Jeffrey Goldberg, the journalist who broke the ‘chickenshit‘ story, tried to put a good face on the Obama Administration’s pretense of frustration with PM Netanyahu. Let’s see why his — and the administration’s — position doesn’t make sense.
The Israeli government doesn’t seem to understand that the status quo is unsustainable. As I’ve written (over and over again), I am not arguing for an immediate pullout from the West Bank; the times are too dangerous, and the Palestinian Authority too weak and corrupt and cowardly, for such a move.
First of all, exactly what is the ‘status quo’? I would describe it as follows: Israel controls the borders and airspace of Judea and Samaria, and Israel treats all of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital. It does not control the lives of the 95% of the Arab population of Judea and Samaria that are in areas controlled by the PA. It isn’t that this is unsustainable, but rather that the Palestinians and their friends in Washington and Europe would like it to be different.
But as he admits in the next sentence, there is no alternative. The Palestinians won’t and can’t offer an acceptable deal, and anyway it’s too dangerous. So if there’s no alternative, then we’d best find a way to sustain the allegedly ‘unsustainable’.
But in the meantime, Israel could help create conditions so that a Palestinian state could one day be born. What this means is simple: Netanyahu should take no steps that further entangle Israel in the lives of Palestinians.
What makes him think that there will ever be a situation in which a sovereign Palestinian state in Judea/Samaria will be desirable? The geography of the region won’t change. The strategic necessity for Israel to control the high ground above its population centers and airport won’t go away, nor will the steep sides of the Jordan Valley.
And I am convinced that the psychological geography won’t improve either: Palestinian rejectionism and their narrative of dispossession, loss of honor and desire for revenge is continuing to be nurtured by their leadership and becoming stronger rather than weaker. Every generation is less able to compromise than the preceding one.
It also means that Israel should try to negotiate in good faith with President Mahmoud Abbas, who is the best interlocutor Israel is going to have, despite his many obvious flaws.
Abbas’ ‘flaws’ include his publicly stated intention to continue the struggle against the Jewish state regardless of Israeli withdrawals or concessions. They include the continued incitement to murder and the glorification of murderers. They include accusations of genocide and apartheid. If this is indeed the best partner Israel is going to get, then this is still more evidence that a putative Palestinian state will not suddenly become an acceptable neighbor.
If nothing else, Netanyahu should call his bluff.
The ‘call his bluff’ argument always strikes me as so ludicrous as to embarrass its proponents, and yet it keeps coming back. Israel is supposed to make some massive concession to the PLO in order to ‘test’ its seriousness. But we gave them freezes, released murderers, and withdrew from territory, and every single time the Arab side pocketed our gifts and demanded more. The bluff has been called time and time again, but Abbas has never been required to lay down his cards — and he certainly won’t be by this administration.
It also means understanding that while most settlement expansion that is now taking place in the West Bank is happening in areas that will most likely come under Israeli control in the event of a final peace deal, the Palestinians haven’t agreed to this division yet. Unilateral moves do not help. They certainly don’t help Israel’s international standing, which is lower than it has ever been, and they certainly don’t help maintain Israel as a cause that garners bipartisan support in the U.S.
Correct, none of the building that is going on will ‘entangle’ anyone. But the Palestinians haven’t agreed to a Jewish state of any size in the Middle East yet. So of course they haven’t agreed to Israel keeping the settlement blocs! Since the whole idiotic process began in 1993, they have given nothing, honestly agreed to nothing, and didn’t keep any of the commitments they made. And we should note that the Palestinians themselves are going full speed ahead with unilateral actions, like building in the Israeli-controlled parts of Judea and Samaria and asking the UN to grant them statehood.
The possibility of a sovereign Palestinian state has been foreclosed by the triumph of the uncompromising Palestinian narrative over any moderate forces that may have existed. Combined with the rise of Islamism in the region, some form of the status quo looks pretty good — for Palestinian Arabs as well as Jews.
Goldberg is a smart guy, and to read him regurgitating the nonsense the Obama administration cynically peddles in order to justify its support of Israel’s enemies is simply depressing.