Saturday, December 11, 2010

When We Do What Is Right For Palestine

"The Economist":
[E]vidently [Netanyahu's] hawkish instincts, for the moment, have got the better of him. Israel, says the right, is under no immediate threat, except from Iran. The Palestinians are weak and divided. The Arabs’ bark is worse than their bite. Fortress Israel has no visible cracks.
Richard Nixon used to say that Israel should make a deal because, while it would probably win the next war, it would be harder to win the war after that. Since he last said it, Israel's won at least two, in Lebanon and Gaza, and it will probably win the next two.

So Nixon would understand its reluctance to deal now. His point was that nations, like stubborn young people, make choices because of their own conception of their best interests, not because someone else thinks they should act in the service of some higher principle. The Palestinians' friends around the world see the issue by and large in moral terms. They deserve a homeland, and so Israel should give to to them. So far, Israel's response amounts to "make me."

What Israel's critics should understand is that this is basically a sound position. And yet most nations that make cold, hard choices, as Israel is apparently doing, can stand on their own. Because it is young and has for its entire life been beset by enemies, the U.S. had provided massive support over the years. In 1973, Israel's late prime minister, Golda Meir, said that Nixon's aid during the Yom Kippur war saved the day against Arab aggressors.

So what Israel should understand is that someday a U.S. president -- perhaps this one before too long -- may decide to make our full financial, diplomatic, and military support contingent on Israel making a deal with the Palestinians. None has done it so far because it hasn't been in his or our own nation's interests. If we ever really do stand up for the Palestinians, it will be of a piece with Harry Truman recognizing the new state of Israel in 1948. As for Israel, it may well be thinking that until we act in that fashion, we don't actually mean what we say.

No comments: