Is the sky falling? Or only part of that over the Jewish community of the United States?The signs appear in one New York Times article that takes seriously the prospect of a Palestinian state declared unilaterally, with the support of prominent international bodies and maybe even the acquiescence of the United States; an op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman in which he describes Israel as a spoiled child for not accepting his and the White House''s prescription for moving forward with the peace process; and delegations of Reform rabbis and other leading American Jews who are urging the Prime Minister to extend the settlement freeze.The article indicates that the issue is worrying Israel, but does no more than cite a former ambassador to the United Nations. For some years now, Thomas Friedman has been blaming the settlements for much of what is wrong in the Middle East. Calling Israel a spoiled child for not going along with his and the President''s preferences is somewhere between absurd and obscene. The country''s 60-year record of self-defense, economic development, and maintaining democracy under stress is not the work of a spoiled child.Moreover, Friedman in the middle of this op-ed piece writes differently than the Friedman who wrote other portions.These are important voices, in the United States if not necessarily in Israel. They cause me to consider again my own cynicism toward an expectation that a Palestinian state can develop in the present contexts.My ego may not be as big as those of Barack Obama, Thomas Friedman, or even the average individual who has earned the title of rabbi, but it is big enough to make me pause before making a simple admission like, "Gee Whiz," they may be right.For one thing, the New York Time''s Israel correspondent relies on individuals who appear to be in the second or even lower tiers of Palestinian leadership. His writes about ideas "discussed in both formal and informal forums across the West Bank," concerning the possibility of a Palestinian state created with the help of the International Court of Justice and the United Nations General Assembly. The Times'' journalist writes that even a non-binding declaration by the General Assembly would look like that General Assembly decision of 1947 that provided the basis for Israel''s creation. However, we should remember that Palestinians and others lost a war that they launched after that UN decision, which is an item missing from the newspaper''s analysis.In a setting as loose and fluid as the Palestinians'', not clearly strong enough to justify the label of "regime," it is difficult to know who is on top, or who has influence. The New York Times article can do no better than quote a "former peace negotiator" and a "member of the PLO''s ruling circle."
It is sad, a bit worrying, but not all that surprising that a number of Reform rabbis and other Jewish leaders are siding with the White House against Israel on the settlement issue. J-Street stands for something, as do Jews who write for the New York Times. It is necessary to take off one''s shoes and count toes as well as fingers to reach the number of Reform Jews in Israel, but the fingers of one hand are probably enough to count the Reform Jews among the settlers. Against Reform rabbis and other Obama supporters are polls indicating a considerable fall in the incidence of American Jews supporting the President. Analysts conclude that the drop comes from his postures on Israel, as well as the domestic issues that bother many Americans. Lacking any precise way to judge the mood of the American Jewish community, one can only say that there are leadership voices urging a firm line against the Palestinians, as well as those urging accommodation.Today''s news suggests that the American Administration is not enthusiastic about Palestinian ideas to upset its process with a unilateral declaration and approach to international organizations. Seemingly in response to the report in the New York Times noted above, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that there is no substitute for negotiations with Israel. "There is no magic solution to the impasse in the talks, but it''s the only way."She reminded Palestinians that they have a lot of work to do in creating the institutions of a state, and urged more serious efforts at assistance by Arab governments.Ms Clinton''s cautions can keep the Palestinians busy until the end of the Obama presidency, whenever that occurs. Judging how the winds are blowing among American Jews and others concerned with Israel will not be any easier.Judging the Israeli response to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, with or without international endorsement, is also problematic. One possibility is a "Ho Hum," a citing of agreements requiring the agreement of the Israeli government for any changes in the status quo, and no movement on the ground.Another possibility is a series of tactical responses, including increased security activity along with diplomatic maneuvers to soften the consequences of international support for the Palestinians.Yet another possibility is much more extreme, of the sort that Israel has shown itself capable of doing when its leaders feel that imprecise "red lines" have been crossed. Palestinian leaders should ponder what happened to Mordecai Vanunu (kidnapped from overseas, jailed for 18 years for revealing nuclear secrets, and kept in virtual house arrest since the end of his sentence), Lebanon in 2006, and Gaza in 2009 before they move toward what might be another one of those red lines."I have no idea whether the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has the will and the guts to make peace with Israel. In fact, when you go back and look at what Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu’s predecessor, offered Abbas - a real two-state compromise, including a deal on Jerusalem - and you think that Abbas spurned that offer, and you think that Netanyahu already gave Abbas a 10-month settlement freeze and Abbas only entered serious talks in the ninth month, you have to wonder how committed he is."