22 May '11
Twice this week we have heard President Obama declare, as if it is self-evident, that "the status quo is unsustainable."
It is worthwhile to examine exactly why the President believes that.
These seem to be the reasons he gave Sunday:
First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This will make it harder and harder – without a peace deal – to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.
This is an old argument, and I cannot say that I am expert enough to say how true it is. But it is worth mentioning that this is hardly a universal view, and that there is much evidence that shows otherwise. As with everything else, the truth needs to be determined outside of politics.
Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace.
A genuine peace is one where Israel's neighbors do not even fantasize about attacking Israel. Not one where they are coerced into not attacking by an ephemeral government, not one where they do not attack because of the military consequences - but one where they simply have no desire to, as I imagine most nations in Western Europe and the Americas are.
This will never happen in the Middle East. There will never be that level of peace, just as there wasn't between Israel and Egypt. The best we can ever hope for realistically is a detente where the weaker party has no desire to stir things up, even if it covets everything owned by the other.
This means that the best that Israel can hope for is a "Palestine" that keeps a short leash on its terrorists out of fear. Not love, not friendship, but fear. Just as Israel is not currently overly concerned about rocket attacks from Egypt, because it knows that Egypt will work to stop any such attacks, that is the best that Israel can want from a Palestinian Arab state.
And this is exactly the status quo today.
(Read full "Why is the status quo unsustainable?)
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