Don’t bet on peace coming out of President Bush’s much-belated efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
For one thing, the people whom the Palestinians elected to represent them are excluded. President Bush, hypocrite that he is, blathered about democracy, then changed his tune when Hamas won the last election. He cut off all aid to the Palestinians and sponsored a coup by the Fatah faction.
Secondly, the Israeli government is not about to dismantle the Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. The Israelis will not allow the Palestinians to have a viable state even on 18 percent of Palestine. Nor will the Israelis agree to allow the Palestinian refugees to return or even be compensated for their lost property.
The Annapolis meeting was just another charade like the one Bill Clinton staged. Eventually the Israelis will make an offer no Palestinian could possibly accept, and then the Israelis and the Americans will say, "We offered them a good deal and they rejected it." Note, too, that the only thing to come out of the Annapolis meeting was an agreement to reach an agreement by the end of 2008. This is the 40th year of Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. They don’t need a year if they are serious, which they are not.
Some sap on TV said the big difference this time was that the president himself would be the judge of progress. What a joke. George Bush has shown for seven years that he would sooner kiss Bill Clinton on the lips than utter a word of criticism of the Israeli government.
In 1988, Yehoshafat Harkabi wrote an excellent book, Israel’s Fateful Hour. In it, Harkabi, former head of Israel’s military intelligence and a hard-liner, said that unless Israel grants the Palestinians a state, Israel will be committing national suicide.
What he predicted is coming true. Israel will eventually bankrupt itself trying to remain a regional military superpower, even with U.S. assistance. The occupation has already corrupted the Israel Defense Forces, which no longer enjoys the enormous prestige it once had. Israel was driven out of Lebanon by Hezbollah fighters, and despite its high-tech weapons and brutal tactics, it was unable to stop Hezbollah from raining rockets down on Israel in the summer of 2006.
Furthermore, Israel’s real strategic asset is its powerful lobby in the United States, and this lobby is already facing what it dreads most becoming a public political issue. Sooner or later, the American public will rebel. What I fear is that when it happens, it will come in the form of a rebirth of anti-Semitism. That will be a terrible price to pay for Israeli intransigence and ideological and religious fanaticism.
A common fallacy of human beings is to imagine that what is will always be. The opposite is true. Change is a constant. Nothing ever remains the same. Every single day, the world shifts. After World War I, nobody could imagine the British Empire fading away, but the change was already taking place. Today, Britannia, which once ruled the waves, would be hard-pressed to win a war unassisted with even Libya.
America is also changing. The Chinese have shot down a satellite, launched a successful moon probe, penetrated our naval defenses with a submarine that surfaced within torpedo range of an American carrier and refused us the use of its port in Hong Kong. Vladimir Putin is telling us in plain words to butt out of Russian affairs. The president of Iran is publicly scoffing at our threats to attack his country. And after five years, we are still fighting in two poor countries.
I expect our own empire is on the wane, and when we wane, Israel will wane.