There are a number of shibboleths U.S. and Israeli officials repeat endlessly as if doing so might make them come true. This one is from Hillary Clinton:
“The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations between the parties, and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, not in New York.”
But is there any truth in this claim? What has direct negotiation achieved for the Palestinians in the past decade or more? Nothing. Why does Clinton have any confidence that a Palestinian return to negotiations would achieve anything for them? She offers no evidence to support this claim. Why? Because of Bibi Netanyahu (and before him Ehud Olmert). Israel simply isn’t prepared to negotiate in good faith. Sure Israel will negotiate on its terms and possibly agree to a sham (for the Palestinians) settlement that gave it virtually all it sought and the Palestinians virtually nothing. That’s what was proposed during the Olmert years as shown by the Palestine Papers published by Al Jazeera.
Another shibboleth, this one articulated by former IDF chief of staff and Kadima MK, Shaul Mofaz:
…The EU should not back a Palestinian unilateral declaration of state as this would only engender “another round of violence.”
The argument–and an incredibly condescending one it is, as it presumes Israel and the west can divine Palestinian motivations–is that Palestinian hope will expand at the prospect of statehood granted by the UN. But when such hopes are dashed and Palestinians see how little it has actually achieved for them, they will turn to a third Intifada out of frustration. This in turn will bring waves of strikes and violence which Israel will be forced to crush with force, thus setting the peace process back even farther than it was before the statehood bid began.
The fallacy of this claim is that no one knows, and certainly not U.S. and Israeli policymakers who’ve proven they are the most tone-deaf in understanding Palestinian interests, what the outcome of the statehood bid will be, and how it will impact public opinion in Palestine. Most Palestinians are exceedingly pragmatic and patient. They understand that their leadership cannot deliver full statehood on a silver platter all at once. I seriously doubt there will be such mass uprisings when so-called despair sets in.
On the other hand, there is a party which would gain immensely if there was such violence: Israel, and specifically its far right government. They want no settlement with the Palestinians and violence plays into their hands. If there is no such violence it would not at all be above Israel to provoke it. Targeted assassinations in the West Bank or Gaza, bombing of Gaza tunnels and killing workers inside them, all of these would ratchet up tensions to the boiling point and set off the sort of mass violence the U.S. and Israel feign they fear. The fact that the IDF has stockpiled weapons and sanctioned vigilante patrols for “self-defense” is also deeply alarming. The Israeli media is also replete with IDF announcements that it is readying military units for service should there be an uprising. This is also adding tinder to the situation, for where soldiers sit idle, there will be generals seeking a reason to fight.
Israel has done this before. This was how the first and second Intifadas began: one with Ariel Sharon traipsing through the sacred grounds of the Temple Mount; and the IDF southern commander Tzvika Fogel attesting that the army played its part in provoking the second Intifada. And of course, Operation Cast Lead was preceded by Israel breaking the Gaza ceasefire by bombing the Egypt tunnels and killing a number of Hamas activists in the process. Of course, it takes two to tango and the Palestinians play along with retaliatory missiles, etc. But as Israel is far stronger militarily, the onus lies on it when it comes to provocation.
In truth, I worry that the violence will arise from the Israeli side. Either it will react to a Bilin-type peaceful protest with massive force as it did along the Lebanon and Syrian borders. Or it will provoke such violence with the type of provocation I outlined above. Either way, this is what could light the tinderbox. We could see scores, if not hundreds dead. Israel would look upon the Palestinian dead in mock horror and say: “Look what they made us do to them.” Then the world might blame the statehood bid for the violence. This is for Bibi a notion devoutly to be wished for.
The problem with this scenario is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer easily managed by Israel with its U.S. handlers. Now, all the countries liberated by the Arab Spring will be watching. And especially Turkey will be watching. Its leader has signaled it will no longer be business as usual and that his nation sees a vested interest in settling this conflict. So if Israel wants to go about killing Palestinians, it will no longer face a few hundred Qassam missiles in reply. Instead, it will face a nation whose population, military and economy is many times larger than Israel.
This is a new ballgame for Israel. It’s always succeeded, with a few exceptions, in dividing and conquering its Arab enemies. And there has never been any Arab-Muslim power that was decidedly stronger than Israel. Those days are rapidly coming to an end. The only question is whether Israel will recognize this, trim its sails, and avoid a confrontation; or whether it will have to be taught a lesson before it recognizes the new limitations.
Of course, I’m outlining what I think the new realities are. It remains to be seen how this will play out. Some or most of what I foresee could happen. Or it could happen differently. But I doubt it will happen much differently.
What is truly annoying about the role the U.S. is playing in all this is that serves as the stereo speakers and amplifier of Israel’s far-right government. In not a single way is Obama’s “policy” out of sync with the Netanyahu government. We know Obama hates this guy’s guts. We know Obama supports a two state solution. We know Obama opposes settlements. But alas, we also know that Obama doesn’t have the guts for a fight. So instead he runs along in the shadow of big brother, Bibi. It’s shameful when you think of it. A major failure of will. And all to get re-elected. In order to serve a second term, in which he will squander his possibilities as he squandered them in his first term.