Thursday, May 28, 2009

The US-Israeli-Palestinian Kabuki

I didn't blog nor did I write last week when Israeli prime minister Netanyahu came to Washington last week, but maybe with Mahmoud Abbas, the "approved" Palestinian leader in town today a word of explanation might be in order.

If the Israelis and Palestinians ever do get sick of the confrontation game and work out a way to live together peacefully in the same neighborhood, they might prove to be remarkably compatible partners. After all these years they know one another so well that if they were inclined they could get along quite well. As it is, what they know is how to push one another's buttons. Whenever some ambitious U.S. president tries to secure what he conceives of as a place in history by pushing them to negotiate, they each demand something they know good and well the other won't accept. Both do it and blame one another when it dfoesn't work out.

The U.S. plays make-believe as well. It is officially committed to a two-state solution, but that is about as likely as elephants flying. Even besides the fact that there are two Palestinian entities (with Hamas, to worse of the two, having arguably a better claim on legitimacy), the geography of the region would make any Palestinian state almost completely reliant on Israel, and no Palestinian entity could guarantee various elements wouldn't lob missiles into Israel. Israel is almost as fractured politically as the Palestinian entity. Besides, the "moderate" Arab states, whatever lip service they might pay, have no interest in seeing a Palestinian state. I have been observing and writing about Israel-Palestine for going on 30 years and while the players and some of the peripheral issues may change, the fundamental issues don't. Yet the U.S. has a certain interest in keeping the political theater going, maintaining the fiction that it's working on peace, which it expects to break out any time as soon as a few loose ends can be cleared up.

It's more than a bit tiresome. I thought Obama was being fairly shrewd appointing the peripatetic George Mitchell as special envoy so he could create the appearance of action. I'm surprised he agreed to meet with Netanyahu and Abbas. I hope it's just part of the game of pretending to care and he doesn't start getting the idea that maybe his unique qualities can accomplish what Reaagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush failed to do.

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