Navigate to News section

Statehood Threat Looming, Talks Called For

Can they pick up where they left off?

Marc Tracy
April 21, 2011
Today in Tel Aviv, a right-wing protester (R) argues with a left-wing one (L) who also happens to be the daughter of Moshe Dayan.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images))
Today in Tel Aviv, a right-wing protester (R) argues with a left-wing one (L) who also happens to be the daughter of Moshe Dayan.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images))

When we checked in a week ago on the poker hand that the Mideast peace process has evolved into, the Palestinian Authority’s pledge to take their case for statehood to the U.N. General Assembly in September was most plausibly seen less as its actual Plan A and more as a threat—and, perhaps, a bluff—designed to prod concessions from the Americans and the Israelis. A week later, this blockbuster report from the White House finds the Americans and Israelis practically tripping over each other to offer a peace plan first, though there is cause to believe that the U.S. may yet fall on the side of not offering one (though Secretary of State Clinton seems to be doing all she can to make it a foregone conclusion), and there is also cause to believe that when Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress next month—at the invitation of Republican Speaker John Boehner (cue electioneering music)—he may not offer a particularly bold plan while thousands of miles away from his actual constituents.

For now, the Palestinian plan has been articulated as follows: No violent uprising (since international opinion is particularly important right now) and the strategy of taking its case come September to the actually binding U.N. Security Council, which basically amounts to a dare for the Obama administration, which clearly wants a Palestinian state and could use good P.R. in the Arab world but has also insisted statehood must come after negotiations with Israel, to veto it.

And pressure continues on Israel, with the so-called Quartet threatening to recognize a Palestinian state in the absence of a peace deal (although again this would require American approval, and as of last week the U.S. was halting the Quartet from making overly ambitious statements). Within Israel, respected intellectuals and artists have called for the two sides to pick up where they left off in 2008, when then-Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas seemed to be pretty close on a number of key issues; the group clashed today in Tel Aviv with right-wing counter-protesters.

At the Forward, J.J. Goldberg takes stock of the two side’s positions. Personally, I can’t help but agree with his barbs concerning Bibi’s intransigence, which is especially destructive in the context of the U.N. threat (Bibi’s personal demeanor, which has led him to personally tangle with President Obama, hasn’t helped, either). However, what I think Goldberg, as well as all others who call for the 2008 negotiations to be resumed, fail to appreciate is the extent to which any sort of deal that would be acceptable not only to Bibi but to any conceivable Israeli leader would be unpopular among the Palestinian people; and at a time when people in the Arab world have found effective yet necessarily destabilizing ways to express their unpopularity at their leaders’ decisions, I sympathize with Netanyahu’s reluctance to strike a deal that could prove the suicide of the Palestinian Authority’s comparatively moderate leadership. It is telling that Hamas, the ultimate inconvenient fact of the peace process, is not mentioned once in Goldberg’s piece.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

Become a Member of Tablet

Get access to exclusive conversations, our custom app, and special perks from our favorite Jewish artists, creators, and businesses. You’ll not only join our community of editors, writers, and friends—you’ll be helping us rebuild this broken world.