As I understand what has happened:


Prior to Barack Obama''s ascendance to the presidency, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Israel were moving at their own pace to a tolerable coexistence. A technocrat as prime minister, financial aid and training by the United States and Jordan had improved Palestinian security forces. This meant a more orderly society for Palestinians, and reduced attacks on Israelis. Israeli security forces were reducing the incidence of check points throughout the West Bank, allowing a freer flow of people and goods from one area to another. Overseas Palestinians were investing in construction and commerce, putting up new housing, shopping centers, cinemas and other places of entertainment.


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Paradise had not arrived. There remained lessons in Palestinian schools with maps that did not show Israel, frequent references to Nakba and the rights of refugees and their descandents to find their homes in Israel. There were aspirations for the creation of a Palestinian state, but it was less prominent that the continued development of a good life.


Then President Obama upped the fire under the idea of a Palestian state, and added a condition that he felt appropriate: the stopping of Israeli construction in Jewish settlements, including in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem. These were over the "green line" of the pre-1967 borders of Jerusalem, but were inside the lines that Israel had drawn for its capital in 1967. Most of the construction in these neighborhoods was on vacant land. Several had been populated by Jews since the late 1960s, but they were not only for Jews. When the President proclaimed the impropriety of further building in French Hill and elsewhere, there was an Arab family living two floors below us. According to the President''s terms, they could move a wall to change the shape of a room but not us.


Neither Palestinians nor Israelis were ready for a peace process. Two prominent earlier efforts had ended in Palestinian rejections of what Israeli prime ministers had offered. A fair reading was that Israeli political realities would not permit the offer of terms that Palestinian political realities could accept as sufficient.


But the American President pushed, and European heads of state could not be silent. The world leader wanted a Palestinian state, and those dependent on his cooperation for a whole range of concerns joined his chorus. Why not? It did not cost them anything, and they could gain by being on the right side of a conflict seen as the weak Palestinians against the strong Jews. Jewish morality and divisions within the feisty societies of Israel and the Diaspora might lead to flexibility that would tempt the Palestinians.


Neither the head of the West Bank Palestinians nor the Prime Minister of Israel could give away the store. (Both societies have cultural traiditions in small and large commerce, so the shopkeeper analogy is appropriate.)


The result was a stiffening of demands. Neither side expected to get what was being demanded, but stiffening meant that there would be no deal, and they would not have to give away what they could not afford to surrender. Critical here is the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the dismantling of Jewish settlements.


Gaza was another story. Taken over by Hamas in a short but bloody civil war, its leadership was far from the West Bank''s concern with putting living standards about nationalist ideology or Islamic theology.
 
It is reasonable to describe Netanyahu and Abbas as naysayers, but it is not reasonable to assign them the primary responsibility for doing harm in the Middle East. That responsibility belongs with the President of the United States, and his naive obsession with starting a peace process that neither Israelis nor Palestinians could complete, or wanted to begin. Both Netanyahu and Abbas are expressing extreme opinions as their ways of holding off a peace process that neither can complete due to internal problems. Obama insisted in awakening a sleeping dog, and disturbing Palestinians and Israelis.


The web site Memri has published an item that shows excerpts from the May 20, 2011 broadcast of a Palestinian Authority ceremony honoring the families of prisoners sentenced to one or more life terms in Israeli prisons.

The ceremony was hosted by the Prisoners'' Affairs Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Bethlehem''s Governor and Deputy Governor, the Palestinian army commander for the Bethlehem district, and head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force in Bethlehem. It honored the families of 39 Palestinians serving a total of 255 life sentences in Israeli prisons for involvement in the killing of Israelis, the overwhelming majority of whom were civilians.


It would be inaccurate to describe the Palestinians as barbaric. However, there is an element of barbarism in a culture that celebrates terror in this manner.


Is this the kind state that Barack Obama wants to create? Perhaps not. However, his obsession with Palestinian statehood goes beyond the reality of what was a manageable arrangement before his campaign. What we have now are the heads of Israel and Palestinian indicating what they cannot accept, and ranking Palestinians honoring the murderers of women, children and civilian men who rode buses, dined in restaurants, or simply stood at bus stops.


The mood was better in Israel and the West Bank before January 20, 2009.


 

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