Beware the false security of a pre-election pivot.
Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, a deep thinker and close colleague of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, claimed to a Jerusalem audience this week that Israel has talked some sense to President Barack Obama about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We convinced the American administration,” Yaalon said, “that there is no way to solve the conflict in one or two years…. The US is trying to manage the conflict now, rather than solve it.”
Reporter Gil Hoffman notes that “there has been no public indication that the Americans have given up their hope of solving the conflict, and the US helped draft the Quartet position that aims to solve the conflict by the end of 2012.”
And just a few weeks ago Defense Secretary Leon Panetta sounded as sure as ever that the conflict could be solved if the parties would just “get to the damn table” and Israel would “reach out” to its neighbors and be more pliable.
Yaalon, for his part, gave Obama less credit on Iran, saying that “France and Great Britain are leading the West now in calling for crippling sanctions on the Iranian central bank and preventing Iran from exporting oil, while the US is unfortunately leading from behind.”
Still, as Hoffman points out, Yaalon’s words regarding the Palestinian issue constitute “the first time a high-ranking Netanyahu administration official has indicated that the US had shifted from conflict resolution to management.”
If Yaalon is right, one would expect an easing of the administration’s pressure on Israel regarding this issue—pressure that has been obsessive and often brutal.
Upon taking office the administration proclaimed all Jewish life over the 1967 lines—including in parts of Jerusalem that it saw as off limits to Jews—illegitimate and the main obstacle to peace. Obama pursued the theme in his June 2009 Cairo speech, in which he sang the praises—often with invented “facts”—of Islam as a civilization while portraying “the settlements” as the hub of evil and equating self-imposed Palestinian displacement with the Holocaust.
The pattern of Israel-abuse reached another high point with the administration’s tantrum over Israeli building plans in Jerusalem in March 2010 and Obama’s notorious snub of Netanyahu at the White House. Also around that time Obama signed onto Arab attempts to divest Israel of its nuclear deterrent—that is, its fundamental guarantee of survival in the region.
Even more grave, though, was the president’s explicit call in May this year for an Israeli return to those 1967 death-trap borders, a violation of solemn American commitments dating back forty years to uphold Israel’s right to defensible boundaries.
Naturally, even if the pressure lets up at this stage, one can attribute it to the upcoming US elections unless the administration shows some explicit sign of actually having learned something on the Palestinian issue.
Seemingly, though, it would be hard for Washington not to learn something about the difficulty of achieving amity in the Middle East. One would think a headline like last week’s “Deadly Blasts Rock Baghdad…” would leave an impression, coming so soon after the U.S. pullout and tolling over 60 dead and over 200 wounded.
What the U.S., after all, has been trying to achieve in Iraq since 2003—peace, democracy, conciliation between parties long at war—resembles what Israel is supposed to achieve with the Palestinians. But if the Iraqi variant of the age-old Sunni-Shiite conflict continues in full fury despite America’s best efforts, why should the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” be at the point of ending? If the two great branches of Islam are still in deadly discord after 1400 years, by what contrivance does Obama think the Arab-Islamic side (or “the Palestinians”) will formally and explicitly accept the blasphemy and humiliation of a Jewish state on what they see as Islamic land?
One would imagine the administration is struck, too, by a headline like yesterday’s “Suicide bomb kills at least 20 in northern Afghanistan”—a country where the U.S. has been trying to achieve such goals even longer than in Iraq and has little to show for it as the situation only deteriorates. And then there was “Islamists kill dozens in Nigeria Christmas bombings”—true, outside of the Middle East and a bit further afield, but, for all that, not at all unrelated.
But if Obama really has any inclination to learn something about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he could see appalling sights just by looking at the conflict itself.
He could have made note of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s staged, public meeting last week with Amana Mona—a Palestinian child-murderer. In 2001, using online impersonation, she lured the 16-year-old Israeli boy Ophir Rahum to his death in a hail of terrorists’ bullets near Ramallah.
Last October Amana Mona was released from prison and exiled to Turkey as part of the Gilad Shalit deal. Abbas, in his first diplomatic visit to Turkey since that time, sought her out for a photo-op along with ten other released terrorists.
In so doing, was the polished, “secular,” “moderate” Abbas’s message—that the murder of “enemies” is a noble act meriting special honors—different from that of the bombers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria? If so, someone needs to explicate the nuances.
To this can be added the increasingly close ties between Abbas’s PLO and certified bad-guy Hamas. But the truth about the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” has always been there for those not too delusional to see it. Yaalon, Netanyahu, and the others in Jerusalem are aware of this truth. If they really have conveyed some of it to the U.S. administration, it would be a spark of hope in a dreary picture. But it remains to be seen.
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