Hold onto your hat! Israeli-Palestinian Violence Is Coming
Ethan Bronner of the New York Times last week wrote about the disconnect between Israelis and the general problem they face with the Palestinians. Bronner, who was a former Jerusalem bureau chief for the New York Times, had recently returned to Israel and found Israelis to be almost intoxicatingly removed from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They could “care less” about it and are more removed from the political situation than ever. Israel is a very successful economic culture and, various social inequities notwithstanding, they are enjoying the fruits of Western democracies and market economies. Bronner writes that even the Israeli left is increasingly insignificant, and a shell of its former activist self.
I must say that this is generally consistent with my own experiences. I was teaching in Israel last year at this time and quite struck by how “bored” the average Israeli is with the entire matter. They don’t believe there is anyone to talk to or that the Palestinians are serious. I spoke to plenty of students, wait staff, bartenders, and average citizens and the majority is fed up and has simply decided to ignore the whole thing. Cynicism about the peace process is so great that nobody cares to talk about it. Israelis don’t understand the extent of their international condemnation; Israelis don’t understand how anyone could offer up political and moral support for organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah; Israelis don’t understand why the world can’t learn from the lesson in Gaza that giving the Palestinians in Gaza what they wanted (an Israeli pullout) resulted in more rockets fired into Israel.
The Palestinian Authority is in bad shape and things will get even worse with the resignation of Salam Fayyad who was focusing on economic and institutional security in the West Bank. Things are quiet at the moment with John Kerry’s diplomatic efforts deserving of some credit. Even though the Palestinian Authority continues to receive criticism, it’s unlikely for now that the system will be pushed to its limits. The Palestinians are just as tired as the Israelis but for different reasons. They are fed up with their own political leaders and divided amongst themselves with respect to how to proceed. The issues of checkpoints, settlements, prisoners, and financial matters are weakening with respect to their individual issue capabilities. In other words, these matters do not hold the intensity they once did because the population has spent the political capital associated with them and the peace process is still elusive.
The International Crisis Group (go here) issued a report on May 29, 2013 concluding that the Palestinian Authority is in financial trouble and cannot pay salaries. And although they have been recently lulled into a sleep-like state with respect to larger peace issues with Israel, things are beginning to change. The Palestinian Authority, according to the crisis group, is under threat of dissolution. It is simply likely to evolve away into a different reality as Abbas ages. Abbas has a certain amount of historical legitimacy and is committed to a negotiated settlement. But with the Palestinian Authority so fragile, and enough time has gone by such that patience is running thin, any political act (settler violence, clashes in Jerusalem, hunger striking prisoners, or some act of violence) will spark the combustible mixture into a conflagration.
It does not matter how complacent Israelis feel or how content they are about their own good faith efforts, the current situation is not sustainable for very much longer. There remains economic fragility, violence, humiliation, and perceived injustices that cannot stand a much longer test of time. Images of the Titanic come to mind with some killer iceberg waiting in the not-too-distant dark.