15 March '16..
Two interesting news items from Israel in the last few days should have gotten more attention. One concerned an Israeli offer to pull back its military operations from two of the largest cities in the West Bank. The other concerned rumors about an expansion of Israel’s governing coalition. While seemingly unrelated, they both reflect the reality of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But the lack of interest in either development either by the Obama administration or its media cheerleaders speaks volumes about the stark contrast between the facts and the obsessions of Israel’s critics.
As we learned last week via Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, President Obama still thinks the obstacle to peace in the Middle East is named Benjamin Netanyahu. After more than seven years of picking fights with and carping about the Israeli prime minister, the president’s resentment about Netanyahu’s belief that he knows more about the conflict with the Palestinians than he does still rankles and he never misses an opportunity to vent it. According to Goldberg, the president believes Netanyahu “could bring about a two-state solution” that would create a lasting peace, but he won’t do it because “he’s too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so.”
This evaluation of Netanyahu is widely shared by the liberal press and was repeated by the New York Times editorial column yesterday. The Times blasted Netanyahu for skipping a meeting with the president and carped about the amount of military aid Israel is being offered by the administration in an attempt to compensate the Jewish state for an Iran nuclear deal that has imperiled the security of America’s sole democratic ally in the region. But the Times was even more interested in rehearsing Obama’s talking points about Netanyahu missing opportunities to create peace.
As with the president’s comments, largely missing from this formulation was what the Palestinians have been doing. Neither the president nor the Times think the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly turned offers of peace and statehood from Israel is significant. Nor do they seem to care much about the Palestinian Authority’s policy of fomenting hatred against Jews and Israel and its encouragement of terrorism. Goldberg’s interview was published the same week that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas pointedly refused to condemn a Palestinian terror attack in Israel during a visit from Vice President Biden (who was eating near the site of the crime) in which an American tourist was killed.
Yet that incident didn’t rate a mention in the Times editorial. It also failed to note that Abbas refused to back a U.S. effort to lay down the future terms of peace in a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have supported Palestinian territorial claims. Why the refusal? Because in order to get the land, the Palestinians would have to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state and end the conflict for all time. That is something the Palestinians continue to refuse to do no matter where Israel’s borders might be drawn.
Of course, even those who acknowledge the impasse over peace think Israel should be doing more to lessen tensions. And that is exactly what Netanyahu was trying to do this past week when he offered to pull back military operations from Ramallah and Jericho as a gesture of good will. Far from being “politically paralyzed” the prime minister bypassed his own security cabinet in order to make the offer. Yet like his acceptance of a two-state solution or his offer of withdrawal from most of the West Bank during the negotiations led by Secretary of State Kerry in 2014, the Palestinians were not interested. Unlike his Hamas rivals, Abbas sometimes pays lip service to a two-state solution. But he either can’t or won’t make peace because he knows that Palestinian national identity is inextricably tied up with the century-old war on Zionism that regards Israel as an illegitimate entity. That is why his PA and the Fatah Party that controls it continues to treat terrorism against Jews as a heroic endeavor and not even the personal request of the American vice president was enough to make him disavow the latest “martyr” slain while killing an American veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.
That brings up the other minor news item out of Israel that spoke of the possibility of the Zionist Union opposition party joining Netanyahu’s government. The Zionist Union disavowed the possibility, but the reason why the story was plausible is that there is no longer any real disagreement between Netanyahu’s Likud Party and its traditional rival on the peace process. In January, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog publicly noted that a two-state solution is impossible for the foreseeable future because the Palestinians won’t agree to it. Though American liberals are loath to acknowledge it, there is now a consensus that stretches across party lines in Israel about the lack of a peace partner. Not everyone in Israel is in love with Netanyahu, but the overwhelming majority of Israelis know that any further land given up to the Palestinians will ultimately become a terror launching pad like the one created in Gaza by Ariel Sharon’s 2005 withdrawal. Though Herzog and his party may never join Netanyahu’s government (and would be wise to avoid doing so since it would mean abandoning his stance as the main alternative to the prime minister), the fact that it is even thinkable demonstrates that the great divide in Israeli politics on war and peace issues has been erased by Palestinian terror and intransigence.
Why won’t President Obama and the New York Times pay attention to these facts? Perhaps because doing so would mean admitting that they have been wrong all along about both Netanyahu and the Palestinians and the false narrative about the prime minister or Israeli settlements being the obstacle to peace. When given a choice between their fantasies and dealing with the reality of the conflict the administration and its fans always choose the fantasy. Seen from that perspective, its clear it doesn’t really matter what Netanyahu does. Nothing he or the Palestinians can do is capable of forcing the president to give up his myths about the Middle East. So long as that is true, why should Israel’s enemies give up theirs?
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