By Donald Sassano
Special Contributor to In Homeland Security
Earlier this year I opined that despite news headlines dominated by civil war, ISIS, and the ongoing Iranian nuclear negotiations, the lingering failure of Israel-Palestine (IP) – and the non-implementation of a two-state solution – stealthily continues to be the most invidious long term drag on Middle Eastern stability and America’s ability to achieve its strategic goals in the region.
Since then, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, too clever by half and now an unabashed opponent of Palestinian statehood, managed to maneuver himself into a diplomatic and electoral corner. With election results in favor of Netanyahu, and pending formation of a coalition government, it appears he has solved his political problems – at least for now.
But having licked the fatigue factor (Netanyahu has been PM since March 2009, and previously from June 1996 to July 1999), his problems will likely mount. They include domestic strife related to high levels of economic inequality and continued blowback from an ill-advised address to Congress that put the sacred “special relationship” in play.
If Netanyahu had gone down to defeat in this week’s election, was an IP deal in the offing? One could be forgiven for supposing so. Global expectations of the emergence of a new Israeli ruling class devoted to realism and practicality – voices of liberalism as opposed to ultra-nationalism and reaction – ran high.
But as the Obama administration and its European partners not-so-secretly cheered Netanyahu’s potential comeuppance, real change would have been unlikely, especially if Palestinian Authority President Abbas had been forced to play another tired negotiating hand after yet another round of American arm twisting.
And although it can be argued that any negotiations should be welcomed, under a Zionist Camp led government talks that could be wrapped up quickly were destined to drag on indefinitely. Settlements were sure to expand (after all, the Labor Party is the progenitor of settlement building after the 1967 War) and with that Palestinian hopes were dashed yet again.
Security Bona Fides
Isaac Herzog is thought to be a voice of moderation. Coalition partner Tzipi Livni has long been a stated proponent of diplomatic engagement and a two-state solution. Despite this, present and past clues belie the extent to which they would have undertaken what is necessary in order to ink a deal.
The Zionist Union took pains to avoid discussing IP during the campaign. Like some politicians on the left who sometimes run as security hawks so as not to appear weak and then succumb to a harder line once elected, Herzog chose to highlight his military service.
According to Middle East commentator Jonathan Cook, a critic of the Israeli occupation, campaign ads emphasized Herzog’s familiarity with “the ‘Arab mentality.’” As TV ads featured a gun’s cross-hairs “moving from Arab women shopping to a bearded man at a protest, a voice-over promised that Mr. Herzog knew when to ‘eliminate these people.’”
Likewise, contained within a spate of classified documents published by Al Jazeera in 2011 known as the Palestine Papers, Israeli chief peace negotiator Livni showed little indication she is capable of meaningful or realistic compromise. Instead, transcripts indicate she adopted maximal positions on virtually every key issue and fully pressed Israeli demands at every turn.
Livni endorsed the transfer of Israeli Arab villages into a Palestinian state, the same plan endorsed by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s current right-wing foreign minister. She refused any right of return for Palestinian refugees. And she dismissed Palestinian concerns about the territorial integrity of their future state. Kadima’s actions, in other words – particularly Livni’s – offer little evidence to support the popular view of the party as a more flexible partner for the ‘peace process.’
So in the end, yet another Netanyahu government will be the best route to real peace. Triumphalism and a renewed stridency leading to more insulting behavior toward their American benefactors may be just the ticket. After all, Obama has no more elections to run. Having pulled his iron out of the fire, Netanyahu may have paved the only real path to peace: cessation of American military aid and blanket U.S. diplomatic cover.
Note: The opinions and comments stated in the preceding article, and views expressed by any contributor to In Homeland Security, do not represent the views of American Military University, American Public University System, its management or employees.
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