Robert Grenier writes:
Late May’s extraordinary sequence of speeches and meetings involving US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – and the commentary surrounding it from official circles in both countries – did not make for an edifying interlude. The week beginning May 19 will not be remembered for displays of farsighted statecraft, or high moral courage. What we saw instead was brash, unapologetic chauvinism from Netanyahu, an outright refusal of moral leadership from Obama, and acts of political cowardice and opportunism from the US Congress outrageous even by the low standards of that frequently ignominious body.
But that is not to say that the week’s display was not useful. On the contrary, much of importance was accomplished. Now, more clearly than ever, we can see the future. For if there were any questions remaining about the current nature and direction of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, May’s events have put an end to them. Zionism is far from dead, and will surely survive, at least in altered form. But a fundamental change in the nature of the Israeli state has become inevitable.
To understand why, we should start with President Obama. It may seem mystifying in one so intelligent and insightful, but when, at the beginning of his administration, Obama set about to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute once and for all, he really had no idea what he was getting into. To this most logical, detached, and rational of men, the solution to the dispute must have seemed obvious. The salient issues had been reviewed endlessly for decades by all the parties. The key components of an agreement were well known. All he needed to do to get the negotiating process properly underway, he believed, was to address one key impediment: Israeli settlement policy.