If it were any other country, the incursions of Palestinians from Syria, Lebanon (but I repeat myself, in light of Hezbollah’s conquest), Gaza and the West Bank into Israel would have been regarded as an “act of war” or an “invasion.” Instead, they are called “clashes” or “border protests.” Imagine if an Arab country had its borders violated in this manner — we’d have an all-out war in the Middle East. The Post reminds us of the “occasion”:
Palestinians commemorate Israel’s founding as al-Naqba, or the catastrophe, marking the displacement of hundreds of thousands in the war that followed Israel’s declaration of independence.
The coordinated protests on Sunday were organized using many of the social media tools that have propelled revolts in Arab countries in recent months, and the message they carried, of Palestinian demands for the right to return to their ancestral homes, struck a raw nerve among Israelis, who have been watching the popular uprisings with concern that they could strengthen groups hostile to Israel.
It’s remarkable that the Obama administration could believe that those who mourn the creation of the Jewish state would agree to recognize and live in peace with what they consider a blight in their midst.
What is going on here? I spoke to a number of Middle East experts this morning. The consensus, as one Capitol Hill adviser put it, is that “it’s difficult to imagine that the Assad regime didn’t facilitate this as a way to send a message to the Israelis and to us.” Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told me in a phone interview, “Assad is sending message, ‘If I go down, you all go down.’ ” Maybe this administration will finally learn the real message: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is no peace-promoter. It is true that the self-delusion about Assad being a constructive player in the region is not new; it has, however, reached its pinnacle with the Obama “smart” diplomatic set.
But it is a mistake to think this is purely about Assad. It is also a reflection of anti-Israel sentiment in the region, especially in Egypt. Egyptian protests during the uprising against Hosni Mubarak were largely devoid of anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric. Now, however, the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel protests and rhetoric that flourished under Mubarak are back in full view. As Schanzer reminded me, Egypt remains a key player in the region and to the extent it sets the tone for many other Arab countries, we can, unfortunately, expect more of this. If these sorts of incursions continue, the Capitol Hill adviser cautions that they “will pose an enormous strategic challenge for the Israelis.” The headlines will continue to read, “Israel kills #” rather than “Arab incursions unabated.”
Schanzer also makes the interesting observation that with the expected unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations in September, Palestinian propagandists need a narrative to show that they “earned their independence.” How noble does it sound to have gained statehood via an international guilt-trip? The border incursions and the Gaza missile attacks will no doubt be rewoven into “Palestinian show of strength forces recognition,” as Schanzer describes.
Meanwhile, the administration has been mute. In her brief welcoming remarks to King Abdullah of Jordan today, the secretary of state couldn’t manage any words (not even “deep disappointment”) condemning the violation of Israel’s territorial integrity.
President Obama is due to give a speech on the Middle East. It is maybe too much to hope for a condemnation of these raids, a call for Assad to go or a confession that his Middle East policy is an abject failure. My guess is a frothy speech on the Arab Spring, which will be followed by more paralysis. It would however be an ideal time to dispel the notion that we lack commitment to Israel’s right to secure and defensible borders or that we would deviate from U.N. resolutions 242, 338, the Oslo Accords, and multiple statements of U.S. policy under prior administrations and to make clear that we won’t tolerate a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state or the formation of a government with a terrorist entity. Well, unless that really IS the Obama administration’s intention.