Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Other Boiling Pot in the Middle East

Innocent Israelis are watching increasing, sporadic and seemingly random knifings from angry young Arab men, wreaking revenge as part of the newest stage of escalating tensions between Palestinians and Jewish citizens in Israel. Naturally, local Jews and their Israeli police force are very jumpy. The mantra of “shoot first and ask questions later,” even a Jewish lynch-mob and turning back Palestinians at various check-points, has not helped.
An occasional opponent of Netanyahu, Yest Atid Party chief Yair Lapid, interviewed on the BBC’s Hard Talk program (October 21st), suggested that any civilized society would shoot knife-bearing assailant first and ask questions later. That Palestinians have been assaulted even when unarmed illustrates how out-of-control the situation has become. Neither side trusts the other; hatred abounds even as some Palestinian and Jewish citizens sat together to protest the violence. Are these just random acts or the brewing signs of the next period of Intifada, years of new level of expected violence between Jewish and Palestinian residents in Israel?
Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, recently declared his people are no longer committed to what he described as the futile and meaningless progress based on the 1993 Oslo Accord between Palestine and Israel… a path towards a two-state solution that has met the severe opposition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and his ruling Likud-headed coalition government. Palestinian leaders have told their followers that the peaceful path is no longer viable in light of a rather clear Israeli commitment to hold on to their current one-state reality.
Abbas has world sympathy on his side. Having scored recent victories by overwhelming votes in the U.N. General Assembly on Palestine’s being accorded “observer status” and given the right to fly its flag over major U.N. facilities where the balance of U.N. members fly theirs, Abbas is flying high. Israel’s increasing unpopularity in the West is further evidenced by the fact that there was near unanimous worldwide support for the six-state (including the U.S.) negotiated nuclear containment accord with Iran.
With Palestinians being accorded less-than-second-class citizenship status in Israel, as Netanyahu’s administration continues to approve what seems to be a tsunami of new Jewish settlements in the major region for that potential separate Palestinian state, and given repeated statements from high-ranking Israel government officials that a two state solution will not happen on their watch, you’d think things in that Mediterranean paradise couldn’t get much worse. But we know that’s so far from the truth.
Israel is facing a regional rising tide of militarism, Islamic states well-supplied with state-of-the-art weapons from Russia. Despite lip-flap statements inviting Abbas to the negotiation table without preconditions (Netanyahu has a few of his own, however), Netanyahu and his ruling coalition are globally viewed as leaders of a brutal, repressive regime that has no intention of implementing a peaceful, negotiated two-state solution. Within its own borders, if a two-state solution doesn’t happen in the foreseeable future, Israel itself will be overwhelmed as the local Arab population is headed towards achieving a clear demographic majority within Israel, which has to be a very uncomfortable thought for the current Jewish majority.
There seems to be a systematic goading of the Palestinians by Netanyahu, taking steps he absolutely knows will sabotage even the most dedicated parties to reinstate the policies of that Oslo Accord, which has been clearly part of America’s own commitment to Middle East peace since 1993. “In a speech before the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu described a meeting between [Mufti Haj Amin al-]Husseini and Hitler in November, 1941: ‘Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew. And Haj Amin al-Husseini [pictured above] went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here (to Palestine).' ’ According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked: ‘What should I do with them?’ and the mufti replied: ‘Burn them.’
“Netanyahu's remarks were quick to spark a social media storm, though Netanyahu made a similar claim during a Knesset speech in 2012, where he described the Husseini as ‘one of the leading architects’ of the final solution… The claim that Husseini was the one to initiate the extermination of European Jewry had been suggested by a number of historians at the fringes of Holocaust research, but was rejected by most accepted scholars.
“The argument concerning Husseini's role was recently mentioned in a book by Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, ‘Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East.’ The authors, like Netanyahu, draw a straight line between the mufti's support of Hitler and the policy of the Palestinian Liberation Organization under Yasser Arafat.
“But even these two researchers do not claim that the dialogue described by Netanyahu ever took place. They say Hitler reached the conclusion to exterminate the Jews because of his desire to nurture Husseini, who opposed the transfer of Jews to pre-state Israel.”, October 21st. There is virtually no hard evidence that the mufti in fact baited Hitler into his drive toward Jewish extermination, a Nazi killing policy that also extended to gypsies and criminals, categories of people that most certainly were of little concern to the mufti.
Netanyahu’s statements worked, if goading was the goal. He had to know what the reaction to his statements would be. Knifings escalated; Palestinian anger boiled over. Netanyahu seemed to be using the escalating violence to rally his own Jewish constituents into a fear-mindset, which might just buy Netanyahu a firmer hold than his current weakened coalition.
After Netanyahu’s statements did their trick, after he made it very clear what he thought of Palestinians, Bibi realized that the rest of the world was again rallying to the Palestinian side of the issue. So on October 30th, he told the world he really didn’t mean it and retracted his words: “‘The decision to move from a policy of deporting Jews to the Final Solution was made by the Nazis and was not dependent on outside influence,’ Mr. Netanyahu posted on Facebook, in Hebrew and English. ‘The Nazis saw in the Mufti a collaborator, but they did not need him to decide on the systematic destruction of European Jewry, which began in June 1941.’” New York Times, October 30th.
The problem with this aggressive and politically-driven mentality, this effort to sustain a hard line, is that Netanyahu’s position is simply swatting at a hornets nest that will, sooner or later, overwhelm even the most vigorous Israeli defense efforts. And the worse things get for local Arabs, the harsher the ultimate revenge they will inflict on Israel.
Having baited Palestinians and his own Jewish constituents into implacable positions, Bibi seems to have pushed any potential two-state solution, a policy even the United States supports, well into the future, perhaps a generation or more. Violence seems to be the only path left for Palestinians, who continue to garner global sympathies at the expense of Israeli interests, no matter how severe their violence might be (they are “freedom fights” to most of the world).
The mythology of an undefeatable Israel is slipping away. Based on recent results, her forces are not quite as effective against insurgent Arabs as past glories would suggest. The Russian arming of Israel’s neighbors, the rise of ISIS and the increasing experience of local Arab countries in continuous sophisticated military conflict are creating level of military expertise that Israel has never faced before. Add the ISIS support for Hamas (the Palestinian extremists who govern Gaza) and the beginning of internal slow hacking at Israeli defenses by local Arabs from within, and the situation is getting deadly for the Jewish state.
And while not all Israelis support Netanyahu’s militant resistance against a two-state solution, the Prime Minister has expertly created an atmosphere of fear where his strong resistance seems to be what Israelis think they need to be safe. Bibi is playing his constituents like a puppet-master, pushing them into his corner of defiance. Arabs are also reacting in lock-step with Bibi’s seeming intentions.
In the long run, for Israel to exist within secure borders, which it has an absolute right to do, it must find a peaceful solution with its neighboring states. But every step that Netanyahu has taken has made that task infinitely more difficult, perhaps impossible for decades if not generations. His arrogance could even be viewed as the beginning stages of a self-inflicted suicidal march to oblivion. History may prove that Benjamin Netanyahu was the architect of Israel’s ultimate demise.
I’m Peter Dekom, and whatever we as Americans can do to place Israel and Palestine back on a peace track is the very best way for us to maximize our undying commitment to support Israel’s survival.

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