The way I'm talking about the U.N. vote for Palestinian statehood in my work here in Brooklyn is to set it into two distinct contexts.
The first context is that both Palestinian and Israeli leadership have missed numerous opportunities to break from the tried and true and failed policies of past decades and move in a new direction of dialogue, direct talks, and difficult decisions over an agreement, the borders of which have long been known. There were hints in the last few years that both Netanyahu and Abbas might demonstrate a willingness to do so but both relied upon the default of fearing their more fundamentalist coalition partners, thus failing to move forward. Ultimately, people and nations have to be responsible for their own actions and in this context, with continued Israeli Settlement growth on one hand and an intransigent Palestinian refusal to talk on the other hand, has led us into this looming, dangerous cul de sac of inactivity.
The second context is even more dangerous. Anthony Shadid points out something in yesterday's Times that not enough people have been paying attention to, justifiably distracted by Iran's nuclear ambitions: namely, the newly emerging alliance between Turkey and Egypt has the potential to pose a greater danger, with Turkey's leadership speaking openly of a New Ottoman Empire. Given the frighteningly violent reactions in Egypt, Syria, and Yemen in the last few days; the continued intransigence and destructiveness in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan; and the ongoing threats looming from Iran and from Lebanon, the idea of a new empire converging upon Israel cannot be ignored as Jewish paranoia.
Some on the Left in our neighborhood don't like to hear this and prefer to rely upon the idea that fundamentally, all these Arab states are mad at Israel for the occupation. And while the occupation plays a huge role in the alienation of Israel from the Arab states, there is a deeply unsettling development afoot, which is that the surrounding powers are at times beginning to articulate a world-view with Israel no longer on the map and Palestinian statehood, however necessary and justified, can have the appearance of looking more like a strategic step in the direction of Israel's eradication.
And yet. And yet Israel must step forward to make peace with the Palestinians, as painful and as difficult as that may be. In relative terms, there is more to gain from an alliance of moderate Israelis and Palestinians creating a vibrant democratic partnership in the face of increasingly fanaticism. With all the necessary risks, the alternative is worse.
However, I align myself with those who are arguing that this week's plan for appealing to the U.N. for statehood is not the right time or place. Jeffrey Goldberg is here very helpful and instructive. The only benefit of this certain failed effort will be renewed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians which will, once and for all, hopefully, lead to peace.