College has, in spite of itself, taught me a number of things.
How to negotiate your way out of a late fee; the astonishing speed at which mold can invade a sink full of unwashed dishes; how quickly a $300 bank account becomes emaciated when you’re doing your own grocery shopping and Safeway has you by the balls or you live a roughly 15 minute walk from Powell’s Books.
Another thing college has taught me is that a problem—such as that worthless Mentored Inquiry class on “how-to-find-books-at-a-library” you simply have to take—rarely goes away by ignoring it. Despite your best efforts at apathy, Mentored Inquiry, for some God-awful reason, will end up costing you 25 percent of that UNST grade you need to graduate.
Which brings me to Hamas, as I’m sure you saw coming. Yes, Hamas: the pseudo-democratic benevolent political party and/or nefarious terrorist organization currently running the show in the Gaza Strip.
This depressed tiny stretch on the map has long been a thorn in the side of the Arab/Israeli peace process, and in an act of shrewd political maneuvering President Obama, for the most part, has decisively taken the problem and ignored it. Probably out of respect for the ultimate setback to his credibility that this international policy headache can undoubtedly deliver.
Unfortunately, like my sink of dirty dishes with the mold that any day now may become self-aware, this problem is not going to go away any time soon.
For those who don’t know, here are the basics.
There’s this place in the Middle East that, honestly, doesn’t have much going for it other than a lot of history. The Jews want it, and they want it to be Israel. The Muslims want it, and they want it to be Palestine. Right now, Israel has the high ground, and the Palestinians are accordingly pissed. That’s about it.
Think there’s more to it than that? I’ve done the research, I’ve read the books and I’ve listened to the debates. With that context, and the ultimate perspective that no one is entitled to land—after all, you’re always taking it from someone—the whole issue pretty much denigrates into a glorified combo of “it’s mine because I saw it first” and “it’s mine because I want it more.”
Those are just the fundamentals. We can get into a whole lot of muddled, contradictory details about who’s the better group. We can talk about Israel’s use of white phosphorous against the Gazans and we can talk about Hamas’s use of human shields. We can talk about Hamas’s building of schools and charities and we can talk about Israel’s turning a patch of dirt void of resources into a wildly successful, educated and civilized bastion of modern society.
We can talk about a lot of things when it comes to Israel/Palestine. But for now, let’s talk about just one thing: That pesky little peace process. Where is it now? And what, by golly, is Mr. Obama doing about it?
Oh, and by the way, the big task of the Palestinians at the moment is to achieve recognition by the United Nations. They’re hoping to do this by September, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (really the brains behind most of this) has endorsed this vision effectively as a goal of American foreign policy.
For the time being, the peace process is in a pretty decent murk of a stalemate. That’s nothing new, of course, but some recent developments make this current stalemate worth paying attention to.
There is an indelible tension between Israelis and Palestinians at the moment. One pattern that tends to repeat itself in the whole diplomatic mess is, whenever the U.S. sidelines the issue in favor of more pressing international concerns, both Israeli and Palestinian camps tend to become distrustful of not just one another, but American policymakers as well.
There is some sense to this. How can you sincerely respect the commitment of a third party player that wavers so consistently, that wavering is the only consistent trait of its involvement? Don’t take that as a jab at Mr. Obama—the American president has plenty to occupy himself for the time being. And with an election fast approaching, it is understandable that he would be reluctant to plunge into the god-forsaken pit of Israeli/Arab diplomacy.
But there we go again—ignoring the problem.
It’s not enough to hope for the best. The currently tense quiet lurking between the two factions is disturbing.
For one thing, both parties are fielding more advanced weaponry than ever before, and with much of the Arab world mired in revolution and sectarian bruising, the threat of armed conflict looms darkly on the horizon. Hezbollah is better armed than it was in 2006, and while Hamas has never posed anything resembling an existential threat to Israel, a notoriously trigger-happy Israeli government (a coalition headed by the right-wing Likud) justifiably feels cornered between a rock and hard place.
War remains a distinct possibility. Hamas’ recent firing of a precision-guided weapon (a Russian-made Cornet rocket) at an Israeli school bus could have easily triggered a second Israeli invasion into Gaza, had the school bus not already released all but one of its passengers. Far too close for comfort, in my humble opinion.
That’s the situation as it stands. The public opinion polls show that both sides are willing to accept a two-state solution, yet, interestingly, both sides doubt the other’s commitment to this ideal. The Palestinians hope for peace, yet consider another intifada. The Israelis hope for peace, yet consider another Operation Cast Lead.
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama continues to hope for peace on both fronts. He (and Hillary Clinton) have a great deal to consider. ?