There has been a lot of talk about the conflict between Israel and Palestinians recently. Literally; people on both sides of the issue have made a point of slandering each other to gain political ground as they talk at each other instead of with each other. Despite the frustration I feel with this internationally mediated dance, I believe the fact there is music and space to twirl about signals a possibility for it to proceed.
But I wonder, is this really the best time for peace? Is it possible, maybe, that a long-term peace plan in the near future could mean the end of Israel?
Israel has made some surprising concessions so far, despite repeatedly promising none. About six weeks ago, at the Israeli Presidential Conference, I heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vie for talks with the Palestinian leadership. “We are ready to begin negotiations now, without preconditions … We’re only 15 minutes apart … that’s the distance from Ramala to Jerusalem. There’s no reason on Earth why we shouldn’t negotiate.”
(Skip to 14:00 for the part about peace talks)
I don’t know about 15 minutes. Traffic in Israel reminds me of downtown (insert any large U.S. city here), but it does put into perspective how easy it starting this process should be. So why has there been no peace? Well to paraphrase Bibi’s more historically verbose account, the existence of Israel itself is anathema to some.
How then, will cutting a deal with the Palestinian Authority help anything? Will there be a check mark next to a box saying “Respect thy neighbor” or a True / False question along the lines of “I will recognize people’s right to exist, without a predisposition to hate?”
Pretend Kerry manages to do the impossible (though he couldn’t even do the probable in 2004) and later this year the miracle takes form. Bibi and Abbas shake hands (gasp!). In any good compromise –and this one will have to be a lot more than good – neither party is going to be truly happy. Abbas and Bibi shaking hands would be a sure sign both are unhappy, thus signaling a ‘fair deal’ the likes of which we haven’t seen since Truman.
Now, keep in mind that Israel is not very big (I sometimes count travel times in “Israels”), and surrounded by countries that have powerful extremist groups, many of which could quickly become (or already are) a ruling political power. Some of these factions don’t like Israel very much. I would even go so far as saying they dislike Israel. There are active terrorist groups and anti-Israel sentiment in some circles of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and Saudia Arabia. Even if they could do something, each of those countries is too busy to bother with Israel, for now.
Egypt: In the middle of a coup d’état,
Syria: Raging civil war,
Lebanon: “Oh hey, Syrian civil war. How you doin’?”
Jordan: Although Syrian businesses are flocking here to avoid the war, long-term economic problems still threaten,
Iraq: Still picking up the pieces from America’s invasion,
Iran: Continuing its bid for nuclear “power plants,” and “satellites,”
and the Saudis are frolicking around with their black gold, but still don’t seem to like the Jews much.
So, all of these countries surrounding Israel have issues more important than bothering the Jewish state, for now. But if Israel were to broker a deal with the PA, is it entirely unreasonable to assume that extremist groups in those seven countries would go ballistic and try to push a third intifada? It wouldn’t be the first time that every surrounding nation invaded Israel just as the region is celebrating the establishment of a new country.
Israel is already the most peaceful please in the Middle East. Maybe the gradual change during the past few years, or even in the past six months that I’ve lived here, will yield an eventual change on a macro-societal level and the issue of two states will be dropped or realized without external interference. As much as I would love to see an international sigh of relief with a brokered peace deal, or at least Abbas being unmasked as a cyborg, I worry what the outcome of any compromise reached in the near future will hold for Israel.