The idea of a Palestinian state won't go away. It seems to be thoroughly enmeshed in the routines of international politics, despite several good reasons why it won't happen. Chief among those are:
•Excessive demands of the Palestinians, too much even for its supporters in important western countries.
•Severe cleavages within the Palestinian community, making it impossible for the "moderates" to be truly moderate in their demands or expectations, and to continue claiming that they represent all of Palestine.
•Inclinations to violence in Palestinian society and elsewhere among Muslims, making it difficult for the moderates, or even the politically attuned extremists (e.g., Hamas) to maintain quiet. Acts of violence provide Israeli security forces all the reason they need to act forcefully, with international understanding or support.
•The craziness of Hezbollah, Iran, al-Queda and others also works against the aspirations of Palestinians, even while they claim to be leading the struggle for Palestine.
Should we need another indication of crazy neighbors, a senior advisor of Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi has declared that the Holocaust was a story created by American intelligence agents, meant to justify attacks on Germany and Japan. The Germans did not kill six million Jews. They were brought as immigrants to the United States.
The lack of stability from Mali to Pakistan, now ratcheting up in Egypt, with the future of Syria a huge question mark, with implications for what Syria's future might produce from Assad's allies in Lebanon and Iran should not encourage Israelis or anyone else that the time is ripe for producing yet another Arab state alongside of Israel, especially one where a majority of the population seems inclined to support Hamas. For those who need reminding, Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, the same organization associated with President Morsi and his Holocaust-denying advisor.
With all that, Americans and others have not given up. Or at least they are speaking as if there is hope. In one of Hillary Clinton's comments that came as part of her farewells as Secretary of State, she described an opening of the doors to peace in the results of the Israeli election.
"I think the outcome of the election in which a significant percentage of the Israeli electorate chose to express themselves by saying 'We need a different path than the one we have been pursuing, internally and with respect to the Middle East peace process,"
She went on to say that could mean a resumption of stalled talks with Palestinian authorities, something that the Obama administration will pursue at "every possible opening."
This report, from an agency of the State Department, does not say anything about Ms Clinton's reading of Naftali Benet or his colleagues among new Knesset Members even more outspoken in their opposition to a Palestinian state. Nor does it mention any sign of flexibility from the Palestinians.
Nonetheless, now that John Kerry has sailed through the process of Senatorial approval, we can expect to be hearing more about his intentions to knock at those doors his predecessor sees as opening.
Why the persistence? To a skeptic it appears to be the beating of a dead horse, but the noise continues. It also affects Israeli politics. Not only does the left join the international chorus with enthusiasm, but even the centrists demand serious negotiations with the Palestinians as a price of joining the government.
No surprise that Palestinians are doing their part to keep their issue alive. One of Israel's most respected columnists, Ron ben Yishai, describes Mahmoud Abbas' long range, multi-faceted campaign to obtain real statehood without conceding to Israel the issue of refugees, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, or agreeing that the IDF remain in the Jordan Valley.
There is no sign that Abbas' plans include an extension of his own tenure as President of Palestine. His term expired in January, 2009.
Are they all serious? Is it me who has it all wrong?
Among the explanations that do not require me to prove my sanity are--
Established political commitments.
No one should expect the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry or their European equivalents to admit they were wrong and to drop, or change direction on an issue that has been so prominent and has attracted so many supporters.
Those of the White House, State Department, and their equivalents elsewhere are no more able to change direction than are politicians and activists.There are committed ideologues among key bureaucrats as well as individuals mired in routines and waiting on orders from their political superiors.
Rules of the game require that responsible Israelis continue to proclaim their acceptance of the two-state solution, and their desire for direct negotiations with Palestinians. It has been accepted that Israel indicate its own demands, such as Palestinian recognition of it as a Jewish state, Israel's absorption of major settlement blocs, a rejection of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, as well as expectations about Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and the de-militarization of Palestine. There is much to argue about, and no clear indication that Palestinians are ready to give as well as take.
We can also expect settlements to expand, but slowly enough to remain below the threshold of anything more than verbal condemnation from the international community and the Israeli left.
Beyond that, my crystal ball provides no details.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Posted by Ira Sharkansky at January 30, 2013 06:33 AM