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'What Now for Israel?'

3:40 PM, Sep 3, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Elliott Abrams, writing for Mosaic:

“The status quo is unsustainable,” President Obama said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon after taking office in 2009. “The status quo is unsustainable,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told AIPAC in March 2010. “The status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon averred in 2013. This year, Secretary of State John Kerry, with his customary light touch, informed the Munich Security Conference: “Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100-percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable.”

What is usually meant by this assertion is something quite specific: that in the “occupied territories” of Gaza and the West Bank, a Palestinian state must very soon be erected—or else. “It is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side in their own states in peace and security,” Obama added in that 2009 statement. He has repeated the line endlessly, and so has every world leader except for Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei (who has a rather different objective in mind).

But 66 years after the founding of the state of Israel, and 47 years after Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza, the status quo has once again confirmed its (relative) merits, while a history of repeated efforts to upend it precipitously has once again exposed an often reckless folly. The status quo has outlasted the cold war, the Oslo-fed dreams of a “new Middle East,” and the hopes for an Arab Spring; it has endured decades of war and intifada, and has proved more durable than many of the leaders and regimes who have insisted that it cannot and must not be sustained. Israelis who spent this past summer dodging Hamas rockets and sending their sons to fight in Gaza must wonder, not for the first time, why it is “critical” to implement Obama’s solution to their problems rather than to defeat terrorism and more broadly the ceaseless Arab and Muslim assaults on the Jewish state. Why are these not the status quo that the whole world agrees is unsustainable?

In truth, of course, much has changed in the Middle East and consequently in Israel’s strategic situation—for which some credit can be assigned to the latter’s ability to sustain the status quo. Consider: Israel fought wars against Arab states in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973. Defeat might have meant extinction; and, especially in 1948 and 1973, defeat seemed entirely plausible. After the Israeli victory in June 1967, the Arab League pledged itself to the “Three No’s”: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel. Moreover, this universal and implacable Arab hostility was backed by the Soviet Union, one of the world’s two superpowers.

Whole thing here.

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