On Gaza and Jerusalem: The End of an Unsustainable Status Quo?

Like many, my heart just sank when I heard about the bus station bombing in Jerusalem today. Over the past two weeks we’ve witnessed the tragic, needless deaths of too many Palestinians and Israelis.

On this point I am in full agreement with MJ Rosenberg, who wrote today (in a post I strongly encourage you to read):

One thing is clear. Making reference to acts of violence by one side without reference to those inflicted by the other only perpetuates one side’s feelings of victimhood, reinforcing the sense of grief and grievance that leads to more violence.

Since I heard the news, I’ve been hoping and praying all day long that we aren’t witnessing the onset of a violent Third Intifada. I can only imagine what such a war might mean, not only for Israelis and Palestinians, but for the entire Middle East, which is several notches beyond tinderbox status already.

As yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the Jerusalem bombing and according to Ha’aretz, police don’t believe it was connected to the increase in rocket fire out of Gaza. Elsewhere in Ha’aretz, military analysts Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff suggested that neither Israel nor Hamas want the Gaza confrontation to escalate into large-scale clashes. I can only hope their analysis is correct. (As I write, there are already reports that Israeli aircraft have struck at several targets, including a power station in Gaza City.)

Regardless of what happens in this latest round, it is clear that Israel is reaching the end of an unsustainable status quo. It was always a given that the current balance would not hold indefinitely. And now there are even larger, revolutionary changes occurring in the Middle East – whatever happens, Israel will certainly not be immune from this unprecedented upheaval.

Again from MJ Rosenberg:

Although Egypt still observes the terms of its treaty with Israel, that could change at any time. The Jordanian regime is shaky. Hezbollah now controls Lebanon. Syria grows ever closer to Iran. And Turkey, once Israel’s staunch ally, is so disgusted by Israel’s Gaza policy that it is a distant friend, at best. Even the Europeans are turning, with not even France, Germany, or the United Kingdom joining the United States in opposing a Security Council Resolution on West Bank settlements.

Israel’s best chance of surviving these dramatic changes is by resolving the conflict with the Palestinians. In fact, it is Israel’s only chance.

As he correctly concludes:

President Obama is the one person who can turn this situation around. History will not forgive him if, in the name of political expediency, he looks away.

11 thoughts on “On Gaza and Jerusalem: The End of an Unsustainable Status Quo?

  1. Leonard Grossman

    There is much here with which I agree, but the last quotation is extremely dangerous. President Obama is NOT the one person who can turn this situation around. It must be turned around by those who live in Israel and Palestine. Relying on one man is a form of idolatry and absolves those most involved of their own responsibility.

    Worse, it can lead that “one person” to adventurism and folly in order to live up to the hype and expectations.

    It is also interesting to note that those who a few days ago screamed and cried the US must stop Quadaffi, now shout the loudest that that one person failed to get Congressional approval. He is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

  2. Eric Selinger

    You beat me to the punch, Leonard. I agree: this isn’t about Obama, and we need to stop calling on him to save the day.

    “Waiting for God-O,” as it were.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

      Leonard and Eric,

      Rosenberg’s rhetoric may be somewhat overblown, but I believe his essential point is a correct one. As Israel’s exclusive enabler in the international community, our government is already significantly involved in this conflict – and it’s the only political force that has any real influence in brokering a just and peaceful solution.

      While Leonard is absolutely right that this agreement will ultimately be up to Israelis and Palestinians, I think it is highly naive that they will come to a solution simply if left to their own devices. One way or another, there will have to be pressure brought to bear from the outside.

      I’m actually less sanguine than Rosenberg that it is still possible to broker a political solution along lines that have been suggested by previous administrations. But I do agree that it’s high time that the US acted as an “honest broker” in this conflict.

  3. Steve

    Hamas doesn’t want a large scale confrontation? Maybe they should stop launching missles! Maybe a large scale confrontation is exactly what the people of Gaza need. The result would be liberation from Hamas and their Iranian sponsors.

    A 3rd intifada would cause more harm to the PA then anyone else. If anyone can’t see the benefit of the barrier wall now, just wait to see how this protects Israelis from an attempted 3rd intifada.

  4. Steve

    The U.S. Is not an enabler of Israel. The U.S. is an alli of Israel. The majority of Americans support this position. They support it even more when there is violence towards Israel. Most of the world is against Israel and that is O.K. They are just wrong in their position and their numbers don’t make them correct.

  5. Mick

    This and the previous post & responses remind me of the old saying about the definition of insanity; doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Calling for an active US role to bring peace anywhere in the world is just perpetuating a lie that few in the Middle East or North Africa today buy into .

    I don’t believe there is any possibility for the US to broker a lasting peace in Israel/Palestine, because the US has never been and never will be an honest broker of a lasting peace based on justice – it’s only concerned with what the British Government for years aimed for in Northern Ireland – “an acceptable level of violence”.

    I don’t believe the US can do anything constructive to promote democratisation in the ME or NA, because it never has promoted genuine democratisation anywhere. The US always picks a side, and the factor which determines which side the US supports is which side at that moment presents the most stability of support for the US. When the balance changes, the US changes in a nanosecond; isn’t that right, Hosni?

    I dream of the day we try something different; for the west, and in particular the US, to just keep out of the ME & NA. No hypocritical speeches from a US President of whichever party, no one-sided UN resolutions, no visits by patronising, know-nothing politicians, no arms sales. I firmly believe the solution can only come from within, and that things have to get a whole lot worse until it just might get better.

    Ray Kerzweil says we can PERMANENTLY fix all of Africa’s clean water problems for $3bn. The conservative estimate for the US action in Libya is $1bn, and it’ll achieve ….what?

    Let’s BDS the whole of the ME & NA and get on with something more impactful.

    Once we’re off oil, of course.

  6. Stewart Mills - Sydney

    Sadly, Brant there will be a third intifada. Of course the optimist in me hopes this will not happen. But it is not fair for me to wish the problem away.

    Real action is required, as people like yourself show in a daily way.

    Until Israel as military occupier truly understands the implications of the past 43 years of occupation and the need to resolve the Palestinian refugees the longer it will be for a resolution. This must be balanced by a Palestinian leadership (as we have seen in Faayad and Abbas support Israel’s legitimate security concerns) so long as Palestinians too have their security and justice concerns met. The ever expanding settlements and the continued closure of Gaza (regardless of recent developments with Egypt) only compound the problem.

    I prepared the following essay, that incorporates a recent B’Tselem report on the lack of accountability of the IDF


  7. Jordan Goodman

    Shalom Rav and All,

    Rabbi Brant wrote: “As Israel’s exclusive enabler in the international community, our government is already significantly involved in this conflict – and it’s the only political force that has any real influence in brokering a just and peaceful solution.”

    The “honest broker” is also financially enabling the Palestinian Authority.
    Please, help me understand what “pressure (will be) brought to bear” on the PA by the “honest broker?”

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      According to Business Week, the US will give the Palestinian Authority $550 million in in economic aid in 2011. That sounds like a lot of money until you compare it to the 3 billion it will get from the US, most of which is state of the art military hardware that Israel will use primarily against Palestinians. Add to this the diplomatic immunity our government affords Israel (the latest example being our sole veto vote in the UN Security Council condemning Israel’s illegal settlement of the West Bank) and I think its clear that the US is not acting as an honest broker in this conflict.

  8. Jordan Goodman

    Shalom Rav,

    You’ve avoided the real question here which remains: “What ‘pressure (will be) brought to bear’ on the PA by the ‘honest broker?'”


    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

      The very same kind of pressure that should be brought to bear upon Israel: promoting a political solution to the conflict that respects human rights, international law, civil rights and democracy.


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