Middle East “Status Quo” Is Dead

More depressing Middle East truth from Gershom Gorenberg at the Prospect today:

Netanyahu’s conflict management style had a good run, at least for the domestic audience. It also had a spectacular flaw: While the status quo was tolerable for Israelis, it wasn’t for Palestinians. In Gaza, the claustrophobia and poverty imposed by the siege worsened as the latest Egyptian regime clamped down on smuggling to and from the Sinai.

In the West Bank, the daily indignities of occupation were accompanied by perpetual growth of settlements. Even if most Palestinians avoided expecting too much of the Kerry talks, the negotiations created a hope and then removed it.

The formation of a Palestinian unity government at the beginning of June offered a different kind of hope—for ending the rift between Fatah and Hamas, the West Bank and Gaza. An Israeli leader awake to opportunities would have seen the unity government as an opening to an agreement with a demilitarized Palestinian state that included Gaza. Instead, Netanyahu treated the unity government as proof of Abbas’s nefarious intentions.

By mid-June, the status quo was a rotted, rickety building waiting only for a spark to set it alight. There always pyromaniacs waiting for such chances, people whose strategy is indiscriminate violence, and who have far less faith in a negotiated resolution than Netanyahu does. The spark was provided by the kidnappers of three Israeli teens.

And the ensuing events were inevitable, as Israel and Hamas, neither interested in a two-state solution, have lethally grappled with each other, mutually undermining any momentum towards peace in Israel or in Palestine. (If that sounds like “moral equivalency,” I don’t intend it to be in the broader sense, but in the narrower sense of blowing up negotiations, it’s accurate).

The bottom line is that this cycle of events isn’t sustainable much longer.

[I]f there is anyone—in Brussels, say, or at U.N. headquarters in New York, or even in Washington, little as I can imagine that—who is interested in facilitating such talks, I have this advice: Please ignore the experts who tell you to aim only for managing the conflict rather than resolving it. The only way to manage this conflict is to lay down a framework for a two-state resolution and push toward achieving it. Either you move forward toward peace or you allow the next war.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.