Back in June, 2006, I referred to Tom Friedman's famous adage -- I am paraphrasing here, because I can't recall the exact quote -- that one only need check in on the Arab-Israel story about once every 6 months, because nothing ever changes in the story. Two weeks ago there was a much ballyhooed US-brokered ceasefire announced for Gaza; and just 2 days ago Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hosted PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem for talks. Hmm, maybe things are getting better?
Since the ceasefire was announced, 55 Qaasem ground-to-ground missiles have been launched at Israel (12 striking Israeli territory - what a dud rate!). So much for the misguided notion that anyone belonging to the Fatah establishment would be able to deliver a total ceasefire on behalf of Palestinian society. No one "controls" Palestine - neither the Hamas government and its semi-official militant groups; nor the Fatah president and its discredited and corrupt security force.
The Israelis for their part negotiated a cease fire with an exception designed to assure the ceasefire's failure - they and the Palestinians agreed to a continuation of the low simmer on the West Bank. Then the Israeli Defense Minister - a former founder of Peace Now, nachmol - announces the provocative authorization for a renewed Israeli settlement in the West Bank, a move immediately criticized by the Americans.
No wonder the whole thing is falling apart.
That's the Arab-Israeli conflict in a nutshell: an abduction one week, a war the next; a visit from the US Secretary of State one week, a non-ceasefire ceasefire the next; and then back we go - a broken ceasefire the week after that.
It just doesn't end. No wonder people find it so fascinating: it is a story with riveting human drama and politics - the very stuff of history. But it seems to have no resolution. Eventually, observers grow bored with the unending sturm und drang. But the players on the ground - the poor souls who act out this endless tragedy - keep playing the same scene over and over.
Look, I'm all for learning about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. If for no other reason, Americans should be more educated and informed about the A-I conflict because of the potential for a wider terror struggle which the conflict helps fuel. For people like me "who have a dog in this fight" it remains compelling in all its details. But let's not got lost in the gripping daily journalism to lose sight of the long-view perspective: 4 months since I last blogged on Israel/Palestine, and nothing has changed.
Ah, but out in another part of the Middle East - surprise! - things are palpably changing, and changing for the worse for everyone involved. Iraq has become a festering cyst, a dysfunctional state of anarchy on a massive scale. Palestine seems puny when compared to Iraq. Palestine doesn't have sectarian or ethnic strife - it's internal struggle is between secular nationalists and Islamists, all ethnically homogenous with barely a mention of the Islamic-Christian divide within Palestine. Iraq is ethnically divided and religiously torn. Iraq is Palestine on steroids. How the United States could knowingly inject itself into this mess is hard to imagine - and yet here it is, squatting in the Green Zone of central Baghdad. Unlike the Israelis, who have to live next door to a real enemy, the United States - planetary villain to some, shining beacon to itself - had to travel an appropriately imperial 8000 miles to find an enemy. The United States grasps at imperial order, so why should it not have imperial pretensions and imperial follies? If you're gonna screw up and you're a superpower, you might as well not hold back.
Being an empire means never having to say you're sorry. Until it is too late...