Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


For Israel, Peace or War?

In a massively tense situation, something will have to give

Print Email
Merkel and Netanyahu in Berlin today.(Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty Images)

There is an undeniable sense of urgency. The Palestinian initiative to seek United Nations endorsement of statehood at the next General Assembly, in September, is only gaining speed—and the United States will not be able to veto this. Uncertainty abounds: Who will be in charge in neighboring Egypt? Or Syria, where the Assad regime faces daily protests? Or Lebanon, where Hezbollah has essentially taken over? Or even Jordan? Meanwhile, with the dozens of rockets coming from Gaza, some claimed by Hamas, as well as various other back-and-forths—most recently an airstrike against a Hamas commander in Sudan (and the attack on an Israeli school bus this morning)—tensions between Israel and Hamas have been higher than ever since January 2009. How are the various parties reacting to the urgency?

Prime Minister Netanyahu—who faces the additional problems of corruption allegations, an extremely fragile governing coalition, and severely diminished popularity—is in Berlin today to try to head off Germany, arguably the most influential country in the European Union, from supporting the imposition of Palestinian statehood, whether via a peace plan suggested by the so-called Quartet (of which the EU is a member) or at the U.N. Expect him to mention the new poll that found nearly one in three Palestinians approve of the gruesome Fogel family murders last month. Bibi is also reportedly planning to come to the U.S. in May, announce a plan of his own, and invite President Obama to Israel; President Shimon Peres was in Washington, D.C., this week laying the groundwork for that. They sense the urgency.

Prominent Israeli centrists are putting forth their own outlines for peace and Palestinian statehood. They may not be supporters of the Netanyahu government, but they, too, sense the urgency.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad continues his state-building push, pledging that Palestinians will have their country by September. But the folks who are most likely to make this a difficult proposition may be Hamas, which has responded to popular calls to unify with Fatah by violently cracking down on protests. Both groups sense the urgency.

This Palestinian dysfunction as well as, again, this urgency is why, in America, prominent neoconservative Elliott Abrams suggests, in a widely circulated essay, that Israel essentially do to the West Bank what it did to Gaza in 2005: Pull out (minus major settlements), separate, vigorously police the border, and retaliate againt any cross-border provocations. Meanwhile, experienced negotiator Aaron David Miller finds little hope for peace short of a full-on initiative from President Obama—who, lest we forget, has multiple other crises in the region to worry about, plus an entire rest of the world to worry about, plus his own country to worry about, plus an election in 18 months to worry about.

Hamas needs its people distracted. Netanyahu needs to shore up his popularity. Fatah needs its biggest enemy to be Israel, not Hamas. The Obama administration, which temperamentally clearly feels for the Palestinians but which recently vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have declared Israeli settlements illegal, needs not to have to deal with Palestinian statehood while at the same time be able to plausibly throw its hands up at an impossible situation. Two things will ease this urgency, and peace is only one of them, and given the work it requires, it probably isn’t the default. If I were a betting man, I’d be less likely to bet on peace than on its very opposite.

In Israel, Time for Peace Offer May Run Out [NYT]
Officials: Israel’s PM to Push German Leader Not To Support Palestinian Statehood Plan [AP/WP]
Poll: One-Third of Palestinians Support Itamar Massacre [Haaretz]
Prominent Israelis Will Propose a Peace Plan [NYT]
Palestinian Leader Tilts at September Statehood [WSJ
Bibi’s Choice [The Weekly Standard]
How to Break the Mideast Deadlock [IHT]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

What you refuse to realize is that the Pals will not negotiate because they don’t want to negotiate because negotiations mean concessions from both sides and why should they make concessions if they can get what they want for free from a world full of useful idiots?


I think that’s more or less correct. The Palestinians are doing better not negotiating than negotiating, partly because Netanyahu completely ceded the table to them, partly because Obama’s sympathies seem to be with them, partly because Obama created an artificial obstacle by insisting on a halt on settlements when the Palestinians themselves agreed to let them proceed in areas to be designated parts of Israel proper. And partly, of course, because of Goldstone and the hostile, antisemitic climate he created.

Yes, Netanyahu wants to negotiate while Abbas rebuffs him, and got a building freeze that Abbas disregarded. But he has let Abbas fill the ether without countering the Palestinian initiative by offering his own plan, and in a very public way. He has been completely overmatched by Abbas, who grasps that this will not be resolved in the manner in which that last few negotiations have been, under exclusive U.S. auspices, and that the old rules don’t apply. Not when the U.S. can’t muscle around all the other players in the world anymore.

Netanyahu has lost by default. He has forfeited. He hasn’t even shown up to the game, and he doesn’t even know where the game is being played. Not in the halls of the U.S. Congress or in a back room at the White House.

The man is utterly incompetent. Someone in Israel needs to take the reins and the initiative. The Abrams plan sounds as good as any these days. The only guarantee is that the status quo will not endure.

Sara says:

One important fact is missing. If Israel withdraws unilaterally, evacuates remote settlements and consolidates behind the Separation Wall, the game moves to a different battle-ground, the ICC. An independent Palestinians state, signature to the Rome Statute will have the legal option of prosecuting for justice in the Hague. Since Israeli forced will de-facto be occupying another member state’s land, the consequences, though not fully known, would definitely contribute to Israel’s growing deligitimization. Bibi will leave a ruined state to his successor, just like Shamir did in 1992.

Israel is probably going to have to continue fighting no matter what course the Netanyahu government takes. If “peace” is defined as the absence of violence, there is little likelihod of much respite for the Jewish State which will have to continue walking tall or simply cease to exist. A review of the 63 years of the State of Israel’s history suggests that there was probably no point when there was much chance that most Muslims and Arabs would have agreed to a peace recognizing the legitimacy and permanence of Israel as “the” Jewish State, i.e. as expression of the self-determination of the Jewish People in a part of its aboriginal homeland. Today the rapid rise of Iran and the sharp decline of the USA make it even less likely that it would be possible to soon bring an end to the ongoing war against the Jewish People and Israel. As in the 1993 Oslo Accords or the 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the Israel government can choose — or be compelled — to abandon some or all aspects of control over territories conquered in June 1967. However, there is not much chance that, in return, Israel could get an “agreed” full-and-final peace treaty that includes recognition of the legitimacy and permanence of Israel as “the” Jewish State. And make no mistake, realizing the legitimacy and permanence of Israel as “the” Jewish State probably also has specific security implications, e.g., demilitarization of any new jurisdiction west of the Jordan River and continuing Israel control of the narrow airspace there. The immediate future is unlikely to produce any such “agreed” peace treaty. By contrast, we are probably not too far from an international effort to now do to Israel what was done to Czechoslovakia in September 1938. If so, the results for Israel’s 6 million Jews will likely be far worse than for the Czechs who saw their country reborn after 1945.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

For Israel, Peace or War?

In a massively tense situation, something will have to give

More on Tablet:

Rediscovering the First Woman Rabbi

By Laura Geller — Ordained in 1935, Regina Jonas died at Auschwitz. Now, she’s being honored.