Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jeffrey Goldberg: Why Palestinians Have Time on Their Side

Read it here.

Goldberg's timely column argues that the risks of Israel not pushing for a comprehensive peace with the Palestinian Authority far outweigh the dangers. He points out that Netanyahu's speeches in Washington could have been given 10 years ago, and diagnoses Netanyahu as essentially living in the past and suffering from a failure of imagination. I strongly agree with Goldberg that Netanyahu's speeches in Washington were disappointing in their failure to acknowledge changing realities. I also agree with Goldberg that this outdated thinking mainly derives from a failure to see what not establishing a Palestinian state will mean for Israel.

The factor missing from Goldberg's column and from the U.S. conversation in general has been domestic Israeli politics. Even if Netanyahu had the vision to use this moment in history to push for peace, does he have the political power to do so? Netanyahu's real problem may have more to do with the intrinsic weakness of his political situation than Goldberg takes into consideration.

It seems very clear that Netanyahu latched onto the false controversy concerning "1967 borders" and "preconditions" to obscure the heart of the matter: that the peace process must restart. He also did it to play to his base, projecting an image of himself as a defender of Israel against Obama's interference. When a political leader plays to his base in this manner, it does little more that reinforce outdated conventional wisdom. This is the politics of self-fulfilling prophecy. Politics needs to be about more than echoing old ideas.

It is heartening to see Goldberg, whose connections to Israel makes him the target of harsh attacks by those who view him (and much else) through the lens of anti-Israel bias. It's seems a good time to break some pre-conceived ideas. That's an important part of building consensus for change.

What Obama offered in his State Department and AIPAC speeches, a vision of renewed peace talks, is the potential remedy to Israel's worst malady. Somehow, in the minds of the right, the cure is worse than the disease. I'm not sure, however, that this view is in the majority in Israel. I wonder if we're approaching a tipping point where Israeli public opinion will start to shift back towards pushing for making peace. The dangers of doing nothing are growing stronger.

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