April 27, 2011

Palestinian statehood - no brains required

I blogged a few months ago about how Israeli-Palestinian negotiations might still forestall a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians, along with the likelihood that only a U.S. veto would stop the United Nations from formally recognizing such a state. Now, barely five months before the UN General Assembly convenes for its annual high-level kick-off, such a U.S. veto seems unavoidable. Those seeking to gain from a reinforced sense that Israel stands alone against the world will feel very vindicated, if a little disappointed that their White House bogeyman came through for the Jewish State in a pinch.

President Obama will be facing a tight re-election campaign, if only because the American people are increasingly divided along partisan lines, which suits the career politicians. It's no longer astonishing that, as recently as last August, one-quarter of all Americans didn't even believe Barack Obama was born in the United States. So backing Israel against premature Palestinian statehood is a no-brainer. 

Unfortunately, lack of brain function is what defines all Israeli-Palestinian dealings these days. We have shifted completely into the realm of political reflex.

ISRAEL: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seeks advantage and survival within his coalition first, ideologically driven avoidance of any lasting territorial compromise second, and any kind of comprehensive peace talks last. If he can advance the ideological imperative of demographically dominating the West Bank of the Jordan River, and that also keeps the Palestinians from returning to negotiations where he would have to directly turn down any realistic compromise, then his political fortunes can only grow at home. The thought that democratic Israel appears more and more a relic against the backdrop of democratic-style revolution sweeping the region is merely... a thought. The thought that Washington recouping its diminished international standing is a benefit to Israel, and that a lone U.S. veto blocking 180 other UN member states and denying Palestinian self-determination can only weaken U.S. standing to help Israel down the road is merely... a thought. After all, Israel was forged out of the Holocaust, is surrounded by 100 million hostile Arabs, and Justin Bieber won't play nice.

PALESTINE: Palestinian leader Abbas has been continuously hobbled by the lack of any positive Israeli gestures since Netanyahu took office. The Obama administration's obsessive and repeated focus on settlements only made him look even weaker, and forced him to submit to Arab League obstructionism. The League only allowed him to agree to resume negotiations temporarily, in order to build legitimacy for the September 2011 unilateral declaration, since everyone knows -- and I mean EVERYONE KNOWS -- that Netanyahu has NO intention of negotiating over final status. Even if the Palestinians don't get a functioning sovereign state out of this, at least they will have regained world sympathy, though it could make the prospects for genuine statehood even less likely. And there is absolutely nothing the Palestinians can do that will move the Netanyahu government to endorse a Palestinian state. NOTHING.

AMERICAN JEWS: After two years of largely supporting the Netanyahu approach, to the point of admonishing President Obama publicly and right in the White House, major American Jewish organizations are now insisting that the President must veto Palestinian statehood. Aside from reminding us all that said organizations have no effective input to the Administration (why else go public?), these latest demands underscore the irony: Rather than trying to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer together (let alone talking back to Netanyahu), which might have obviated a unilateral declaration in the first place, the mainstream Jewish organizations have focused on parroting Netanyahu's charade that there are no Palestinians to talk to, that there can be no pre-conditions for talks (except on the Palestinians), etc. And these organizations have also grasped at every misstep by J Street -- the new agglomeration of American Jewish peace groups -- as proof that it's the left wing that has no answers, no legitimacy, no grasp of reality. 

The best way to stop unilateral statehood -- and to advance Yitzhak Rabin's strategic vision, if that matters -- was to move the talks along. Netanyahu wants to avoid a settlement, and the Jewish organizations need to plead their relevance, far more than Obama needs to force the sides to reach an agreement. Does Israel really not want to make peace with Palestinians (and maybe for good reasons)? Then there's nothing left to think about.

No brains, all around. No brains. No self-awareness. No shame.

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