Yoffie: For Israel, casting blame is not a plan. Miller: bluffing won't improve Obama's hand.
05/31/2011 - 10:45
James Besser

I was struck by the good sense of Rabbi Eric Yoffie's blog in Sunday's Jerusalem Post headlined “The Palestinians are at fault, but so what?”

Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, argues that although the Palestinians are “responsible for the absence of peace,” ultimately what matters is whether Israel has a plan for dealing with that reality – a plan beyond simply clinging to the current status quo and saying it's the other side's fault.

With admirable clarity he describes Israel's current predicament: “A UN resolution will pass at the General Assembly in September, recognizing a Palestinian state. Israel’s international position is deteriorating. Economic sanctions might follow. And worse yet, elements of Palestinian leadership are already proposing a one-state solution—a single Jewish/Arab state in Palestine, with equal rights for all. If the proposal is accepted, Jews will become a minority in the new state; if it is rejected, Israel will be portrayed to the world as an apartheid state.

“So, I ask, what is the plan? Even if we are completely right and the Palestinians are completely wrong, what do we do now to head off these very real dangers?”

Yoffie wrote that when he asks that question, he always gets “the same answer—which is no answer at all.”

I don't believe that most Israelis want to use Palestinian recalcitrance or worse as an excuse to maintain the current untenable status quo, although there are some segments of the Israeli polity – including many in the government – who seem to be thinking just that.

Mostly, I think Israelis are angry about the way they have been treated in the skewed court of world opinion, worried about their growing isolation, filled with a dread bred of previous dashed hopes for peace and understandably fearful about what happens if they commit to a peace agreement with neighbors whose intentions are not clear and it all turns out to be a terrible mistake.

But that doesn't change the fact that Israelis are responsible for their own future; they have to make hard choices and take big risks no matter which way they turn. He didn't say this, but I suspect Yoffie would agree: clinging to the current status quo and watching its international legitimacy evaporate may be as big a risk for Israel – or bigger – than aggressively seeking new routes to a negotiated agreement with a reluctant, unreliable partner.

Casting blame isn't a plan, even when that blame is well deserved.

Over at Foreign Policy, longtime U.S. peace processor Aaron David Miller is on a parallel track when he writes that it may be time for the Obama administration to “fold” when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Miller write: “Thirty months in, a self-styled transformative president with big ideas and ambitions as a peacemaker finds himself with no negotiations, no peace process, no relationship with an Israeli prime minister, no traction with Palestinians, and no strategy to achieve a breakthrough.

“Indeed, in the wake of the publicly orchestrated extravaganza also known as the Benjamin Netanyahu visit last week, we seem to have speechified ourselves farther away than ever from serious peacemaking. Israelis and Palestinians are running in the opposite direction: Mahmoud Abbas to virtual statehood at the United Nations in September; Netanyahu to the belief that Israel doesn't need a credible strategy to cope with what's coming.”

The takeaway from Miller's piece: until both Israeli and Palestinian leaders change direction, even a well-thought-out U.S. plan is unlikely to solve the conflict, and anything less could make things worse.

His plaintive conclusion:

“In the end, probably the best thing Obama can do now is not beat himself up and try to keep the game alive. There are things in life that America just can’t fix; for now, this may be one of them. That he doesn’t have a plan or strategy that can work is no reason to embrace ones that won’t and that could make matters even worse. And something may turn up.”

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I'm not sure the point that Yoffie is trying to make with regard to Israel's options. Without a partner there is NO OTHER option for Israel except the status quo. It's not like Israel can dictate or force the PA to accept peace with Israel or to stop promoting aggression against Israel; and, Israel must continue to protect its citizens and secure its border.

World nations always act in their own best self interests regardless of the moral implications (US actions in Libya, US inaction in Syria or Darfur). Until Western Europe has a vested self interest in the survival of Israel why should they put equal pressure on the PA to enter a peace agreement with Israel. At a minimum, speaking out against Israel allows Western Europe to garner favor from its Arab clients.

I fear that Yoffie has an unrealistic view of the ability of Israel to change the world's perceptions (right or wrong, moral or immoral, realistic or imagined) of Israel. I am surprised by his comments given that he has visited Israel many times and witnessed the wonder that is the nation of Israel - the Homeland of the Jewish people!

I welcome further clarification from Rabbi Yoffie on what exactly Israel's options are to act unilaterally without a peace partner that will change the perceptions of the world.

Of course as usual we end up as the bad guy while just trying to protect our existence. A one state solution will not work at all. If the UN( read united nazis) recognize a palestinian state are all the members going to boycott Israel? It is a dangerous time for us. I pray that we can find a workable solution, if only hamas would recognize Israel.

Western Europe is in favor of an arab state at the expense of Israel. Netenyahus speech to congress can help put pressure on Obama. But there is a bigger world out there that doesn't view the mid east the same way. Israel is working hard with China and other eastern nations to build support. Hopefully they will get support from China who respect established ligitimat nations(ala Libya).

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