By Ira Sharkansky
Letter from Israel 

Verbal jousting

 


In the background of this note is the recent one about the misadventures of great powers, and producing unintended outcomes. It could have employed Barbara Tuchman’s title, “The March of Folly.” Here the focus is on the diplomatic maneuvers, proclamations, politely announced policy preferences, along with the yelling, screaming and chanting of the unwashed.

At issue is what stands for international politics focused on Israel and the Palestinians.

It includes Barack Obama’s comments that it may not be possible for his government to protect Israel against BDS in the absence of a peace process. The sub-text is that he doesn’t trust Prime Minister Netanyahu to pursue seriously a two-state solution, so the US representative may absent herself when its time for the UN Security Council to proclaim its support for Palestine, a capital in Jerusalem, and the borders that prevailed prior to the 1967 war.

France has indicated that it is preparing a resolution that will look something like that, while calling for detailed negotiations between the parties.

What’s missing from all of this is the will or the power of the US, France, and all the other worthies clucking about Palestine to force Israel into moving any settlers, or stopping its incursions into the West Bank or Gaza for purposes of self defense.


Israel is not a great power, but compared to Palestine, its power is awesome.

It also has enough friends to remind those with power that Israel is the best hope for civilization in the Middle East, and that what it does is justified by the morality that prevails across the west.

The idiot running Orange telecom learned from the egg on his face the costs of threatening Israel in 2015. Hopefully other corporate heads have noticed, and will temper their own doubts about doing business with the Jews of Israel.

BDS is a bother, but not much more. A recent survey described its peak manager as an Israeli Arab who has gotten the best of what Israel offers for himself (a degree from Tel Aviv University and a home in a suburb of Tel Aviv), while orchestrating a campaign to delegitimize the country. Among the protesters are clusters of pensioners who have been protesting everything since Vietnam, young people easily mobilized on campuses, and Arabs living in western countries.

We may worry about young Jews turning away from Israel, but temper that with the realization that young people grow old, and many  change along the way. Predictions of the future may be rosy or bleak, but neither are weighty enough to move governments.


Should BDS prove to be more than a bother, Israel can tweak its pressures on Palestinians until they say uncle.

Meanwhile, the dignitaries who issue hints and pronouncements about Israel’s nastiness are embroiled in far more serious stuff, and not doing all that well, against various Muslim fighters whose nastiness has gone over the borders into barbarism.

US efforts to create an Iraqi government and army after destroying what existed has been a costly joke. Syria has become a wasteland of competing forces with loyalties and aspirations impossible to know with any certainty. Libya and Yemen are not far behind. Somalia, Lebanon, and Nigeria are their own mysteries, with Nigeria’s oil and population making it a difficult country to ignore.

Every once in a while we hear about a western country that has seized some of its residents planning to enlist in one or another of the Islamic armies. There are daily reports about bombing runs by US, European, or Arab air forces, but the flow of recruits appears to be growing. Money comes from the sale of Iraqi oil and receipt of contributions and munitions from places claiming to oppose the Islamic State. 

Against all of that, Israel and Palestine appear to be a couple of specks on the international scene.

Israel is taking care of itself, and Palestinians claiming national leadership tour the world, and ask for help to turn back history.

That ain’t gonna happen.

Israelis have signaled their willingness, and perhaps desire to negotiate, but from where we are, not where we were 50 years ago.

Many things have changed since the war Arabs provoked.

Not only are there about 600,000 Jews living on what Palestinians claim as their land, but Israel is now on the same side as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf States against Islamic fighters. 

No Arab official will admit that they have downsized concerns for Palestine, but that appears to be have happened.

Palestinian politicians who can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state, the state of the Jewish people, or some similar formulation, are a long way from the realism required for serious negotiations.

One can guess that they can have what remains of the West Bank and all of Gaza as a Palestinian state. However, recent events indicate that disputes and frequent violence between Palestinian factions are more important in holding things up than anything associated with Israel.

Conversations continue. When they become serious, we’ll all know.

Should we live that long.

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

 

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