Rattling the Cage: The party’s over

The Obama administration is through with Middle East peacemaking – at least for this term.

Obama speaking flag 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Obama speaking flag 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
All along, it’s been a very nice deal for Israel – we have this historic dispute with the Palestinians, and who’s the go-between, the “honest broker”? Our best friend, the US. Maybe the best friend any country’s ever had. Very, very nice arrangement. And damn sporting of the Palestinians to go along with it.
Actually, we all know the Palestinians don’t agree to let Israel’s patron referee the peace process out of sportsmanship – it’s because they have no choice. America runs the show. Why? Because it says so. There is, however, one big plus for the Palestinians in accepting the US as moderator of the conflict: Only the US can pressure Israel into ending the occupation. No other country or world entity has that kind of leverage over us.
Or, rather, “had.” After the Republican upheaval in Tuesday’s congressional elections, the chances that America will make the Netanyahu government do something it really doesn’t want to do – like fulfill a fraction of 1 percent of the conditions necessary for the creation of a Palestinian state – are gone.
If, when he enjoyed such huge support, President Barack Obama found out he still had to spend $100 worth of political capital to get a dime’s worth of flexibility out of Bibi, what is he going to do now that he’s out of political capital, when he’s in deep overdraft? Keep banging his head against the wall when his head is reeling and the wall has only gotten harder? Keep fighting a losing, unpopular battle when the only thing that can save him, that can restore his popularity, is to find battles he can win?
Whatever the Obama administration may say, it is through with Middle East peacemaking, at least for this term. It has zero leverage over Israel’s right-wing government because the roaring Republicans love this government and especially its prime minister. The Republicans love the settlements, love Israeli rule over the West Bank, love the blockade of Gaza and, no less important, hate Palestinians and the rest of the Muslim world.
These are the political forces that have Obama in check. Well before the Tea Party surfaced, the GOP had lurched to the right on Israel/Palestine, lining up squarely with Likud and the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and now these people are in the catbird’s seat in Washington.
IF YOU were a Palestinian, would you trust that the US could even soften the Netanyahu government in negotiations now, much less “deliver” it?
No, you wouldn’t, and neither would I, so I don’t see why the Palestinians should be expected to go on playing with Israel when America is the dealer. If the game wasn’t rigged against them before, it obviously is after Tuesday.
And since Israel isn’t going to budge and America can’t force it to, that means the ball is in the Palestinians’ court.
What are they going to do, now that Pax Americana is not an option for them, not for at least two years and maybe a lot longer? Hopefully, they’re not going to return to violence. Hopefully, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will not resign, nor be overthrown by Hamas in the West Bank like they were in the Gaza Strip.
The best-case scenario is that the PA will make good on its threat to seek UN recognition for statehood, knowing that even if the US vetoes such a resolution, it would be a show of strength. It would create a sense of urgency. Challenging the occupation in the UN might shake the moderate West into acting as a counterweight to Tea Party America in the conflict.
Hopefully, the PA will also keep pressing its claim on Arab east Jerusalem nonviolently, as Fayyad sought to do this week, with some success. And hopefully, the moderate West will show its support, as British Foreign Secretary William Hague did yesterday by meeting Palestinian activists on the city’s Arab side.
All the Israelis who mean it when they say they don’t want to rule a foreign people really ought to urge Abbas to go to the UN. These Israelis ought to root for Fayyad to build more Palestinian facts on the ground on his side of the Green Line. With America out of the picture, the Palestinians are either going the route of nonviolent resistance and creative diplomacy, or they’re going back to terrorism, which would get a lot of people killed and end up strengthening the occupation even more.
Anyone who seeks peace and justice in the Holy Land can forget about America; politically, it just became an honorary settlement in Judea and Samaria. Only the moderate West, starting with Europe, can save this place anymore.