The opening of Bronners article is useful for my purposes:
Rocket fire from Gaza has markedly declined. The Lebanese border is quiet. Terrorist attacks from the West Bank are rare. The national airport processed a
record number of travelers in the first week of August. The currency is so strong that the central bank has bought billions of dollars to keep the exchange rate down.
Israel is flourishing this summer, and one might imagine its people and leaders to be breathing a sigh of relief after nearly a decade of violence and unease. That, however, is far from the case. On every front, Israel is worried that it is living a false calm that could explode at any moment. Its airwaves and public discourse are filled with menace and concern.
So Israel has managed to beat off its many foes, once again, but it still feels threatened. Perhaps because the foes are still there, nursing their wounds and brooding over their thwarted plans to get rid of us. Which is, in a way, the thesis of the unlikely Hussain Agha-Robert Malley duo, in their NYT op-ed of two days ago, or, as Jeffrey Goldberg describes it, in the latest of "their never-ending series of provocative and thoughtful op-eds".
Agha-Malley, in the unlikely case you've never heard of them, are the fellows who double-handedly saved the day for the Palestinians and their myriad appolgists at the height of their war against school-children and bus riders earlier this decade. At the time Bill Clinton's rueful but public recognition of the fact that it was the Palestinian side that had thwarted peace, was forcing the more sane among Israel's haters to admit weakness in their case. Then, in August 2001, Malley and Agha published a seminal article in the New York Review of Books which claimed that actually, no. Ehud Barak had been mean to Arafat; he hadn't really intended on letting the Palestinians have anything; and while Arafat's negotiating style wasn't pretty, the talks failed because of the Israelis. Any number of well-informed people refuted this narrative, including Malley's boss Bill Clinton, but facts interest Israel's enemies only to the extent they can be used against it; otherwise they're not important.
Jonathan Tobin has more on this here.
Perhaps they're incorrigible contrarians; perhaps they derive special pleasure from poking American Presidents in the eye. Whatever the motivation may be, over the past year the duo's line has been inching towards an acceptance of reality. In this week's op-ed the factual part of their analysis is roughly the same as mine is, believe it or not.
Over the past two decades, the origins of the conflict were swept under the carpet, gradually repressed as the struggle assumed the narrower shape of the post-1967 territorial tug-of-war over the West Bank and Gaza. The two protagonists, each for its own reason, along with the international community, implicitly agreed to deal with the battle’s latest, most palpable expression. Palestinians saw an opportunity to finally exercise authority over a part of their patrimony; Israelis wanted to free themselves from the burdens of occupation; and foreign parties found that it was the easier, tidier thing to do. The hope was that, somehow, addressing the status of the West Bank and Gaza would dispense with the need to address the issues that predated the occupation and could outlast it.
That so many attempts to resolve the conflict have failed is reason to be wary. It is almost as if the parties, whenever they inch toward an artful compromise over the realities of the present, are inexorably drawn back to the ghosts of the past. It is hard today to imagine a resolution that does not entail two states. But two states may not be a true resolution if the roots of this clash are ignored. The ultimate territorial outcome almost certainly will be found within the borders of 1967. To be sustainable, it will need to grapple with matters left over since 1948. The first step will be to recognize that in the hearts and minds of Israelis and Palestinians, the fundamental question is not about the details of an apparently practical solution. It is an existential struggle between two worldviews.
For years, virtually all attention has been focused on the question of a future Palestinian state, its borders and powers. As Israelis make plain by talking about the
imperative of a Jewish state, and as Palestinians highlight when they evoke the
refugees’ rights, the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, as in a sense it always has been, how to define the state of Israel.
This line is aggravating some of Israel's supporters. Even Jeffrey Goldberg, one of the most sofisticated and nuanced of them, is uneasy:
This reads to me like an unfortunate bit of pussy-footing. Events are moving
me into the camp of people who believe there isn't an actual solution to the
Arab-Israeli conflict, and it seems as if events are moving Agha and Malley
in this direction as well. But if they're arguing that the conflict will only
end when Israel ceases to define itself as a Jewish state, they should say it
outright. It's not an appealing notion -- that there is room in the Middle East
for twenty-three Muslim-majority states, but not room enough for one Jewish
state , but they should state it if they believe it.
Whether Agha-Malley come out and say what they think or not seems to me less important. Why do we need to care about their personal opinions? Jonathan Tobin's point is more important.
Though many will dismiss this piece as extremist fare, Malley has a history of being the thin edge of the wedge when it comes to anti-Israel polemics. Though the authors couch their article in terms that allow them to pose as peace advocates, what Agha and Malley are attempting to do is legitimize the theme that peace depends on the end of the Jewish state even within the 1949 armistice lines.
The lines of discussion are indeed becoming ever more clear, even if the team at the White House doesn't see it. The issue is the right of the Jews to sovereignty in their ancestral homeland. Not the right of the Palestinians; that has already been acepted by any fair minded person. It's the right of the Jews which is being discussed, evaluated, and in many cases rejected. This is what the Jews need firmly to keep in mind.