Tough Love

Israel will continue to place short-term security concerns ahead of the long-term prospects of peace, as long as the US tacitly consents by not objecting. If he forced their hand in diplomatic negotiation with Syria and Fatah, President Obama would be doing the Israeli people a favour. Strong words from Vice-President Joseph Biden before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) bode well.

Considering the comments made by his President in the run-up to the election before that same committee, Vice President Joseph Biden’s remarks are a welcome dose of realism. Most notably, he declared that Israel must work towards a two-state solution. It seems obvious.

Unfortunately, the commitment of Israeli politicians to this plan varies according to domestic political concerns.  The political pressure not to appear weak before voters should not be underestimated. Indeed, it was speculated before the invasion of Lebanon in 2006 that the decision of the erstwhile Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was motivated by a desire for credibility.

More recently, Israel has demonstrated a complete disregard for international law and protocol. Even if they continue to deny charges of war crimes, their actions nevertheless draw international repudiation and create propaganda opportunities for extremists. They cannot be justified even if you believe the accounts of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Israel’s government needs to start thinking in the long term, which means concessions and diplomatic pandering – in dealings with the Palestinians, and regionally in negotiation over the return of the Golan Heights to Syria. It will also necessitate a more considered approach towards blocking the transport of goods into Palestinian territory.

They also need to crack down on illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied territories. So far, the threat of violence (often realised) has hindered this key prerequisite for peace. Their continued presence and expansion, along with activities in the Gaza Strip, only empower the extremist elements in Palestine. The new government may find this difficult politically.

By passing responsibility for these tough and unpopular decisions, the Israeli government can finally make progress unhindered by populism. But they need strong leadership from their allies to force their hand. Recall that Ariel Sharon often abdicated responsibility for his most necessary but unpalatable decisions, by blaming pressure from the US. These decisions would not have been made, if he had been left to his own devices.

The new Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu will soon meet with President Obama at the White House to discuss the future of his nation. He is probably not looking forward to the event. Anyone with a desire for an enduring peace for Israel and Palestine should.

© The Free Marketeer 2009

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