Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The U.S.-Israel Relationship Arrives at a Moment of Reckoning

The U.S.-Israel Relationship Arrives at a Moment of Reckoning:
FP Interview with Martin Indyk (former U.S. mid-east Ambassador)
 "one can, in a sense, look at the long arc of the relationship and say everything's going to be all right. But where it won't be all right is for Israel itself, because as nice as it is to have strategic alignments, none of that solves Israel's existential problem: What is it going to do about the 2.6 million Palestinians it has responsibility for now? And if it doesn't find a way to resolve that issue, that existential dilemma, if Israel continues to control 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank, it's going to have to decide sooner rather than later whether it's a democracy or a Jewish state, but it won't be able to be both.
I witnessed it during these negotiations. The younger generation of Palestinians who have grown up knowing nothing but Israeli occupation don't believe in a two-state solution, don't believe there will ever be an independent Palestinian state. They want equal rights in Israel. And that's where this is heading. And then Israel will find itself in a really serious dilemma. It's only a matter of time. And no matter how strong the relationship is between the United States and Israel, it's not going to help solve that dilemma unless Israelis decide that they want to resolve it"
"David Rothkopf: How has what happened in Gaza altered the dynamics of the peace process?
Martin Indyk: I think it's made it a lot more difficult -- as if it wasn't difficult enough already -- because it has deepened the antipathy between the two sides. The Israelis look at Gaza and what's happened there and understandably say, "We cannot allow such a thing to happen in the West Bank." And therefore, today there's a lot more credibility to the argument that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have to stay in the West Bank, otherwise Israelis fear there will be tunnels into Tel Aviv and there will be rockets on Ben Gurion Airport, and Hamas will take over and they'll face a disaster in the "belly" of Israel. 
There are security answers to all of that, but I just think the Israeli public attitude is going to be far more concerned about any kind of Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank. At the same time, the Palestinian attitude will be even stronger that there has to be an end to the occupation, which means a complete Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank. And the process of negotiating peace does not have any credibility with them unless they have a date certain for when the occupation is going to end, and basically the Israeli attitude will likely be that the occupation is not going to end if that means a complete withdrawal of the IDF. 
So beyond all of the antagonism that conflict generates this Gaza war may have put another nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. 
So beyond all of the antagonism that conflict generates this Gaza war may have put another nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. 
On the positive side, I think that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], the Palestinian leader, has gained some credibility in some quarters in Israel by the way in which he had his security forces cooperate with Israeli security forces during the Gaza crisis and the way in which he prevented a third intifada from breaking out in the West Bank. But whatever he may have gained on the Israeli side, I fear he's lost on the Palestinian side because they see Hamas resisting Israel and they see ISIS [the Islamic State] using violence to establish its Islamic State over in Iraq, and all Abu Mazen has to offer is negotiations as the way to achieve Palestinian statehood. And negotiations don't have any credibility anymore, 20 years after Oslo and with over 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and settlement growth continuing and the collapse of the latest effort. So I think that too has also made it more difficult. And now Abu Mazen is responding to his need for "street cred" by threatening to go the international route to unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood, which will generate an Israeli counter-reaction.
And once the dust settles, we may have a politically weakened [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu as well. There was already the problem of distrust between the people and the leadership -- I'm afraid that's just going to be compounded by what's happened [in Gaza]. "

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