The Middle East's storm clouds have a silver lining
The Middle East's storm clouds have a silver lining.
Just a year has gone by since the Arab Spring first hit Libya, and celebrations of Libya's liberation from its despicable dictator aren't exactly making headlines. Indeed, has there been much to glorify? There is little semblance of a central government, and intertribal fighting shows no signs of abatement. Are the Libyan people better off now than they were before France and Britain, with the United States "leading from behind," rushed to the rescue of the 2011 revolution?
For over a quarter of a century Prime Minister Netanyahu had promised, boldly and unequivocally, both in writing and in speech, that he would never make any concessions to terrorists. Now, in one fell swoop, with the negotiated release of Gilad Shalit, all that is gone. The Prime Minister himself cast it as a momentous choice, an instance of decisive and historic leadership. But the reason Netanyahu that gave for his decision, namely that "circumstances had changed", betrays considerably more anxiety.
Only once before has a U.S. President applied overt diplomatic pressure on Palestinians the way President Obama did this week at the United Nations, as he pressured Palestine to rescind its request from the U.N. Security Council for immediate full membership status. Unfortunately, the precedent for this type of overt pressure is not particularly encouraging, neither for Israel, nor for the United States. It was in 2006 that President George W. Bush demanded that Hamas be allowed to participate in Palestinian general elections without it first having renounced the use of terrorism.
The joint Fatah-Hamas statement in Cairo this week announcing an impending agreement between the two leading Palestinian factions has caught nearly everybody off their guard.
The powers that be in Israel clamped a deafening silence on themselves when the Egyptian people rose up against Hosni Mubarak. There was precious little that Israel could do to sway events in one direction or the other, since this revolution did not have its origins in issues related to the foreign, strategic, or defense policies of Cairo.
The current crisis in the Obama-Netanyahu relationship should propel both leaders to reassess their basic policies toward Palestine. They must redefine their targets, to think realistically but also creatively. Ending the conflict between Israel and Palestine is not an attainable goal. What is attainable is a clear and dramatic decrease in tension in the conflict—a goal that would, indeed, serve the necessities of American foreign policy on Iran, Afghanistan, and Yemen.
THE AUTHOR SERVED for four and a half years as the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. As a thought experiment, he placed himself inside the mind of a Palestinian spymaster to provide a cold assessment of the challenges faced by the new Hamas-led government. The following is a memo to Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian prime minister. Mr. Prime Minister: Your rise to power has been meteoric and unprecedented.