What is clear already, however, is that the Netanyahu government has managed to position us all wrong for the event. See, for example, the NYT's report on an interview Obama just gave to NPR: the focus of the report, and apparently also of the interview itself, is on Israel's intransigence about building in settlements. True, there's a brief mention that the Arabs could do a thing or two, but it's brief, and not detailed. The drama is all about those pesky Israelis who are making peace unlikely. Isabel Kershner, also at the NYT, has all sorts of data about the matter, along with a quote from Netanyahu:
Mr. Netanyahu, of the conservative Likud Party, made his own wider positionNonsense. Had the Palestinians accepted any of the three different peace proposals of July 2000-January 2001, Israel would have long since dismantled most of the settlements (certainly including Tapuach, described in Kersher's article), and perhaps might even have enjoyed a calmer decade since. Had Olmert not recklessly gone to war in Lebanon in July 2006, concentrating instead on the project he won the elections to do in March 2006, Israel would already have dismantled many of the settlements and retreated behind the barrier; this wouldn't have brought peace, of course, but would have made untenable the present narrative whereby Israel's settlements are the problem, not a side show. Had Livni been willing to pay Shas more money than she was willing, in September 2008, she'd be Prime Minister today, and her avowed support for a two-state resolution of the conflict, along with her willingness to disband settlements if only someone would offer something for them, would make for a dramatically different dynamic with the Obama administration. Peace would be no closer to happening, of course, and the Guardian would blame Israel no matter what, but the NYT would do so less, and Obama wouldn't have such an easy handle with which to apportion blame in all directions.
clear on Monday. He said that while Israel would not allow new settlements and
that some small outposts would be removed, building within the confines of
established settlements should go on.
Israel “cannot freeze life in the settlements,” he said, describing the American call as an “unreasonable” demand.
You don't have to accept my analysis, of course, but it's hard to argue, as Netanyahu and folks are doing these days, that the settlements are an existential need, and that slowing their growth or even removing them somehow constitutes an end to Zionism.
A large majority of Israelis knows that most of the settlements will someday be removed; a smaller majority, but still a majority, agrees that this isn't even particularly bad. What do we possibly have to gain from insisting otherwise? We do, however, have two things to lose.
First, by insisting on maintaining the entire settlement project, we lose the ability to explain and defend the more essential parts of it. A large majority of the settlers live in relatively few large settlements near the 1967 line, and it's far more likely that Israel will swap territories for them than dismantle them - a principle accepted by both previous American administrations, and even by the (unofficial) Palestinian participants in the Geneva Accords. Second, Jerusalem. The childish gesture politics of Netanyahu's government allows the Americans to lump together Tapuch and East Jerusalem as equally unacceptable - a position rejected by a large majority of Israelis, Right, Center, and Moderate Left.
As I noted at the beginning of this post: peace isn't going to happen anytime soon. Which means the important thing is to manage the conflict with as little violence, and as much intelligence as possible. That means ensuring that at any given moment the general public in Israel and in America, as well as the decision makers in Europe, recognize that Israel is the Western democracy yearning for peace and willing to take some risks to achieve it, surrounded by enemies who reject the principles of the Enlightenment and strive for Israel's demise. This is the fundamental truth, and allowing it to be obscured by unnecessary histrionics is the wrong way to go.