"If you want a friend in this town, buy a dog."
That was Harry Truman''s way of saying that politics is a matter of pursuing interests, not friends.
Another expression meaning about the same thing:
If "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" prevails in heaven, the principle in politics is simpler: "Do unto others."
The Palestinians won a fully-padded seat as member in UNESCO, and are pursuing similar status in other UN bodies.
Israel''s response: building another couple of thousand housing units in the West Bank, and delaying the transfer of tax payments that it collects on imports for the Palestine Authority.
Not nice? Not productive? Or simply tit for tat?
Politics is complicated. Lots of players on numerous fields.
Another report is that Israel delayed for 24 hours--at the request of Egyptian officials--a tough response to rocket firings from Gaza.
Egypt is important to Israel. It supplies lots of natural gas and sometimes does a fair job of controlling things done by Palestinians or others meant to bother Israel. Relations have been shaky since the unseating of Mubarak. So far Israel''s response to the Egyptian request seems justified. Rocket attacks have declined to the point where schools in the south of the country opened today after a few days of keeping them closed in order to prevent the gathering of young Israelis where one poorly aimed rocket could create a catastrophe.
The result: Israel let the Palestinians fire the last shot from Gaza. If it helps their pride while mourning the young people killed by earlier Israeli responses, and if it stops the firing for days and hopefully weeks, so be it.
No one here in their right mind expects a breakthrough toward peace, either with the Palestinians of Fatah or those of Hamas, and certainly not the numerous smaller groups of troublemakers even more extreme than Hamas. It may be only Americans who can''t distinguish between the Middle West and the Middle East, and who expect this region to begin working like the better examples of Anglo-Saxon good sense. Europeans go along with the Americans, but it is more appropriate to accuse them of self-interested cynicism than heartfelt belief.
As I read what politicians say, it''s mostly the Americans who belong in the category of naive simpletons, or true believers. The shame is that the Americans have the power and resources, so they are given the task of leading the chorus.
Perhaps I am doing an injustice to Americans. Enough of them close to the pinnacle of power may be sufficiently wise and cynical. It may be better to count the Muslims who Americans and their allies (including some Arab governments) have killed in recent decades than to obsess on comments like, "The problem is not Islam."
What''s the end game for Israel and the Palestinians?
Can''t see it from here.
As far as I can see--reinforced by what I perceive to be the majority of serious commentary in various Israeli media--we should expect more of the same. To paraphrase the preacher, i.e., Kohelet or Ecclesiastes, there will be times of calm and times of violence.
Who to blame?
My inclination is to assign primary responsibility to Palestinians, who are unable or unwilling to control their extremists. And it may be the vast majority who deserve the label of "extremists." Most of their voices echo the reluctance to concede Jews a place in the history of this area, or to compromise with the existence of Israel and Jews more or less where they are.
The Jews also have extremists. Perhaps a tiny fraction compared to the prominence of their deal-breaking compatriots among Palestinians, but enough to do harm. Killing Arabs at random or destroying olive trees and other agricultural resources is not nice. Israeli police move against the perpetrators, perhaps not as fully or as quickly as some would like. The Ministry of Education announced that it was stopping its financial support of a yeshiva in the West Bank that was teaching too much nationalist extremism of the violent variety, rather than other elements of Judaism.
A wider assessment would compare olive tree destruction by Jews to Israeli automobiles stolen and brought into the Palestinian area, Israeli agricultural resources stolen or vandalized, and brush fires started, widely believed by angry Arabs. If not all of Israel''s police detectives are assiduous in tracking down Jewish troublemakers, some of them may have family members who have suffered at the hands of Arab thieves and vandals.
You want a friend? Buy a dog.
You want government by the golden rule? Die and and hope to find yourself in heaven.