If I''ve learned anything in a half-century of studying politics, it is that those who demand everything risk getting nothing.
Currently there are two examples of major players who haven''t gotten that message.
One is the Republican Party of the United States, which, according to reports, is likely to include a plank in its platform calling for a total ban on abortion to be written into the Constitution, without exceptions for cases of rape or incest. What advocates call a "human life amendment" may better be described as the Sarah Palin event of 2012. For those who are confused by the linkage, a Sarah Palin event is one capable of leading voters who intended to support a party to either stay home or vote for someone else.
Republicans are also the people whose candidate for the Senate in Missouri--and crucial for their their hope of achieving a majority in the Senate--linked the words "legitimate" and "rape" in responding to a talk show host. The storm he set loose may lead party bigwigs to rethink the human life amendment in their smoke filled rooms, assuming that smoking is still allowed at political gatherings.
Abortion is one of the issues that causes residents of smaller places to wonder about the people who populate and lead the country that has so much influence upon us. In almost all other democracies, individuals can decide the moral issues for themselves, without the leaders of a major political party aspiring to write laws that limit their choices. It does not add to our confidence that the same cluster of politicians sought to bring democracy to the Muslim countries of the Middle East. And Barack Obama''s obsession with Jewish settlements as the key to a peace process does not elevate the pinnacle of American Democrats above the pinnacle of American Republicans.
Outsiders gain support for their view that Americans are a daffy breed from recent polls showing Obama and Romney closely matched despite Republican aspirations for a human life amendment.
A Palestinian parallel to American Republicans shooting themselves appears in a speech by Mahmoud Abbas, the ostensible President of Palestine (West Bank), continuing in office despite his term expiring on January 15, 2009. His academic work, done in the Soviet Union, is said to have come close to--if not gone over--the border of Holocaust denial. Now, according to the Jerusalem Post, he "denies the Jewish connection to Jerusalem."
The occasion was the 43rd anniversary of the attempt by an Australian Christian to burn down al-Aksa mosque. According to Abbas,
"“the fire, set by a criminal under the eyes of the Israeli Occupation Authorities, was the first [attack] in a series aiming to demolish al- Aksa mosque and build the alleged Temple in order to uproot its citizens, Judaize it and eternalize its occupation . . . (Israeli excavation work in Jerusalem, and tunnels underneath the mosque) will not undermine the fact that the city will forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian . . . there will be no peace or stability before our beloved city and eternal capital is liberated from occupation and settlement.”
I know enough about politics to realize that it is appropriate to consume American party platforms with a grain of salt, if one considers them at all. And that statements, such as Abbas'', made by politicians at ceremonial occasions, need not get in the way of serious negotiations. Nevertheless, a party platform offers clues as to who is in charge, and it is hard to imagine a candidate winning a presidential election without lots of votes from the broad center of the political spectrum.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process was dead--or at least deeply dormant--before Abbas'' most recent comments. Responsibility for what seems to be a deadlock without end is hard to pin down. The possibilities include Palestinians'' inability to accept Israel''s existence and the end of their dream to undo history and return refugees plus their descendants to homes that no longer exist; the even more extreme sentiments of Hamas and its allies in charge of Gaza, whose rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians perpetuate their status as "terrorists" in the eyes of many governments; and several hundred thousand Israeli Jews living in "disputed" or "occupied" land, depending on perspective. The more extreme Jewish settlers, along with overseas allies, are convinced that God gave it all to us. The most extreme of them are on a similar wave of spirituality as Republican and Palestinian extremists. They view Palestinians as modern equivalents of Amalek.
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (I Samuel 15:2-3)
Most of the Israelis I know look upon advocates of the Amalek-Palestine linkage like they look at Americans obsessed with abortion and Palestinians who deny Jewish history, or want to turn back the clock of Palestinian history.
Another thing I have learned in 50 years of studying politics is that some problems can''t be solved.