Israel has no viable political endgame here: There’s just no clear route from bombardment to a sustainable peace. But the damage caused by this new conflagration won’t be limited to the Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s military offensive already has sparked outrage and protests throughout the Arab world. The current crisis also may destabilize some of the more moderate Arab governments in the region — in Egypt, for instance — where leaders now face popular backlash if they don’t repudiate Israel.
And if you think that none of this really matters for us here in the U.S., you’re kidding yourself. Arab and Islamic anger over Palestine continues to fuel anti-Western and anti-U.S. terrorism around the globe.
It’s time for the United States to wake up from its long slumber and reengage — forcefully — with the Middle East peace process. Only the U.S. — Israel’s primary supporter and main financial sponsor — can push it to make the hard choices necessary for its own long-term security, as well as the region’s. In January 2001, the Taba talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority came achingly close to a final settlement, but talks broke down after Likud’s Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister on Feb. 6, 2001. Sharon refused to meet with Yasser Arafat, and newly inaugurated President George W. Bush had no interest in pushing Israel toward peace.
Eight years later, Israel faces another election, and we’re about to swear in a new president. When he takes office, Obama needs to push both Israelis and Palestinians to sit back down, with the abandoned Taba agreements as the starting point. Here’s to a less bloody 2009. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — It’s good that there’s at least one American columnist willing to speak about what’s happening in Gaza without being an apologist for Israel. Yet in terms of the broader political perspective, calls for renewed US engagement in the Middle East peace process beg the most important question: engagement with whom?
When the dust finally settles in Gaza, Hamas will re-emerge politically strengthened while Fatah and the Palestinian Authority will be seen by most Palestinians as having been at best, ineffectual, and at worst, quislings serving the Israeli government.
What Israel’s latest war is doing is further unmasking the chasm between Arab leaders and the people they claim to represent.
The code word “moderate” means nothing more than an Arab leader with whom a Western leader is willing to be seen shaking hands. But what these hand shakes are capable of accomplishing politically has been vastly overestimated for the simple reason that the will of the people continues being left out of the equation.
If the Obama administration wants to make a radical break with the past, it might consider not a re-engagement with what has become a hollow “peace process.” It might in fact disengage from an issue that Israel has to solve for itself. Instead, it should look across the political landscape, become better acquainted with the real locuses of emerging political power and then deliver a message of bitter political realism to its regional allies: Look hard and fast for ways to accommodate your political foes, because if you don’t they will destroy you and in the chaos that ensues the whole world will suffer.