Monday, December 3, 2012

Palestinians' Lesson of November

As noted by Karl Vick at Time:

Hamas launched 1,300 missiles into Israel during the military offensive aimed at stopping the launches, and in return won territorial concessions. Under the terms of the cease-fire brokered by Egypt, Gaza’s fishermen doubled the distance they can travel from shore before encountering Israeli gunboats, and Palestinian farmers won access to the one-third of the enclave’s arable land that abuts the border fence with Israel proper.  A week later, Abbas, who heads the secular Fatah party, won the lopsided vote at the United Nations, and Israel’s response was to appropriate another chunk of the West Bank for its own use.   

Meanwhile, at this weekend's Saban Forum in DC, as David Remnick reports, US-Israel chumminess prevailed (with the exception of Rahm Emanuel's dressing down of some of the Israelis in attendance, in reaction to Bibi's decision to move forward with settlement expansion into the E1 section of the West Bank, outside Jerusalem).  Hillary Clinton admonished the Israelis to be more "generous" toward the Palestinians, but assured them that the US has their back and reminded the Palestinians of how misguided was their coup at the UN General Assembly.

Very little will come of that coup without some sort of leverage, and the Palestinians' only leverage at this point is their newly won ability to pursue action against Israel at the International Criminal Court - something that European representatives, the Brits especially, have tried to discourage them from doing.  Otherwise, leverage will have to come from the Europeans, who seem to have reached their limit with Bibi's brazen decisions.  Max Fisher documents today the growing gap between Israel and Europe, with a distinct trend toward less diplomatic support from the Euros.

Whether that will translate into Bibi's rethinking of his policies regarding the burgeoning Jewish colonization of the West Bank, however, seems highly doubtful.  Netanyahu, perhaps courtesy of his indoctrination at the feet of his late father, has a quasi-messianic view of his role in the creation of Greater Israel and the nixing of any putative Palestinian state.  And by and large, despite the growing speculation that Ehud Olmert might enter the electoral lists in January, the Israeli public outside the few angry, plaintive voices at Haaretz and the peace movement seems likely to stand with him.

Israel is therefore well on the way to isolating itself internationally, save its American ally, which is becoming less and less listened to by Israel neighbors.  Perhaps, in the short to medium term, Israel can survive in such circumstances.  But across the Middle East, the wave of Sunni Islamist resurgence is beginning to crest - in Egypt, in Syria, in Turkey, in Jordan, and surely, of course, in Gaza.  And the US, increasingly wary of military involvement in Muslim lands, may become reluctant to have "the back" of an Israel whose political leadership rejects real compromise in the West Bank or Gaza.

A. B. Yehoshua has called upon Israel's leaders to talk with Hamas.  (And at Foreign Affairs, Tareq Baconi likewise urges, "Don't boycott Hamas.") Bibi needs to listen.  Israel's existence may well be at stake.

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