I'm a big Israel fan; not only by dint of being Jewish but also because I lived there for four years, and loved it. I'm also an admirer of Arab & Muslim history, and a follower of political events in the world. I would love to see what the Middle East could accomplish if this vicious near-civil-war were to end. Alas, that pipe dream may be awhile yet, but the more I think about it the more I think a Palestinian state may be a step in the right direction.
More after the falafel.
I was in Beer-Sheva when Israel pulled out of Lebanon.
It was a huge event, lots of argument and rancor, but it was no longer worth arguing that a prolonged presence in Lebanon could contribute to Israeli security in any meaningful sense. The pullout was met with both relief and trepidation, but shortly after that the northern border briefly became something of a tourist spot. I read the International Herald-Tribune and the English language Ha'aretz, and someone opined that it was something of a relief for Israelis to see a border there. A real border.
Of course, when Edward Said tossed a rock over the border symbolically, from Lebanon to Israel, there was a brief brouhaha but it quickly subsided. The border has not been the constant hot spot that it was during the war, although there was the 35-day Second Lebanon War (or "July War" in Lebanon) of 2006. For the most part the border has held.
I said in an earlier diary that almost every Israeli and Arab I met had the same opinion: there'll be a two-state solution based somewhat on the 1967 lines, with some give and take on both sides. I think what most people don't appreciate in this is the simplest and most obvious thing: finally, there will be a border. I think people are looking forward to that... even if they don't realize it.
Earlier today I read Daniel Drezner's blog on Foreign Policy: "Israel's clear-eyed, short-term strategic calculus". He talks about the anger the Obama Administration has, personally, over Bibi Netanyahu; how American has bent over backwards to defend Israel before the world, and yet gotten nothing for it in return. No halt on Settlements; no serious negotiations:
Drezner has a bleak outlook for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It's obvious he sees it dragging on-- the Obama Administration will do as Israel says, and Netanyahu will screw him over anyway. Of course, it is implied that Obama will lose the election, and Netanyahu will get a Republican in the White House who will be more pliable.
In the end, he sums up a few points about short-term thinking of the Netanyahu Administration:
1) All else equal, we [speaking as Netanyahu & his cronies~CA] prefer an administration that's ideologically sympatico with us -- which, in the current moment, means neocon-friendly Republicans;
2) The likelihood that Obama will be re-elected in 2012 is diminishing by the day;
3) Through our strategy of bitching to the media about Obama, we have succeeded in getting every viable GOP contender for president to complain that Obama is "throwing Israel under the bus."
4) No U.S. administration, regardless of party, wants Iran to wipe Israel off the map.
5) Given (1), (2), (3) and (4), why on earth should we do anything differently?
He then sums it up thusly:
Am I missing anything?
I think Drezner's summary does, in fact, miss a few possible points. One thing he is, in fact, missing-- Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy Carter-- a one-term President that, among his accomplishments, managed the cessation of hostilities between Egypt and Israel and presided over the Camp David Accords. The Camp David Accords returned the Sinai to Egypt and ushered in a 30-year peace treaty with Israel's most dangerous neighbor, although admittedly that treaty is looking pretty strained at the moment.
What if his "no" is posturing? Or some strategizing that was intended all along? What if there is a last-minute change, perhaps because of some back room deal, or some straw-that-breaks-the-camel's-back move by Netanyahu?
Obama has said in the past that he'd rather be a one-term President that got something accomplished, than a two-term President remembered as mediocre. A Palestinian state makes great strides in the Middle East with the Arabs, and takes the wind out of one more of al-Qaeda's sails.
The door would also be open to a rapprochement with Turkey (although Erdogan has as much to say on that as Israeli leadership) and discussion of the 2002 Arab Peace Offer. In short-term thinking, it gives the sinking Assad regime no flag to rally behind. It would almost certainly diffuse Egyptian anger.
I think Israel would appreciate a solid border, as well. The tricky part about MidEast peace is that a lot of this will have to be imposed from the outside-- after all, if one side makes a concession, the other side will see it as a sign of weakness and press their advantage, creating a backlash. If a 1967 border is imposed by a powerful outsider (the UN; powerful politically in this sense rather than militarily), then both Israelis and Palestinians can say that it was not they who blinked. An international border will mean a damn good excuse not to create or support any more Settlements, and that means that the stranglehold the Israeli Settlers movement has on the Knesset will begin to break, and regular Israelis --the ones out protesting-- can start taking control of their country again.
True, the Administration has already said that a veto is as good as delivered. But is it? What if Obama decides to roll the dice and be the guy that tilted the balance towards MidEast peace? It won't happen immediately, but in the long run, as the reality of a border sinks in, the ambiguity of the situation can start to fade, and solid plans can be made.
Or, what of the Obama Administration just "abstains"? That, too, sends a signal that while not rushing to support a Palestinian state, Netanyahu's odious behavior will start having unpleasant consequences (like how Obama is finally starting to get tougher with the Republicans domestically). An "abstain" vote may actually be the best way to get out of this situation, really. If Netanyahu is brought down by it, so much the better.
Would Israel take it in the shorts, though? Would Palestine become a rocket pad for fresh attacks into Israel? Perhaps, but I am inclined to think not. It's just been tried too much, and to no good. Wiping out Israel in 1948 didn't work; it didn't work in 1967 and it didn't work in 1973. In fact, it turned out worse for the attackers, and the 2002 Arab Peace Offer is a good indication that the established Arab states are not interested in going another round. They know the Jews aren't all going to pack up and move to Brooklyn any more than the Palestinians will all pack up and move to Jordan.
And any move against the state of Israel by the state of Palestine will, ironically for the Palestinians, invoke Chapter VII of the United Nation Charter regarding collective defense against outside aggression. And everyone knows that, even if the US did vote for a Palestinian state, they also won't let Israel get steamrolled, not by anyone, and for better or worse the US will find the money for another war if it is to defend Israel. Israel's security is guaranteed.
In MidEast politics, pessimism reigns. Except there, it is not called "pessimism" but "cautious realism". Drezner may be right, and this will be waffled back and forth into status quo obscurity again, which is not sustainable. But I hope that somehow, somewhere, the fix is in people can some day wake up and look forward to a real border. Both sides will have to keep their hands off the others enchilada.
Will the threat to undermine a Palestinian state vote be carried out? Probably. But we could be surprised, and I think I'm cool with that. A Palestinian state may be the thing we need to get this situation rushing towards resolution. A river must be guided by its banks, or borders, as the case may be.