Yalla Peace: Israel - Lonely, oh so (increasingly) lonely
By RAY HANANIA
10/18/2010 JERUSALEM POST
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s refusal to freeze settlement expansion during the direct peace talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reinforced a reversal of Israel’s relations with many countries in the Middle East.
As long as it insists on placing its desire to hold onto lands that would become part of a future Palestinian state above reaching a permanent peace accord, that reversal will grow.
This week, Moroccan King Muhammad VI reportedly declined to meet with President Shimon Peres, writing in his letter to him that such a meeting was “impossible at the moment.”
The Arab League is backing Abbas’s refusal to sit down with Netanyahu as long as he continues to authorize settlement construction on lands that would presumably be exchanged for a secure Israeli future.
Relations between the Arab world and Israel are getting chillier by the moment and Turkey, once a close ally, continues to distance itself. Britain and Spain recently announced that they will not send representatives to the OECD conference in Jerusalem later this week, though the UK denied that this was a boycott. Norway last month divested from Elbit because of its reported ties to the security barrier in the West Bank. Singers and artists are canceling their scheduled performances and trips, the most recent incident involving British director Mike Leigh.
When Arab states boycotted Israel after the Six Day War, it had far many more friends in the world. Today, Israel’s standing in the international community continues to falter and the country is becoming increasingly isolated.
But things could easily change with its only real reliable ally, the US.
PRESIDENT BARACK Obama is a weak president these days, not because of his insistence on pushing for compromise in the Middle East, but because of continued economic challenges in the US.
Obama’s Democratic Party is expected to lose control of Congress in the November 2 general elections, but traditionally a president’s party almost always loses control of the Congress in midterm elections. It has happened to his predecessors, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Losing that control doesn’t mean that Obama will not be reelected in November 2012. The man is different from his predecessors in many ways, including his insistence on tackling the Middle East conflict as soon as he came into office. His predecessors usually took on this task toward the end of their terms, never giving themselves enough time.
If Obama is elected a second time, he would be in a far different position politically and not subject to the pressures of Israel’s political climate. He will have another four years to reposition the Palestinian question in a new way that could change how Americans view the conflict.
Americans today generally support Israel but more and more are seeing the imbalance for what it really is and are showing sympathies to the Palestinians. The only thing stopping Americans from making a full conversion are the Arab fanatics and extremist activists.
These extremist activists’ policies make it easy for Americans to support Israel. Their street protests and their virulent anti-Semitism have strengthened Israel’s standing, and their failure to achieve any swing in American votes only pushes them to bully their community and to target moderate voices.
They won’t change the political dynamics in the US, but Israel’s obstinate refusal to give up lands designated for a future Palestinian state alongside it is becoming increasingly clear to many Americans. It’s not significant now, but it will be if Obama is sworn in for a second term.
Things are changing and some Israelis either don’t see it or have buried their heads so deep in the sand, they can’t see it. They have allowed their own extremist voices to take over their country and reject a way for peace that the country’s founders had always claimed was their goal.
Israel is becoming a nation from which many of its international allies are finding it easier to walk away.
Ending settlement expansion is a simple choice, one that would lead to permanent peace. Israel must decide, once and for all, between building on more land and taking its place among the countries of the Middle East, countries that would include a sovereign and free Palestine.
It cannot have both.
The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com