Political Animal


December 01, 2012 9:05 AM Spoiling the Peace

By Jesse Singal

Morning! Very good to be back at Political Animal after what felt like a lifetime away.

Let’s start with the always-cheerful subject of Israeli-Palestinian relations — namely, Mahmoud Abbas’s trip to the U.N. and the subsequent upgrading of the Palestinians’ status there.

Over at The Daily Beast, Daniel Levy adds a little context to the frequent refrain that Abbas’s move is no substitute for actual negotiations, which are the only way to bring the conflict to a close.

Most European governments and especially those abstaining have stressed the absolute necessity of a return to negotiations. What they have failed to explain is why resumed negotiations this time around would produce a different outcome to the failed efforts and foot-dragging of the past. In fact, in accumulating a little leverage for the Palestinians and by helping establish terms of reference for a two-state outcome, the U.N. vote could start to contribute to a more conducive context in which future negotiations can take place. But for negotiations to really make a difference, more will have to be done on parameters and on creating consequences for recalcitrant actors.

It’s easy to forget that polling has shown, very broadly and generally speaking, that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians both want something like the two-state solution. The problem is that the “recalcitrant actors” in question always seem to have undue influence. If there aren’t mechanisms in place to deter the spoilers, the stalemate will continue. Although “stalemate” is the wrong word, because every day without a real resumption of the peace process, more settlements are built, Hamas continues to gain legitimacy and international recognition at the expense of Fatah, and the demographic outlook gets worse for those who want Israel to be both Jewish and democratic. There’s no real “status quo” here because things are getting grimmer by the day.

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.


  • c u n d gulag on December 01, 2012 9:05 AM:

    Jesse, welcome back!

    Great point(s)!
    Now, tell that to Likud and NetanYAHOO.

    I suspect that from Bibi's perspective, the recent troubles improved his chances for reelection on January 22nd of next year - not that there was much doubt.

    And from the nation's perspective, it allowed the Israeli's to check the effectivness of "Iron Dome."

    So, I don't think Israel was to reticent to have that fignt.

    There are a lot of reasons for the US to support Israel. The trouble is, too often, Israel is the tail that wags us, the dog.
    So far, President Obama has been relatively supportive - but not reflexively so. I think a lot of Jewish Americans are getting a bit sick of Israel and its intransigence. All the more reason to get tough with them.

    The "Two State" solution is the only real "fix" that I can see.
    Maybe some of the other commenters here know of other ideas.

  • sjw on December 01, 2012 9:26 AM:

    Our interests are not Israel's interests. I have long been a supporter of Israel, for a variety of reasons. But the terrorist hits we've taken on Israel's behalf, the money we shell out for her, and the repeated instances of Israeli governments giving us the finger -- most recently, yesterday, with the approval of a huge new West Bank settlement -- have me saying "enough" (That's the polite formulation.) A little hard ball la James Baker is called for here. (In case you don't remember, Baker, Bush I's Secretary of State, famously called out the Israelis for obstructing peace and gave his phone number so they could telephone when they changed their mind. Bush I also stopped providing some financial assistance to underline the point.)

  • JackD on December 01, 2012 10:29 AM:

    It may be that the majority of Israeli citizens favor a two state solution but it appears that those with political clout do not. It's time for the U.S. to apply some pressure akin to economic sanctions. The election is done and the "Jewish lobby" can be ignored or deflected for a while.

  • Diane on December 01, 2012 10:47 AM:

    The most prominent of the "recalcitrant actors" that you cite is Netanyahu. He has his own propaganda machine in the newspaper Israel Hayom, handed out free all over, especially in the metro and at bus stops. It is completely funded by Sheldon Adeleson and is a continuing love essay to Bibi, including made up stats. This paper has 40% of the market in Israel (NPR. We saw what a prince of a fella he is during our elections.

    I'm not so sure that Netanyahu had the election sewed up until he pulled out the patriotic guns and waved them around at the Palestinians. Obviously the West Bank has to integrate and tame Hamas, but the status that was won at the UN seems to me to have more upside than downside. At some point, the US is going to have to be more reasonable about Israel. Bibi has been trying is best to bully Obama and I suspect he was pissed on November 7th.