Among the flaps centered on this noisy little place is Prime Minister Netanyahu's meeting with government ministers on the Golan Heights, and his declaration that the area would be Israeli for time eternal.

 
A number of senior officials from ostensibly friendly governments expressed their reservations, and the UN Security Council voted a unanimous expression of alarm. All seem to agree that the area is Syrian, pending negotiations to the contrary.
 
One country can no longer seize territory from another, even if invaded from the country losing ground in subsequent battles.
 
We can overlook world history, which acknowledged conquests until norms changed after World War II. Or maybe the crucial date was 1967. It's clear that the world doesn't accept what Israeli acquired as a result of the 1967 war. It's less clear if it also rejects what Israel acquired as a result of the 1948 war. There aren't any embassies in Jerusalem, although it has been Israel's capital, in Israeli eyes, since 1949.
 
It's hard to figure without reference to the Jews, still serving the goyim as pariah. .
 
Bibi has also come under verbal attack from Israelis. Why did he say it, and thereby awaken sleeping dogs?
 
Much of the Israeli noise is partisan, i.e., from Israelis who oppose Bibi no matter what. Some is from up-tight aesthetes, who parse every thought before uttering it, and every word from others for hints of impropriety. 
 
A friendly interpretation is that Bibi's performance was for a domestic audience, and especially that to his right.
 
Restive MKs may be plotting against a Prime Minister who they say is not doing enough to assert Israeli interests.
 
A neutral nterpretation is that the statement has no significant negatives. It has brought forth a few more assertions that the territory is Syrian, but those don't mean much when Syria is somewhere in the chaos of a civil war, with the ostensible government not able to control most of its territory, and anything like the Syria of a decade ago likely to be gone for good.
 
Syria may be divided into a number of countries.  Speculators are mapping areas for Alewis,  Druze, Kurds, and Sunnis.
 
Jewish optimists hope that Israel will emerge from the game with a recognized claim to the area on the Golan already occupied. However, such folks aren't taking account of Israel's status in international politics. It's a better bet that each of the new countries will either claim the Golan for itself, or join in a declaration--sure to be endorsed by the UN--that it is not Israeli. We can expect the US and its European followers (if they are still following the US lead after November) to agree that the Golan is not Israeli, and cannot be until all former parts of Syria agree in negotiations.
 
If Hillary is sitting in the Oval Office, we can expect more of the same. If it's Donald, don't bet more than you can lose.
 
We may have lots of time to ponder all of the above. There is no assurance of anything like an early end to the chaos in what used to be Syria. 
 
There are too many cooks, each with its own recipe, to agree on what kind of soup should be made.
 
European governments are expressing similar postures that they don't want too many refugees, but aside from giving money to Turkey for accepting them, they are not close to a program for ending the conflicts in Syria, related conflicts in Iraq and Libya, or the close cousins in Mali, Nigeria and their neighbors.
 
Russia and the US, along with a variety of rebel groups, talk and occasionally agree about a limited cease fire, but those haven't lasted, and the parties with real chips on the table (Russia, the US, Assad, Iran, Saudi Arabia) are nowhere close to agreement on anything substantial.
 
All seem likely to let the 30 or so militias keep fighting. Money and munitions are cheap, as long as they are producing the loss of someone else's blood.
 
Violent Islam will be a tough genie to get back into the bottle.
 
With Muslims lining up on one side or another of multiple bloody conflicts, Barack Obama's assertions about the religion of peace are not winning him much applause in this part of the world.
 
The Saudi King signaled something other than admiration by sending an underling to meet the President's plane.
 
All of which makes Bibi's comments the equivalent of one pebble on a stony beach, and all the furor about it the equivalent of a light breeze.
 
Jewish Home's Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, has added to the noise with a proposal that laws enacted by the Knesset will apply to Judea and Samaria.
 
It's not clear if this is retroactive to past enactments, and if it applies to all of the West Bank or just Israelis living in to the major Jewish settlements that the Israeli government recognizes as such.
 
Whatever the details, for almost all purposes, Israeli citizens living in major settlements are already dealt with under Israeli law.
 
Like Bibi's declaration on the Golan, Shaked's proposal may be meant to arouse the right wing in defense of her job. There are rumbles about Bibi's efforts to broaden his coalition by including Labor/Zionist Union, with leftists in that party maneuvering to get the Justice Ministry for themselves.
 
And in the case of Bibi's declaration about the Golan, there has been opposition to Shaked's proposal from opposition parties, and hints of reservations from the Attorney General. 
 
A common theme of opponents is that the proposal will cause problems for Israel in international politics.
 
Gevalt.
 
Once again we are seeing the wisdom of my late friend and colleague, Murray Edelman, who wrote about the power of symbols in politics.
 
Rhetoric may not mean a thing in practical terms, i.e., what governments actually do, but it excites people, ranging up to the UN Security Council..

Shakespeare said it earlier, in connection with Sound and Fury.


Comments welcome
-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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