29 December 2016

Waiting for Leaders to Step Forward and Make Peace

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the United Nations Security Council vote censuring Israel for settlements and their expansion in territories conquered in 1967 has generated yet another firestorm between Israel and the Obama Administration.
Sadly, this drama has played itself out before on numerous occasions over the past 8 years, representing, in my view, a series of gamesmanship maneuvers that are entirely and frustratingly predictable. Despite Bibi and Obama not having any great shared admiration for each other, the United States government under President Obama has consistently supported Israel in the court of public opinion and perhaps most importantly, with more military aid than any other American president has ever authorized. This is an incontrovertible fact.
As an American Jew who has long supported and defended Israel and its right to exist within defensible borders and as someone who has stood up for Israel in the face of virulent and passive anti-Semitism on the Left and the Right, I come to this moment with my own mild, if discernible battle wounds.
Having been born in 1963, I have only the vaguest memories of Israel's striking victory in the Six Day War. That it faced possible annihilation and virulently anti-Semitic rhetoric less than twenty years after the Holocaust only lent an air of the "miraculous" to its stunning achievement. Jerusalem became unified for the first time in 2000 years and Israelis were able to travel to Biblical towns that for generations were forbidden to them. From a purely historical and archaeological perspective, this was awe-inspiring (and frankly, remains so for lovers of history like me.)
But where I never stood as a Jew or as a leader was on the side of those who see God's hand in that victory. However, the Israeli government policy for the better part of the last nearly 50 years, has been to deploy the messianic religious fervor found most profoundly in the religious nationalist movement to channel a settlement policy throughout the Biblical lands of Judea and Samaria in what the Palestinians rightfully claim as their homeland and to do so without an agreed upon policy based on negotiations. I have always believed that this is wrong.
My entire adult life I supported the idea of the two-state solution and like many, was sorely disillusioned by Palestinian terror which rejected compromise and unleashed a wave of murderous attacks on Jews in the wake of the Oslo Accords; and I was equally disillusioned by Jewish extremists who were responsible for the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
And as each day goes by, I see the growing Palestinian disillusionment and the growing right wing Israeli nationalist movement as being locked in a zero-sum game that is as determined as it is dangerous. Each side is banking on the other backing down or being destroyed.
If the two-state solution is not dead, it is on life support with very little chance of survival. Where this leads is anybody's guess but like so much of Jewish history, there may be surprises both good and bad in the offing.
While I recognize that the United Nations Security Council has never really been a friend of Israel and most American presidents have generally used the veto there to prevent strident anti-Israeli measures (including Barack Obama on a number of occasions) this latest vote, based on relatively steady but critical language, is not the firestorm many people believe it to be.
It is true and it is just, this outrageous hypocrisy we sense in the U.N.'s inaction over genocidal massacre in Syria barely registers in the UNSC; especially when considering how easy it was to corral the necessary votes to censure Israel's settlement policy and make it across the finish line.
But let's be honest, please? When had Prime Minister Netanyahu or his Ambassadors to the U.N. ever shown regard or respect for that institution? It has a history of being anti-Israel and Israel has more often or not used the dais on 42nd Street to remind the U.N. of its hypocrisy.
Therefore, I am not surprised by the vote. It's disappointing to me that President Obama felt he had to do it as a parting shot at the end of a fraught relationship, but it won't amount to a hill of beans and three things remain certain: 1. U.S. military aid will continue; and, 2. so will the expansion of the Israeli settlement enterprise; and 3. the Palestinian leadership will not produce a viable partner and stable leadership to serve as a peace partner.
On goes the endless cycle.
Therefore, I conclude that the pronouncements, mostly hysterical, from Jewish leaders and organizations on the American scene ( and I refer here to the crowing Left and the angry Right) as well the undiplomatic and unprofessional comportment of Netanyahu, Dermer and many other members of the Knesset who rejoice in saying the most offensive things about Barack Obama while also cashing his checks is not about the issue at hand but really about their own relevance and survival.
Bibi is forever looking rightward because he's a master at political survival. And until an alternative leader arises to knock him off the top of the hill, the two-state solution slips further and further away.
They like to say that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. One could add a third: the inability to resolve sharing land that two peoples call home.
So we soldier on. Seeking justice in ways that we can and trying to argue with those we may disagree with respectfully.
It's a hard knock life.

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