What we're seeing now in the West Bank is something the democratic world has been awaiting for a very, very long time: a non-violent Palestinian independence movement.
Everything that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad are threatening - a unilateral declaration of statehood, an appeal to the UN for recognition, or, if that doesn't work, dissolving the PA and demanding Israeli citizenship for Palestinians - are all tactics of non-violence. They're all meant to force Israel, via international pressure, to give the Palestinians what every country except this one thinks they're entitled to: a sovereign state based on the pre-Six Day War borders.
Abbas, Fayad and their people aren't blowing up buses, they're not shooting anybody - with the notable exception of Hamas gunmen - and they recognize the State of Israel. Isn't this what everyone's been asking of them?
The Obama administration and EU have been slow in recognizing, or at least slow in acting on the recognition, that Israel, not the PA, is now the obstacle to peace and has been for over two years, ever since the PA began putting down terror in the West Bank. I've felt for a long time that the only thing keeping the occupation going was Palestinian terror; if the PA sticks with a non-violent campaign, I think it's a matter of time before the West forces Israel to either free the Palestinians or become a pariah state like apartheid South Africa.
Given that choice, I have no doubt Israel would do the right thing - but only in the face of such a choice. So for the Palestinians' sake and our own, I wish Abbas and Fayad all the success in their unilateral strategy.
MOST ISRAELIS, for their part, are incensed at the Palestinians' behavior - why, they ask, doesn't Abbas simply return to the negotiating table opposite Binyamin Netanyahu?
The answer is that Abbas would have to be crazy. Since taking office, Netanyahu has wiped out nine years of progress in the peace talks. Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians about 95% of the West Bank, including part of east Jerusalem, then Ehud Olmert offered them nearly 100%, including a larger part of east Jerusalem, and now Netanyahu has swept all that off the table. The only number he's prepared to commit to is zero, which is the percentage of territory in east Jerusalem that he's ready to give up.
The way things stand are that the Palestinians are delivering peace while Israel has gone back on its offer of land; who's holding up progress here, us or them? Unfortunately, the Americans and Europeans have been too timid to back up the PA, so Abbas and Fayad are threatening unilateral, non-violent actions to embarrass the world - which supports their demands - into acting.
In response, the prime minister and his government are raising the roof. Unilateral actions! What about the Oslo Accords, which this government has always revered? What about the UN resolutions, which this government salutes?
In fact, there are enough violations of the Oslo Accords and UN resolutions by both sides to reach the sun, but the heart of the Oslo Accords, the UN resolutions and every other diplomatic initiative since the Six Day War has been the principle of land for peace - and it's Israel that's rejecting it now, not the Palestinians.
You get an idea of how blind this country has become when you hear the sorts of counter-measures the government has in mind if the PA declares independence in the West Bank. In the cabinet they're talking about annexing settlements, about cutting off the transfer of PA tax revenues.
Brilliant. That'll really get the world on our side, that'll demonstrate the injustice of Palestinian independence and make the case for the occupation, I bet.
They don't see it, and neither do the Israelis who vote for these characters. This country, as a whole, is stone blind to what it's doing to the Palestinians - even now, when the Palestinians, at least in the West Bank, are finally doing what we've asked them to do for decades: end the violence.
Gaza , of course, is a different story, and I sincerely hope it remains politically separate from the West Bank, that there is no reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, because that would fly in the face of the PA's non-violent, two-state strategy. The world can and should support Mahmoud Abbas and Salaam Fayad against the Netanyahu government's policies; it cannot and should not support Hamas.
Yet if Abbas and Fayad fail, it stands to reason that Hamas will be their successor in the West Bank, just as it was in Gaza. If non-violence fails, it stands to reason that the Palestinians will return to violence. Israel can't see this, doesn't want to see it. So it's up to Obama and the West to make Israel see.
What are they waiting for - an explosion?