A while back we spoke about the incentive for peace for Israel. Why should PM Netanyahu make any concessions to the Palestinians? Israel is clearly in control in the West Bank (as well and of the Gazan borders) and the United States blocks any international condemnation of the country as well as providing military and economic aid. It is questionable whether the Palestinian threat (rockets and missiles…) is strong enough to push Israel to make concessions (although the recent announcement by Netanyahu saying that settlement expansion will continue in eight months suggests that Israel is not wedded to peace). Yet it is plausible (albeit doubtful at the moment) that Israel can be pushed into peace.
At first glance, recent comments made by some pretty important folks in the United States seem to show a greater willingness to condition aid to Israel on a complete settlement freeze. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was fed up with Israel and Palestinian actions and threatened to walk away from the peace process (turns out he never said that) and George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, threatened to withhold aid from Israel (did Mitchell say sanctions against Israel??). Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. John McCain replied, “What? Us? Withhold aid? Come on! Never!
What did we learn? That the US will never tangibly pressure Israel to cooperate. So where is the incentive for peace? The answer might just be internal Israeli politics. Yesterday, Netanyahu announced the construction of a wall on the border of Israel and Egypt to slow the immigration of ‘migrant workers as well as terrorist elements.” The headline seems pretty normal, particularly considering wall construction is the new beanie baby but in the article Netanyahu states “I took the decision [to build the wall] to close Israel’s southern border to infiltrators and terrorists. This is a strategic decision to secure Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.”
The importance here is the continued stress by Netanyahu on a two state solution. While the viability of the two-state solution is sometimes doubted (and for good reasons), it really is the only option. The other option is the abolition of Palestine and the creation of a greater Israel that is no longer a Jewish state. In order to retain the Jewish backbone of Israel, the government must evolve and truly accept a Palestinian state. While the actions of Israel and Palestine must frustrate the United States (I have no doubt that Emanuel did utter how sick he was), the United States is in no position to truly force Israel to peace. Of course, the half-hearted attempt at concessions by Israel and pressure by the United States leads to much frustration on behalf of observers and commentators (I have written many a post on the subject). Yet the reality is that if there is peace between the two countries, it will involve a Palestinian state. The borders of such a state are debatable, but it will surely have East Jerusalem as a capital (despite Israeli construction there no Palestinian government can afford to cave on this issue) and it will be (very) roughly based on the 1967 borders.
If you have been following this site, you have probably read skimmed some of my articles that express my frustration with all the players in this twisted game. Yet there is incentive for peace. Although Israel knows that American support will continue in spite of its refusal to truly freeze settlement construction, Netanyahu knows that at some point peace must be made to ensure the ‘Jewishness’ of Israel. The incentive for peace is there; it’s just not immediate.
Picture from NU Hillel