After the ceasefire

By David Rohde
November 22, 2012

For now, the fighting has stopped in Israel and Gaza. But let’s be honest, this is the latest round in a long and bitter struggle. In the future, more bloodshed is likely.

After eight days of clashes, Hamas’ claim that it is the true leader of the Palestinian resistance has gained strength. Long-range rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have made Israelis increasingly wary of a two-state solution. And the deaths of 140 Palestinians, one-third of them combatants, compared to five Israelis, one of them a soldier, will be seen across the Middle East as U.S.-abetted Israeli aggression.

Don’t expect those dynamics to improve anytime soon. In the months ahead, Hamas’ popularity among Palestinians is likely to rise. The more moderate Fatah faction of Mahmoud Abbas will be seen as increasingly impotent. And Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s conservative government will likely fare well in January’s parliamentary elections. As so often happens in conflicts, one side’s right wing abets the other’s.

The last eight days have brought a number of subtle shifts that make peace seem more distant than ever. From where I sit, here are the major changes:

THE RISE OF THE ROCKET: As Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out in Bloomberg View on Monday, this may represent the beginning of the “third Palestinian intifada.” In this round, rockets are the weapons of choice, replacing the stones of the first intifada and the suicide bombers of the second. While much has been made of Israel’s vaunted “Iron Dome” defense system, it is not a cure-all. Even if Israeli missiles prevent deaths, hundreds of missiles being fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip or southern Lebanon does not create stability in Israel.

MURSI PASSES HIS FIRST TEST: Outside Hamas and Netanyahu, the most empowered new player in the region may be Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi. Whatever his true loyalties, the Muslim Brotherhood leader threaded a diplomatic needle. He convinced Hamas to agree to a ceasefire and won praise from American officials. In a phone call today, Obama thanked Mursi “for his personal leadership in negotiating a ceasefire.” And at a Cairo press conference announcing the agreement, Hillary Clinton hailed the Egyptian leader for “assuming the leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace.”

Lauren Bohn, an American journalist who recently moved from Cairo to Jerusalem, pointed out that the Egyptian public showed little reaction to the conflict. Last Friday, several thousand Egyptians joined anti-Israeli street protests, a relatively small showing. Twitter traffic in Egypt focused on liberal politicians’ decision to walk out of the country’s constitutional assembly and a horrific bus accident that killed up to fifty children in the country’s south. While Egyptians remain hugely sympathetic to Palestinian cause, they appear eager to get their economy and country in order as well. That represents a potential opening for the U.S.

A FAILED AND FALSE PIVOT: Gaza made a mockery of Obama’s “pivot to Asia.” As my Reuters colleagues Matt Spetalnick and Jeff Mason pointed out in an excellent piece yesterday, Obama’s Asian tour ran aground due to the difficult political realities of Asia, not just the Middle East. The administration made little headway on China and other fronts an that Asia presents intractable diplomatic challenges of its own. Whether one agrees with the policy or not, the United States is Israel’s prime military, financial and diplomatic backer. We can pretend that we are disengaging from the Middle East, but we will still be seen around the world as responsible for Israel’s security — and its actions.

THE ODD COUPLE: Although bitter enemies, Egyptian President Mursi and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have one common interest: containing militancy in Gaza and Sinai. After Salafist militants in Sinai killed 16 members of Egypt’s security forces in August, Mursi launched a sweeping crackdown. While publicly assailing Israel and praising Hamas, Mursi continues to face a political threat from right-wing Salafists in Egypt who call for the imposition of hard-line Islamic law, oppose democracy and support violence against Israel, steps Mursi insists he and the Brotherhood oppose. Mursi also desperately needs aid from the U.S. and Europe to revive Egypt’s stalled economy and prevent political unrest at home. Many Americans and Israelis continue to suspect that Mursi and the Brotherhood are closet Salafists. So far, Mursi’s actions have not shown that. As long as Mursi continues to uphold the peace treaty with Israel, embrace democratic norms and renounce violence, American officials should continue to work with him.

THE CENTRALITY OF SETTLEMENTS: Jeffrey Goldberg made another good point in his piece: Israel’s continued construction of West Bank settlements has undermined Fattah and strengthened Hamas. As Israel settlements spread, Fattah has nothing to show for its two-state approach. James Dobbins, a former senior American diplomat and Rand Corporation expert, called on the Obama administration to re-adopt the tough stance it took on West Bank settlements early in its first term. That is the only way, he said, the United States can appear like a neutral arbiter in the region. “The administration made it clear that it opposed the settlements and declared them illegal,” Dobbins said in an interview today. “It may have to revert to that harder line and hold it this time.”

THE AMERICAN ROLE: The second Obama Administration cannot dictate peace to Israelis and Palestinians. In the short-term, both sides are unlikely to show flexibility. But the eight-day battle showed that neither Israel nor Hamas will achieve victory in the long-term. Hamas cannot militarily defeat Israel. And Israel cannot eliminate the threat Hamas represents. Dobbins argues that after Israel’s January elections, Clinton’s successor should quietly work to re-start peace talks.

He is right. In many ways, the conflict itself remains intractable. But the region around Israel and the Palestinian territories is undergoing historic changes. Whatever his true feelings, Mursi proved to be surprisingly pragmatic. Someday, Israelis and Palestinians may also do the same. The only outcome that will undermine Hamas and secure Israel is a two-state solution. Success is unlikely but it is in the U.S.’s interest to pursue it. American passivity and pessimism will only aid hardliners on both sides.

PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi meet at the presidential palace in Cairo November 21, 2012. Clinton met Mursi on Wednesday in Cairo to discuss a possible truce in Gaza, Egypt’s official news agency reported. REUTERS/Egyptian Presidency/Handout

5 comments

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David Rohde says:

“In many ways, the conflict itself remains intractable. But the region around Israel and the Palestinian territories is undergoing historic changes. Whatever his true feelings, Mursi proved to be surprisingly pragmatic. Someday, Israelis and Palestinians may also do the same. The only outcome that will undermine Hamas and secure Israel is a two-state solution.”

Anyone can agree up to the last sentence, with the above. But, how does Rohde, indeed most of the West, write off the one-state solution for peace, the only possibility in a number of peoples’ opinion including the late Tony Judt, a Jew and writer who lived in Israel for a couple of years and analyzed and advocated the one-state solution up until his death: http://www.theatlantic.com/international  /print/2011/09/tony-judts-final-word-on -israel/245051/

Peace is necessary for a secure Israel.

Basically, the problem in Israel is racist, the apartheid Zionism cult. I don’t see how any two-state solution based on this principle can ever be a peaceful solution? Zionist Israel is based on ethnic cleansing for Jews-only, and vigorously continues on that path. How can that lead to peace? Maybe if there were no other Arabs besides the indigenous Palestinians, and Zionists could have killed almost all of them (as we Americans were able to do with the our native Americans), then Israel could be a largely peaceful place (like the US?). But, Palestinians are not the only Arabs (and Muslims) around, so the situation is simply not like in America, or similarly in Australia, and it never will be.

So, that more of less leaves the one-state-solution, the end of Zionism, Jews and Arabs living in a non-racist, or low-racist Israel/Palestine, as the only possibility for enduring peace. Pragmatically, it is also a very desirable goal for America, in view of the natural resources we need from the ME. Getting there will obviously be difficult, but not impossible.

Even with a one-state-solution, equal rights for all in Israel-Palestine, and a path to true peace, the Palestinians will have given up a great deal. They will have acquiesced to the influx of millions of European Jews, have suffered three generations of violent, domineering Zionist malevolence, loss of land use, disrespect, and degradation of their self-worth. It will not be easy to straighten out this situation, but is is the interests of the world to do so.

Following the lead of Zionists, and of Zionist-dominated America, has not lead to peace, and never will. Obviously, our world leaders throughout the history of Israel, have terribly failed. Rohde’s opinion has some good, pragmatic points, but on the fundamental issue of a secure, and therefore peaceful, solution for Israel, it simply fails, like our leaders have repeatedly failed, including the Reuters enterprise.

There is significant movement towards the one-state-solution:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-state_s olution
http://israelipalestinian.procon.org/vie w.answers.php?questionID=000565
The attrition of the old Exodus-movie educated American Zionists, and indeed the rest of the Hollywood-brainwashed older generation is greatly helping the one-state movement. Hopefully, the young, more media-savvy generations of America, Israel, Palestine, and the rest of the world, will not be so easily brainwashed about Zionism as us older people who were so badly caught off guard by the then new powers of mass media.

For example, read Peter Beinhard on Jewish youth indifference to Zionisms goals:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives  /2010/jun/10/failure-american-jewish-es tablishment/?pagination=false

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive

@xcanada2 has some good points. As the younger generations get more variety and accuracy of opinions from around the world, their opinion of events in the middle east seem quite different from say, my father or grandfathers views. I imagine things were a lot easier when there were only two to three generations alive at once, with truly only local information vs. having now five and six generations with truly global information.
If you explain to someone that Israel only existed as a sovereign nation for a very short time in ancient history, and that what is now Israel was created in 1948 by American, English, and other European countries that decided to create it in the aftermath of WWII. At the time the middle east was not a major oil supplier and the local Palestinians, Jordanians and Syrians were not seem as economic countries. In fact, we had some rather tasteless names for them. Besides, the Europeans had been dictating borders in the region for decades after WWI and the fall of the Ottoman empire. Suddenly they seem to look at the situation a little differently. History’s a bit awkward sometimes.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

The undeniable fact that there has been nothing but war since the inception of Israel proves that its founding fathers( Zionist financiers-money-changers) grossly miscalculated the future and survival of such a horrendous project.

You can’t just massacre the indigenous people to make room for others, not in today’s world.

The ‘Israeli State’ idea was doomed from day one.

Anyone can easily dig out from the internet for the horrendous historical details that brought about this catastrophe.

Posted by EthicsIntl | Report as abusive

what does it mean for arabs that live there being a statehood does it help them in any single way economically or land wise? I am not sure how this helps.

Posted by genebennett | Report as abusive

and please tell me how one small Isreal country, with no oil and very little land can all the arabs fight about it i don’t get it the arabs have millons apon millions of land why dont they just leave the Jews alone

Posted by genebennett | Report as abusive