to the 1967 borders, already large and substantial, with a history of decades and most certain to remain Israeli. There is close to a virtual freeze of building in isolated settlements beyond the path of the security barrier, which is itself mostly close to the line of 1967. Meanwhile, there is considerable cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian officials who do the work of governing, including defense. While the politicians bleat, technocrats work together.
The United States and other western governments have helped with measures that do not get the headlines of presidential speeches, like providing assistance to Palestinian governmental and non-governmental organizations. Some of this is destructive, when it takes the form of supporting programs that are hateful. (See www.ngo-monitor.org for examples). Other assistance aids co-existence, such as the training of Palestinian security forces, money for joint water and sewage systems, and the extensive cooperation between American and other western authorities and Israeli organizations concerned with security.
It ain't ideal. There are Palestinian teachers, administrators, and media personalities who do what they can to fan anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments. There are Israelis who provoke Palestinians--while attracting overseas Jewish enthusiasts and donors--by moving into Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem with histories of extreme hostility, uprooting the olive trees of Palestinian farmers, or shooting at randomly selected Arabs.
We have an imperfect Palestinian-Israeli arrangement, that provides the Palestinians considerable autonomy, but with an occasional heavy hand of Israeli security forces, and without the overt symbols of a Palestinian state.
View it as an anomaly on the world scene if you will, but I see nothing likely to undo it. Arab spring/summer/fall--soon to be winter--provides numerous cases of worse situations, likely to continue for some time.
Iran is the one state in the area capable of causing serious trouble for Israel. My optimism rests on the equally serious trouble that Israel can cause to Iran.
There are no guarantees. My best advise to the worthies of the world is to cool it. You are likely to do more harm than good, to yourselves and to others, as you have already demonstrated. Don't make it worse by leaning on Israel and Palestine who are dealing as they can--and better than others can do for them--with their histories of conflict, mutual distrust, and internal problems.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Posted by Ira Sharkansky at September 29, 2011 11:54 PM