There’s nothing new in the threat to unilaterally declare statehood, which seems to resurface every time Palestinian leaders confront the consequences of their own failure to negotiate responsibly with Israel. And there’s nothing new in the arguments about why such an action would only heap new fuel on the region’s simmering conflicts.
Reading the tea leaves about U.S.-Israel relations is a major industry in our community. But it’s easy to be misled by the day-to-day shifts in a multilayered, vastly complex relationship between allies that have critical interests in common, but sometimes see international affairs through different lenses.
That complexity was apparent this week when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington to address the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.
On the news, the economic forecast is improving. The Great Recession technically is over, economists tell us; the stock market is rising; people are spending money, if tentatively. On the ground, the news is less encouraging. Unemployment remains high, with rates passing 10 percent last week, and people are still hurting.
We don’t see dark conspiracies and anti-Israel motives behind last week’s surprise announcement that President Barack Obama is this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner. Claims that the choice was in part an effort to pressure him to be tougher with Israel or avoid a military confrontation with Iran strike us as the kind of reflexive, strident talk that plays well on talk shows but has little meaning in the real world.
That said, we, like so many others, are scratching our heads over what looks like a premature selection.
The final chapter in the three-decade saga of the rescue of Ethiopian Jews was thought to have been written in August 2008, when the last official airlift landed in Israel. But controversy, charges and counter-charges go on — now focused on the remaining Falash Mura, those Ethiopians who claim to be descendants of converts from Judaism and who seek to make aliyah to Israel.
With nuclear proliferation, terrorism, economic dislocation and potential environmental disaster all on the table, these are challenging times for Congress. Unfortunately, there are signs our elected representatives in Washington may not be up to the job.
The partisan bickering and shortsighted leadership that produced chronic gridlock on Capitol Hill in recent years have if anything worsened since the Democrats expanded their majorities in January and the Republicans adopted a negative strategy.