The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 3, 2012

Other Views: Small victory


Scripps Howard News Service

— If the U.N.’s elevation of Palestine to nonmember observer status had come at the end of the Clinton administration when Israel and the Palestinians were achingly close to a peace settlement, it might have truly meant something.

But while Thursday’s 138-9 vote among the U.N.’s more than 190 members is a triumph for the Palestinians — at least that part of them led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — it is hardly likely to change that stalemate in the short run.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown little interest in pursuing the two-state solution — Israel and an independent Palestine living peacefully side by side — favored by the last four U.S. presidents.

Instead, he has used the time to gradually encroach on parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank that the Palestinians consider their own and, in the case of East Jerusalem, want for their capital.

If anything, it is beginning to look more like a three-state problem: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, the latter run for the last five years by Hamas, a radical Islamic group that did not join in the Palestinian merriment over its diplomatic promotion because Hamas does not recognize Israel and claims all of the old Palestine for itself.

Needless to say, this gives the Israelis little incentive to deal with Hamas, and Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense seems to have temporarily, at least, defanged Hamas of its principal terror weapon, random missile attacks against Israeli civilian targets.

However, the Palestinians have steadily been building an international presence, and it has been recognized as an independent state by 132 countries and has embassies in 80 of them.

The vote was a harsh rebuke to the U.S. and Israel: The other nations that voted against observer status were Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama — hardly a murderers’ row of diplomatic might.

Meanwhile, the political landscape is shifting in dramatic and unforeseen ways: the Arab Spring, the turmoil in Egypt, the civil war in Syria, the increased meddling by Iran and what appears to be a hardening Shiite-Sunni divide, and a resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism.

Curiously, the current situation has bought Israel some time — not necessarily “benign neglect,” but neglect when the Islamic nations are preoccupied elsewhere — to start resolving the Palestinian situation.

Sooner or later, the Islamic nations will again be able to turn their attention back to the Israelis, and it would be immensely useful if they no longer had Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as a rallying cry against them — and us.

Scripps Howard News Service