Yesterday’s bus bombing in Jerusalem produced the usual reactions, and there is no need for me to repeat them here. They are utterly predictable.
The right points to this latest act of Palestinian violence with no reference to Israeli violence. The left speaks of the “cycle of violence” which must be broken, putting blame on both sides.
Not surprisingly, I am in the second camp. Out of respect for the victims of yesterday’s attack, I won’t enumerate the Palestinians who were killed by the Israelis over the past few days. What’s the point? Anyone who does not know what has been going on in Gaza is either uninterested or doesn’t care.
One thing is clear. Making reference to acts of violence by one side without reference to those inflicted by the other only perpetuates one side’s feelings of victimhood, reinforcing the sense of grief and grievance that leads to more violence.
One can only hope that this latest atrocity captures the Obama administration’s attention (acts of violence against Palestinians certainly don’t) and that the administration will finally get serious about ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which it could do if it had the will.
President Obama came to office determined to end it. On his first day, he telephoned the prime minister of Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority and pledged his best efforts to resolve the conflict. He said that he hoped to achieve a breakthrough during his first year in office.
But then he flinched after Binyamin Netanyahu refused to implement a settlement freeze, an obvious precondition for negotiations. (Palestinians, quite reasonably, won’t negotiate over land while it is in the process of being gobbled up.)
When Obama buckled, Netanyahu decided that he could be rolled, and began to ignore any and all requests by the president to help him tamp down the conflict. Obama, in turn, stopped trying.
Obama’s decision to walk away pleased his political advisers, who fear that any pressure on Israel will result in diminished campaign donations for the 2012 re-election campaign. On top of that, Obama’s chief adviser on Middle East issues is Dennis Ross, who is as close to AIPAC as anyone can be without being on its staff. Ross views his role as preventing Obama from offending the Israeli government and its backers here. To put it mildly, he is not an audacious peacemaker.
Until yesterday’s bombing, it appeared that the status quo would hold until after the 2012 election at the earliest.
And it is some status quo! The West Bank remains occupied. Gaza is under full Israeli blockade with its people living in third world-like conditions. Israeli settlers keep grabbing up more and more of the West Bank, with Palestinians — especially in East Jerusalem — being driven from their homes to make way for them. Armed militants in Gaza keep firing their rockets into Israel. (It’s miraculous that no school or hospital has been hit.) And the IDF keeps striking back, killing primarily innocent bystanders.
At this rate, a new war will break out soon, which is the last thing anyone needs. Forget the Palestinians and Israelis for a minute. The last thing President Obama needs right now is another Middle Eastern war when he already has to deal with Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya.
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