We're seeing it yet again. The numbers say that the present wave of Palestinian violence is waning. Something like 200 Palestinian deaths against 34 Israelis are doing their work. There's also a closure of media and the police questioning of religious leaders who incite to violence, and tunnels of Hamas have collapsed on those digging them. The latter may or may not be the responsibility of Israeli counter-measures.
Security personnel reported 123 attacks in March, compared to 155 in February, 169 in January, and 246 in December.
No one should expect an end to Palestinians trying to kill Jews. There remains much antipathy and hatred, and individuals itching for revenge for the sake of those who have died or been imprisoned. No one should relax vigilance against the possibility of a spectacular attack that kills many, or claim to know when the next wave will begin. However, power and skill count for a lot.
This week's Palestinian effort to get some traction is Abbas' assertion that he will approach the UN Security Council for full recognition of a Palestinian State, presumably with the borders and other conditions he demands, including a declaration once against that Israeli settlements are illegal.
The Palestinian hope is that it'll be a slam dunk, and that the US will not exercise the veto that it has used on similar occasions.
Against this are commentators saying that someone will persuade the Palestinians to stop short of demanding a vote by the Security Council, that even Obama's enthusiasm for a two-state solution will not survive his party's need for Jewish support in November, and that Israel has sufficient leverage to keep the Palestinians in line.
That latter may begin with the indebtedness of the Palestinian Authority to Israel for electricity, which has led to occasional cuts in the current until the Authority makes another promise to pay. Israel has also paused the transfer of taxes collected at Israel's air- and sea ports for Palestinian imports in order to cover part of the Authority's bills, or in retribution for Palestinian unpleasantness.
Involved in our neighbor's pathos is the enmity between Gaza and the West Bank, which overcomes periodic ceremonies signing agreements of unity and mutual promises of accommodation.
Added to this are the 200,000 Palestinians working in Israel due to the lack of opportunities closer to home.
One might risk a guess that our mutual future will be economic rather than political.
Polls have found a majority of Israelis favoring a two-state solution, and it is the sine qua non of Palestinian and international politics, but the Palestinians have proved themselves unable to do what is necessary to reach the goal.
There is no need to recite the occasions when the Palestinians demanded too much, and could not accept what was offered, their leaders' incapacity to leave office when their terms expire or to ratchet down from open warfare between their factions, and occasional outbursts of incitement and violence that sours not only supporters in the international community but also their obvious allies among Arab or Muslim governments. With both Egypt and Saudi Arabia arrayed against Islamic extremists, a concept that overlaps with substantial numbers of Palestinians, Israelis can tolerate hostile resolutions in international forums or the madness of official inquiries staffed by ideologues over the edge of anti-Semitism.
Campaigns of BDS promoted by angry Jews, Palestinians, and Presbyterians, and cheered by American undergraduates.make more noise than anything tangible.
It ain't pretty, but it reinforces the pathos of Palestinian politics more than it threatens Israel.
It's easier to work together than to politick together. Beyond the 200,000 laborers who work in Israel or the settlements, there are joint ventures involving professionals. Palestinian computer programmers work with Israeli firms without leaving their desks. Palestinian medical personnel travel back and forth, in part for advanced training and in part to work in both Israeli and Palestinian facilities. Arabs who've acquired academic degrees from Israeli institutions live in the suburbs of Jerusalem and teach in the West Bank. At one time Gaza was also involved in these cross-border opportunities, but not since the area fell into the hands of Hamas and its more radical allies.
The Palestinian diaspora includes individuals who have acquired considerable wealth, invest in the West Bank, and in some cases move there to oversee their concerns. An earlier wave of oversea Palestinians investing turned bad during the Second Intifada, with its 1,100 Israeli deaths, three or more times that many Palestinian deaths, and extensive destruction. Since then, the most prominent investment is the new town of Rawabi, with plans for 6,000 housing units and occasional comments that they will be open to purchase by Israeli Jews as well as Palestinians. It was not easy getting Israeli authorities to accept Palestinian proposals for road, water, and electric connections. At times it looked as if there might be a new town without residents. The process illustrates the need for Palestinian concessions as well as demands.
It may not be neat or simple, but in that it resembles much of business. For the Semites on both sides of the Jew/Muslim divide, bargaining, despite the bumps, is a lot better than fighting.
The horizon is problematic. Mahmoud Abbas has remained in office for more than seven years after the formal end of his term. Palestinian polls show his support shaky, and at 81 his term may come to an end at any time without his consent. Palestine is anything but a united entity. Local elites and representatives of extended families jostling for power may turn the corner into violence. Israeli officials as well as those of overseas governments see the coddling of Palestine as a way of holding off the collapse of what institutions exist, and the descent of yet another Arab area into all out bloodshed.
Shortsighted and/or messianic Jews who see the disintegration of Palestine as a benefit ought to think some more. There are something like four million Palestinians living alongside Israel. Governing them would be an economic and a moral burden that Israel should avoid.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem