Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Ira Sharkansky
Letter from Israel 

Three Mouseketeers


It would be prime material for a standup comedian if it were not the reality that could do us all a lot of harm.

The current triumvirate dealing with three interdependent, national entities, with more than the average capacity to affect wider catastrophes, have all been operating as political caricatures, making things worse while proclaiming their certainty about making things better.

They are Mahmoud Abbas, Benyamin Netanyahu, and Barack Obama.

A cynic would say that they deserve one another. They all speak in hyperbole, talk past one another, and manage to incite one another to ever-higher levels of certainty about their own wisdom.

They have all been judged by their constituents to have fallen short of expectations, yet they persist in moving—or threatening to move—to more extreme positions likely to hurt themselves as well as the rest of us.

Obama’s comeuppance appeared in the results of the recent Congressional elections.

Netanyahu’s appear in a poll showing a decline in popular support from 77 percent in August to 38 percent presently.  

Abbas’ is apparent in several polls showing his shakiness as leader of Palestine. The abject failure of his highly touted unity of Fatah and Hamas is apparent in West Bank confrontations, Fatah actions against Hamas activists, the barely begun reconstruction in Gaza and the virtual lack of delivery of the billions pledged by foreign donors for Abbas-led developmental efforts in Gaza and the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s high touting of legislating Israel’s status as the State of the Jewish People has gotten rave condemnations from Israeli and overseas sources on account of being both unnecessary and threatening the working, but imperfect balance between Israel’s Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, as well as between secular and religious Israeli Jews.

Abbas is threatening once again to demand from the United Nations a Palestinian State with the borders of 1967 and a capital in Jerusalem, without bothering to negotiate with Israel. Most recently he has upped his threats by saying that he will stop security cooperation with Israel if he doesn’t get what he wants according to the timetable that he demands.

Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation has operated below the high drama of world headlines, but is one of the working accomplishments of the U.S., Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinians. It involves U.S. money, Jordanian training, Israeli cooperation, equipment from the U.S. and Israel, and has produced Palestinian security forces that not only go after terrorists who target Jews, but round up Palestinian criminals of the kind who make life unpleasant for Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.

Obama’s errors have included the promotion of an Israeli-Palestinian fantasy that made things worse by highlighting the very issues that have to be kept under wraps for the two people to get along (borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees), as well as showing more of his misunderstanding of the Middle East by stumbling between demanding social and political reforms where they are unlikely, his prominent lack of success with respect to Syria and Iran, and a failure to persuade Muslim countries to provide the personnel for combat with Muslim extremists.

The president’s personal limitations in the most tragic of ways have also come to the surface in yet another indication of his country’s failure to deal with its racial tensions. One hundred and fifty years since the end of slavery, and 50 years since the end of legally enforced segregation, the country that tells Israelis, Palestinians, and others how to deal with their internal problems is showing once again that it cannot deal with its own. Head Start may have been a great idea for helping along ghetto kids at the beginning of their schooling, but it isn’t so easy to cope with fatherless children once they reach the ages when sex, drugs, and violence make their lives exciting.

Israelis are tiring from their long serving prime minister.

Should an election be held in the current setting of the latest poll, the outcome would be more of the same. Likud would remain the largest party, but with only 24 Knesset seats. Nine other parties mostly supported by Jews would have between four and 16 seats, and three largely Arab rejectionist parties would get their usual 10-12. 

We can expect more of the same from each of our mousketeers. Continuity is typical in politics and government. Expectations of salvation produce frustration. Coping is the way of realism to deal with what is insoluble. Let’s hope that the worthies have internalized that lesson, even while they proclaim their assurance of having all the solutions.

Ira Sharkansky is a professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


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