If you read only one article on the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this year, read Elliott Abram’s piece appearing in the Weekly Standard on April 11.
If this article does not convince you of the need for a dramatic initiative right now on the part of Israel’s leaders, nothing will.
The following are among the points made by Abrams: Israel’s diplomatic position is fast deteriorating; Israel should be the next country to recognize a Palestinian state; if the Palestinian Authority does not agree to negotiate, Israel should take steps to separate themselves from the Palestinians; the Knesset should pass a law awarding compensation to any settler who wishes to move back behind the security fence; Prime Minister Netanyahu must act as well as speak, showing both Israelis and foreigners how he will shape an outcome where there are no Israelis in over 90 percent of the West Bank.
The reason that this is a revolutionary article is not because of its content – others have written and said these things – but because of its author. Abram’s is a former official of the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, with a decidedly conservative bend. A veteran, high-profile, and exceedingly effective defender of Israel’s interests, his is an important and respected voice, especially in conservative circles.
Let me be clear: in the opinions he offers, he does not morph into a liberal or a Democrat. He remains highly critical of the Obama administration and suspicious and skeptical of Palestinian leaders. His concerns about the Netanyahu government are expressed respectfully and in measured tones.
Nonetheless, Abrams leaves no room for doubt that the times require diplomatic daring similar to that which was demonstrated by Prime Minister Sharon in his withdrawal from Gaza. And he emphatically notes that in light of Palestinian obstinacy, Israel must be prepared take unilateral action to strengthen both her international standing and her strategic interests.
Don’t wait for the Palestinians, he says, and at the same time do nothing to close off possibilities for future agreements. And remember that Zionism is about creating a Jewish democratic state, which in turn requires a territory where Jews are the majority.
If Abrams is saying these things so boldly, you can be certain that conservative and Republican leaders are saying them. You can be certain that this is not a time for timidity or excessive caution on Israel’s part. You can be certain that maintaining the status quo will be a disaster for Israel.
In the words of Elliott Abrams, “Israel’s future requires separation from the Palestinians,” and it is up to Israel to make it happen.