Friday, May 27, 2011

The tension triangle

So, last Friday, the White House hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Not surprisingly, it was pretty awkward. The visit came just after Obama's speech suggesting Israel revert to its "1967 borders with mutually agreed upon swaps."
Netanyahu (Bibi as he is commonly referred to) was cold and disdainful, glaring at Obama as he spoke. Obama, having a pretty well developed poker face, maintained a diplomatic air but at times grabbed at his chin, leaning, as if it offered support for the grueling ordeal.
The icy visit in and of itself should come as no surprise. Last year, in March, media swarmed around the arrival of Netanyahu. Again, it followed a rather awkward incident ; the snub of Vice President Biden, who during his visit to discuss peace in the region became witness to new apartment construction in the disputed territory of East Jerusalem. The red carpet stayed locked up, Netanyahu stayed at a hotel, no photo ops, no state dinners and no pomp - just awkward circumstances.
When he visited again in July, the meeting appeared artificially warmer and that leads us up to this point.
Here's the thing - in a perfect world, there would be no triangle. There wouldn't even be a state. Before the UN declared Israel a state, Jews and Muslims lived side by side with comparatively no conflict. But understandably, when you tell an entire people, based on their religion, to get the fuck out, tensions mount. Now, the Palestinians aren't angels either, I don't want to suggest that. Both sides are up to their necks in dirt and blood.
But now, with the Arab spring continuing it's freedom train through the region, it's juvenile to think that Palestinians won't want some kind of piece of the action. And to be honest, why the hell not? If Israel can be a state, why not Palestine? Israel is already becoming known as the "Jewish apartheid" around the world - a tricky nickname in a region like that, and a tricky ally for the US, another failure in the Mid-Eastern quagmire.
To begin with, Israel isn't exactly the popular kid at school. They're surrounded by countries that aren't all too fond of them and most keep the "peace" just because they know Big Brother is watching. But now Big Brother isn't just about filial loyalty. In the past, we've had Israel's back pretty much regardless of the circumstances. Now, from a political and even diplomatic standpoint, that can't be the case. With the combination of our own advanced diplomatic grave digging techniques (pun horrifically intended) and the hurricane that is the Arab Spring, something's gotta give.
Peaceful protests continue to mount on the border and Netanyahu seems resolute in his stubbornness regarding Palestinian swaps and agreements. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader has publicly confirmed plans to go to the UN and seek recognition of a Palestinian state. And still, the two parties aren't talking.
Interestingly enough, Netanyahu's issue isn't just with the powers that be - it's with the people. Polls show that most Israelis are OK with the idea of land swaps, the mere mention of which appeared to give Bibi an aneurysm. And while other polls show his popularity soaring after snubbing the big boss in Washington, Arabs will soon outnumber Jews inside Israel's borders, if current birth rates continue.
I'd be all for snubbing Obama too - but don't celebrate a foreign victory when the war's at home.
One of Netanyahu's comments when faced with Obama's suggestion of the pre-1967 six day war outlines was that he does not understand Middle-East history. Fair enough, most Americans don't. To most of us, it's Aladdin, Schwerma and burqas.
In reality, we shouldn't even be fucking around over there. We should be minding our own atrociously cluster-fucked business over here.
One can always fight for hope, right?
Obama aside, the issue in Israel is quickly approaching a boiling point, not something they're unfamiliar with, but these are different times. Allies are harder to come by when surrounding countries are in entrenched in their own tumult.
Abbas and Netanyahu have to work something out or the escalation will turn into an ill-fated climax to the Arab Spring. And Obama's public decree that Israel needs to get over itself did good, but not enough to distance ourselves to the point of getting out of the trenches if the shit hits the fan.
I know diplomacy has taken a bit of a hiatus, since, well, we beat it to death, but it'd be great if it could resurface long enough to save the lives of all the innocent people not even in league with their leaders' stubborn ideals...and that goes for Israel too.

No comments: