Larry Snider

A Dark Cloud over Israel

Things are getting out of hand between Israel and the United States, between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, between Israel and Great Britain, between Israel and the United Nations, between Israel and the world. I wrote the title on Friday after reading a negative article about Israel and just finished reading yet another one today. Herb Keinon from the Jerusalem Post wrote an article lambasting the efforts of John Kerry and Benjamin Netanyahu to look for peace and of Mahmoud Abbas to want “a state without peace.” None of this bodes well for Israel even as the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis seems to be deteriorating further each day in and around Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount/the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Some are calling it the beginning of a Third Intifada with the killing of 3 month old Chaya Zissel Braun on Wednesday through an act of terror committed by Abdelrahman Shaludi who drove his car into a crowd at a rail stop and wounded eight others. “The incitement on the Arab street and in the streets of Jerusalem is growing,” said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the funeral for the baby girl. A Palestinian youth, Orwa Hammad, a US citizen, was shot and killed on Friday by Israeli troops during a stone throwing incident in Silwan.

Anger is everywhere and the threats of President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu only underscore the need for calm in the face of violence. It is a period when the peace process initiated by President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry which fell apart last spring seems to be increasingly replaced by unilateral actions by the state of Israel, (settlement approval), the Palestinian Authority, (approaching the UN Security Council for a vote with the added threat of going to the International Criminal Court if the vote doesn’t go its way), and internationals including Sweden and Great Britain taking their own actions independent from the wishes and control of the primary peacemaker of the Oslo era; the United States.

As stated above US Secretary of State John Kerry has made a series of comments and taken actions such as beginning a second negotiating process in Paris during the recent Hamas/Israel War, beyond the process begun in Cairo, which challenged the Egyptians and mortified the Israelis as it led credence to the position of Qatar and Turkey; Hamas’s main supporters. The United States has been in the catbird seat for a generation with the authority and the responsibility to get the two sides to the negotiating table and keep them there long enough to approve terms that will create a final status peace agreement. But time and endless third parties and insiders not interested in permitting either two states or peace have thrown Molotov cocktails into a toxic mess of issues which the United States itself remains incapable of isolating and sorting out in a strategic enough manner to compel both sides to seriously enter the game, make meaningful progress and reach an acceptable compromise. As the Middle East has/is falling into an Arab Winter with conflict raging from Libya and Yemen to Syria and Iraq the United States has been reminded that the clock is ticking against the possibility of achieving Israel/Palestinian Peace in deference to a demographic time bomb, the increasing likelihood of violence getting out of control in the West Bank/Gaza and a second international time bomb with nation’s running out of patience and escalating their participation in unilateral actions from declarations of Palestinian statehood to involvement in the BDS/deligitimization campaigns against the occupation and often the state of Israel itself.

As the Obama presidency is more and more at risk from the backlash of foreign policy blunders particularly in its handling of the civil war in Syria and its response to the beheading of James Foley by ISIS, it is trapped in a Middle East that is slipping beyond its control with former partners becoming unwilling to follow its lead. Israel has remained the key democratic ally of the United States in the Middle East, but one that will not align with an American philosophy of engagement with Iran, Hamas or even the Palestinian Authority as it is managed by a conservative Likud Prime Minister at a time when the United States is being run by an anti-war internationalist. The desire of President Obama to make peace between Israel and Palestine during both his first and second term is no different from the desire of every American President since Richard Nixon. The problem is that whether one hears the warnings of a generation of diplomatic fixers led by Aaron David Miller who say repeatedly that the two sides have to be ready and willing to make peace to be able in fact to do it with or without the intervention of the United States; there is the proviso that unless the US government puts a detailed plan on paper the Palestinians and the Israelis will continue to live in the Levant in a state of perpetual war.

President Obama, George Mitchell, Hillary Clinton, and now John Kerry have been unable to utilize all the carrots and sticks necessary to prod both sides, their local, regional and international backers and detractors into positions that enable them to put it on paper, make it stick and implement it. I believe Gaza presents an opportunity to put Mahmoud Abbas into the driver’s seat supporting him in the management of its reconstruction as the international community/U.N./donors work to barter the gradual freedom of movement for Gazan’s for a gradual demilitarization of Hamas and a new opening for peace. Unless and until the U.S. and the world wakes up and is willing to positively change the dynamic the state of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and all its people will remain trapped in an endless and deadly game of Whac-A-Mole.

About the Author
Larry Snider was President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace a non-profit based in suburban Philadelphia. Today he lives in New Jersey and is a Board Member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey.