The Post-Peace Process Era

Considering the political situation in Israel/Palestine and the total collapse of the negotiations into self-parody, Greg Djerejian believes we are beyond any chance of a peace process, unless the Obama administration is willing to finally stand up to our client:

The ‘peace process’ has become a phrase now almost of ribald derision in many quarters, a moniker for seemingly endless cycles of aimless discussion mired in its own rituals, positions, talking points, coteries of drafters and scriveners that come and go, like the seasons. And beyond this, the conventional wisdom has developed into a burgeoning sense that—with everything else afoot in MENA—does Israeli-Palestinian peace really even matter all that much? Deep down, however, true friends of Israel realize it very much does. … What is needed is a convincing leader of a great power (hello, Barack) to tell his client—politely but firmly—that its many untold billions upon billions of aid come with a small price, meaning, a modicum of respect for its patron.

Here instead, we are being played for fools, negotiating with ourselves for the privilege of trying to help a client who pays us too little heed back. Even the hapless Palestinians ‘waiting for Godot’ in Ramallah could not tolerate this theater of transparent chicanery this go around. A ‘process’ like this is indeed a mockery. What is required is an end to the tyranny of such incremental process obsession, instead tabling firmly before the counterparties what everyone knows are the broad parameters of a deal, and exerting real pressure (including suspension of material components of financial and military aid) until people get serious about inking the real deal[.]

Judis is even more pessimistic, doubting that even mighty Washington can salvage the situation at this point:

The United States can influence Israeli politics. It can threaten to withhold economic or military assistance. The Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush administrations were able to use these kind of threats to force concessions. But the Obama administration appears completely unwilling to undertake this kind of diplomacy toward Israel. Obama and Kerry know that if they tried to withhold aid, they would face an immense uproar on Capitol Hill. J Street has acquired some clout among liberal Democrats, but what support AIPAC and the other groups that back Netanyahu have lost among Democrats, they have more than made up among Republicans.

And if Obama and Kerry wanted to restart negotiations, they would also have a problem with the Palestinian side. Abbas has been a receptive negotiating partner – he made significant concessions during the talks with the Israelis, including agreeing to an Israeli army presence in the Jordan Valley for up to five years – but he is increasingly hampered by old age and illness. As a result of the negotiation’s failure, and the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority’s security force with the Israelis, Abbas has also become increasingly unpopular. One Fatah official estimated his support among Palestinians as ten percent. But he has no replacement in sight.

After the current wave of violence dies down, Keating predicts a return to the unsustainable, but not yet critical, status quo:

Both the withdrawal plans pushed by the international community and the annexation moves favored by the Israeli hard right seem fairly unattractive compared with muddling through with the current state of affairs, which again, for most Israelis, hasn’t been all that bad. Of course, the events of the last few days have been demonstrations that this status quo was extremely fragile and, in the long run, probably not sustainable. But when Israel winds down its strikes on Gaza and the rockets stop flying, as they likely will soon, it may once again become very easy to forget the knife’s edge the country is sitting on. Meanwhile, the settlements will continue to grow, even more radical groups in Gaza may eclipse Hamas if it’s decimated in the ongoing assault, the influence of moderates on both sides will diminish, and the prospects for any sort of workable resolution to the conflict will likely continue to recede.

Shmuel Rosen outlines what Israel hopes to achieve in the ongoing bombardment of Gaza. He sees history repeating itself:

Israel’s goals are not at all mysterious. Israel is long past its era of hopeful thinking about its neighbors. It is well aware that Gaza isn’t going anywhere, and neither is Hamas. So what does it hope to achieve? It wants Hamas to be militarily weaker. It definitely wants Hamas to have a smaller number of rockets, and if a ground operation is launched in the coming days, the mission of many of the forces will be to target the piles of ammunition that are stored, well hidden among Gaza’s crowded civilian population.

Israel wants Hamas to be less cocky. But Israel isn’t likely to set the bar higher than that. It isn’t likely to want Hamas completely gone. Not even if the price for it to stay is having a round of mild violence every now and then. Because Hamas, illogical and violent as it is, is the only force that even wants to rule that miserable area. It is currently the only force preventing Gaza from turning totally chaotic. And chaos, as recent Middle East developments keep teaching us, is worse than even despotism.

So I’ll see you in approximately two years for this same column again.