by Zalman Shoval
"The black flag of ISIS will fly over the Palestinian territories, if the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas collapses," warned Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the Saban Forum last week. Clinton could be proven right, heaven forbid, but not, as she hinted, because there is no progress on the diplomatic track with the PA. Rather the opposite, or in other words -- if a Palestinian state were to be haphazardly and irresponsibly established while turning a blind eye to the chaos raging across the Middle East, in short order such a state would indeed by overrun by ISIS or another arm of the global jihadist octopus.
None other than Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state, recently wondered whether it makes sense or is justified -- considering the region's current fragile state, in which Arab states could experience structural failure amid the rise of ISIS on the regional stage with empowered Iran leading the Shiite terrorist camp -- to create another dysfunctional Arab state.
Even Aaron Miller, who for over two decades served under various American administrations and was involved in multiple efforts to advance the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians, recently asked in the Wall Street Journal if the world really needs a weak or failing Palestinian state right now. He writes: "A decade or so ago, when I was a Middle East negotiator, even posing such a question would have been considered a hostile act among peace advocates or, worse, would have been seen as shilling for Israeli right-wingers and neoconservatives. ... But amid so much disorder in the Middle East, it’s worth pondering -- even if there are several reasons to be cautious or openly skeptical about the prospects [of a Palestinian state]."
Miller and Kissinger both note that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has only marginal impact regardless, if any at all, on the prevailing ills afflicting the Middle East, which is a position that runs counter to the accepted view in certain Washingtonian circles and European capitals. And theirs are not the only voices in America beginning to doubt the chances of success or the wisdom of the administration's efforts to secure a "two-state solution," and as soon as possible no less.
But while there are those who insist on blaming the Israeli government for the diplomatic standstill between the Palestinians and Israel, while pointing to the settlements and other issues, an increasing number of people in Washington are beginning to understand that the real obstacle is Palestinian refusal to commit to or even discuss necessary compromises on matters such as the "right of return," borders, Jerusalem, and recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home. They are also beginning to internalize that Palestinian intransigence is not tactical, but strategic, and that their preferred course of runs through the U.N. and other international bodies -- bolstered by organized or sporadic violence on the ground.
The majority of Israeli citizens and leaders are open to the establishment of a separate Palestinian entity, dependent on an amenable regional and local climate -- and in the same breath most Israelis also don't want a binational state -- but for such an entity to emerge, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu qualified in his recorded speech to the Saban Forum, it would need to be demilitarized and forbidden from forging military alliances with hostile enemy states, such that it would be unable to pose a future threat to Israel and its citizens.
It appears that U.S. President Barack Obama, more than his secretary of state, has started getting used to the idea that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict won't be part of his diplomatic legacy. However, considering what he said during his meeting President Reuven Rivlin last week, it is difficult to know what practical conclusion he will reach, if at all, as a result. Israeli journalist interpreted his comments as a veiled or not so veiled threat toward the Israeli government that the stalemate in the peace process will make it hard for the American administration to continue blocking international Palestinian initiatives.
The question we must ask, then, is whether the special bond shared by America and Israel, and the mutual obligations of both sides toward the other, should be dependent on contentious matters and developments, such as the urgency or lack thereof of establishing a Palestinian state, particularly due to the likelihood that the ISIS flag will indeed be hoisted over it.
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