Editorial: Hope Springs a Leak

Jewish Light Editorial

As 2012 draws to a close, we continue to back a two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians because we cannot muster up hope for any lasting peace without it.

Right now, however, our hope is on life support, with flatlining only a few short breaths away.

The reality is that there is nothing in the current climate that would lead one to conclude such an agreement is anywhere close to within striking distance.

The distance from a deal will expand come new parliamentary elections in Israel. The ruling coalition is not only likely to survive the upcoming elections, but it may tack even harder to the right, shaping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as more left-leaning than most within the governing parliamentary bloc. As the Times of Israel reported, political up-and-comer Naftali Bennett, of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party, recently said that “he would disobey an order to evacuate settlers, calling such an order ‘illegal.’” (He later backtracked under pressure.)

This visceral response to current events is not hard to understand. Jews on the street in Israel are disgusted by continual attacks, both physical and rhetorical, coming from the terrorist leaders of Hamas, from the self-promoting and ineffectual leadership of the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas, and from the international community.

The perpetual pounding Israel takes results in a cycle of perpetual movement away from the center. Rockets pound Israel, the nation defends itself, the world condemns Israel for its actions, and more and more Israelis retreat into a shell of self-preservation and refusal to consider any sort of a deal with those who have done anything but ensure Israel’s safety and security.

There’s a lot of chicken and egg here. Those who are unbridled loyalists to Bibi and the Knesset leadership bloc would say there was never a chance for peace as long as anti-Semites and Israel-bashers dominated the dialogue. Those further to the left would say that the tendencies of that same coalition toward intransigence on settlements and trading land for peace pushed the Palestinian side toward greater militance and rendered Abbas’ conduct largely useless and irrelevant.

It truly doesn’t matter much which side you’re on in that debate, though, because without a paradigm shift somewhere in the dialogue and action, the chances of a workout are essentially nil.

Yes, there are some who have said that the Abbas ploy at the United Nations to obtain Palestinian statehood could ultimately be helpful to the cause of peace. The argument goes that Hamas will be marginalized as the Palestinian Authority and its Fatah leadership party attempt to effect a political solution.

At least two problems there. First, Abbas is in serious jeopardy even in his own West Bank. As Hamas works at building the storyline that its attacks on Israel in late 2012 were a military success — a tale both fictional and fantastical, given the exceedingly strong success of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system and the decimation of Hamas leadership and infrastructure by the Israel Defense Forces — West Bank residents are seeming to respond to the Hamas hardline messaging.

Second, Hamas has strong backing from the leadership in Egypt and from Iran, and any pounding it took in Israel’s Pillar of Defense operation may be short-lived as its Muslim Brotherhood partners in Egypt and its Iranian backers replenish the terrorist regime for future operations. In fact, the Sunday Times reported this week that Hamas may be switching on its West Bank sleeper cells to mount a violent takeover.

Sounds bleak, yes? Sadly so, and time is not helping any. Many have suggested that the window of opportunity narrows as Palestinian militants feel their oats, and as Israeli citizens resign themselves to military-only solutions to the perpetual struggle.

How about the United States or the so-called Quartet (U.S., Russia, European Union and U.N.) making a difference? Highly doubtful if the leadership on neither side desires a negotiated solution. It is difficult enough to effect progress when the parties both want peace and can conceive of a diplomatic endgame; when they have instead retreated to their hardline corners, the chances of outside intervention being successful are slim to none.

We’re sorry to wax so negative as we head into a new year, but the situation on the street is about as dark as we’ve seen in quite some time. Without leaders on both the Israeli and Palestinian side who are resolutely committed to the belief that Oslo or some other construct can be revived and moved toward a negotiated outcome, the pulse that we can now barely hear may soon be drowned out entirely by the all-too-familiar sounds of rocket fire and human anguish.