Wednesday night’s press conference at which Netanyahu, Barak and Lieberman tried to explain what just had happened with Hamas, was a revelation. Looking at the faces of our leaders you could see that they are beginning to understand, at last, that the Middle East has changed. What was is not anymore. The arrogance of power took a hit. All of a sudden it dawned on them that Obama and Egyptian President Mursi, just talking, are much more powerful than the IDF with all its guns blazing. All of a sudden, with a delay of 6 years, they realized that Hamas did in fact win the elections in Gaza and is a power to be reckoned with. Suddenly, after pummeling Hamas for 6 years, they are beginning to fathom that a strong Hamas in Gaza is not necessarily a bad thing. All of sudden they have to think hard what the Palestinian Authority and Palestinians in the West Bank will make of these developments.
Once again Israel proved that it doesn’t budge before taking a hit. Israel always needs some painful enticement before it does what was inevitable in the first place. In this context it’s the removal of the sanctions on Gaza. More than a thousand missiles, some of them on Tel-Aviv and and the outskirts of Jerusalem did the job.
Will the Palestinian Authority get the cue and start bullying as well to get Israel to relent and do the unavoidable, finally negotiate in earnest ? Or will Netanyahu, out of character, try to preempt the Palestinians and go for a peace agreement before being dragged into negotiations, kicking and screaming ?
By the look on the faces of Netanyahu, Barak and Lieberman, you could see that something did in fact change. It appears that Obama’s combination of private cold shoulder and full public support threw them off balance. So did Mursi’s full engagement to put Hamas in place. It is beginning to dawn on them, that the whole alignment, Obama, Mursi and Hamas may just be getting ready for the next move: A peace process worthy of its name. Obama has already pulled the rug out from under our attempts to keep Palestine out as a UN member state. He will certainly clarify that negotiations with Abu Mazen must start soon if only to prevent copycat behavior from the Palestinians in the West-Bank who look at Hamas and wonder why they aren’t doing the same thing.
And Netanyahu ? He is limping into an election campaign where everybody wants him out but there is no real alternative. He doesn’t look forward to lead a government that will have to cut huge sums of money from the budget and at the same time negotiate the West Bank away. It’s the irony of it all, that a Prime Minister who repeatedly compared himself to Churchill without any real reason, has now been placed into a situation where Churchillian statesmanship will be the absolute minimum necessary to keep the ship of state afloat.
When studying conflict resolution, one comes across a term called “ripeness”. Some conflicts keep on going for years and then, all of a sudden, get resolved because of circumstances and it’s not quite clear why exactly. We just may have reached that stage in history where this conflict is ripe and everybody involved wants to move ahead, get it over with.
A minor little detail needs to be dealt with – the Israeli public is not there. Having been ahead of its leadership for years yearning for a peaceful solution, it has become cynical and doesn’t believe in peace, clinging to useless right wing mantras that always sound tough and patriotic. We need some serious leadership to help the public along the way, get back to normal. Netanyahu doesn’t appear to be that kind of guy. He always had a problem telling the truth even if he knows it. But then, Arik Sharon who also didn’t have a proclivity for being truthful did have his moments when he saw things the way they were and not the way he wanted them to be. There just may be light at the end of the tunnel and for a change, it’s not necessarily the train from the other direction.