Well, I certainly got an unusual amount of flak for yesterday's post, in comments and in e-mails. You need to remember, folks, that I'm an avowed centrist - which means that sooner or later I'll aggravate you on something, no matter where you're positioned. Remember, you can always cancel your subscription, much as this will grieve me.
To be honest, today's NYT even has an article that seems to bolster the reservations many of you have. It's title: Arab States Cool to Obama's Pleas for Peace Gesture. What, say the Arabs quoted in the article, us? Who could possibly expect us to budge an inch before Israel accepts and carries out all our non-negotiable demands? Why, the very fact we're willing to countenance some sort of State of Israel means we've already walked all the conceivable miles!
I stand by my position. Remember, I never said this Israeli action or that is blocking peace; the ongoing Palestinian refusal to accept Israel on remotely acceptable terms does that. Rather, I said that since peace isn't in the offing, Israel needs to manage the conflict as intelligently as possible, and this means maintaining the support of its core allies, in this order:
1. A large majority of Israelis
2. The President of the United States, no matter who he is, or she.
3. America's Jews
4. The general American public
5. Decision makers in Europe
6. The editorial board of the Guardian (oops).
Since Netanyahu's present line is undermining the support of every single group on the list, it's a bad idea. It's also not clear what he expects to gain.
There's a second major problem with allowing the focus to be on "the settlements", and that is the lumping together of them all as one monolithic "problem". A more nuanced approach would dissect the cliché into real components'.
1. The outposts. These have all been set up this decade, most are tiny (two shacks and a generator), and they're all outside the security barrier in areas a majority of Israelis have accepted will be Palestinian some day. They really should all be disbanded as soon as possible, since their sole justification is to aggravate. Including Migron, the largest of them, which is a real settlement, built apparently on someone else's private land.
2. The settlements outside the barrier. Some have been there for a long time, and some aren't so small. Personally, I'd have dismantled them long ago, too, because the cost of maintaining them is high, and what for? Everyone knows they'll eventually either be dismantled or will remain in Palestinian territory which will amount to the same thing. I recognize some of you really are considering cancelling your subscriptions at this stage, but I do think on your way out you ought to take note that my position is that of a solid majority of Israelis, and has been for many years, probably since the 1980s at latest.
3. The large settlements near the Green line; in some cases, within a mile or two of it. This is where something like 80% of the settlers live, and I don't see how anyone will ever uproot and move them. Assuming some future Palestinian government will be willing and able to deliver peace (not obvious), my preference would be to swap land for the territories these settlements sit on. Um el-Fahm and all the other Israeli Arab towns along the Green line would make sense (ah, I see some of you are coming back but others are now in an uproar. Heh). If peace is to be achieved by partitioning this tiny land sort of along ethnic lines, then let's really try to do that.
4. Jerusalem. The more Netanyahu insists all settlements are inviolate, the more Jerusalem will be lumped in with Tapuach; about as unintelligent a policy as I can imagine. Better to embrace the distinctions and emphasize them. Doing so would give Obama the parts we can easily afford to give, while allowing him to accept that construction in Jerusalem has nothing to do with construction in Migron. Why, managing the issue intelligently might even enable the Americans to explain to themselves why they have no problem with ongoing construction in, say Upper Modi'in (pop 70,000, right outside the Green line).