In 1977, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance pitched the idea of a UN trusteeship for the Palestinian territories. That was to be the first step in getting to a Palestinian homeland.
Little was Cy to know that 37 years later his idea would be adopted by Israel’s Official P.R. Nightmare and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (who all sentient beings should be naturally predisposed to oppose) and the oftentimes brilliant writer Bernard Avishai (who likely filled a slow peace negotiation day with something designed to stimulate tweets and retweets.) The Avishai and Lieberman joint venture is selling the idea that the solution for Gaza is for the U.N. to have an (undefined) role. (This is in addition to the U.N.’s current role as an unbalanced arbiter of Israel’s human rights transgressions.)
Now, I don’t know officially how many other bad ideas Lieberman and Avishai jointly or individually considered. Methinks when missiles are still producing alerts in Israel and Israel’s politicos are counting on Egypt and not the U.S. to best represent Israel’s interests, that is probably not the time to develop and tweet out your poorly considered brilliant solutions. Especially because there are no brilliant solutions that focus solely on Gaza. None.
Gaza is what happens when a thugocracy runs a country. Gaza is what happens when the thugocracy’s support is strengthened by Israel’s reluctance to spread significant benefits to a West Bank Palestinian leadership that not only supports demilitarization of both the West Bank and Gaza, but has worked with Israel since the last Intifada to improve Israel’s own security. If Palestinians see few two-state benefits developing from the non-violent approach, and Hamas can frame a battle resulting in thousands of dead and injured as a victory because Gaza citizens gain more freedom of movement, more open borders, greater fishing rights, and fewer Israeli drones and bombs, then the underlying support for Hamas inevitably gets strengthened.
We’ve seen this all before. Drop a feckless U.N. mission into this cesspool and what do you imagine will happen in two years when the Hamas missiles the U.N. couldn’t eliminate or prevent being imported and built are now even more accurate? Hope that Iron Dome or some other new cocooning technology keeps pace?
Yes, yes, yes, it isn’t all Israel’s fault that Hamas is still wreaking havoc. Yes, I know when Israel gave up Gaza, Palestinians chose terror instead of building a successful economy — with Israel’s assistance in controlling Gaza’s borders, imports and exports, electricity and freedom of movement who could have ever predicted that?
Yes, I know that the Palestinians elected Hamas and elections have consequences. I could go on and on about Hamas’s awful governance and its awful alliances and dalliances with Iran, Qatar and Turkey. Here’s something too many seem not to know: None of this or any other supportive or unsupportive narrative matters.
Israel has to work in the geopolitical reality it faces. And Israel can only fully control how it tries to shape and react to that reality.
We likely have a few more bad decisions to go before we have to travel the Lieberman-Avishai U.N. road. Even taking the U.N. route would require a herculean negotiating feat to get all parties to approve the composition of a U.N. force and the terms of any U.N.involvement. Plus, Israel would have grave concerns about whether the U.N. would be able to succeed in ANY type of “on the ground” role.
One thing that is certain: The longer the conflict remains unresolved and new obstinate politician/managers replace old obstinate politician/managers, the more likely it will be that we will have a chance to revisit every old idea as a new one. Let’s try a really new idea: Focus on the West Bank as the Gaza solution. Bring the West Bank to Gaza by reengaging in a serious two-state negotiating effort, so Israel doesn’t risk Gaza coming to the West Bank.