Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Israel-Palestine Conflict Won't Go Away

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Israel-Palestine Conflict Won't Go Away

Article excerpt

The Gaza clash is a reminder that Obama's second term will have to deal with Israel and Palestine.

The Israel-Hamas clash in and around the Gaza Strip offers an important reminder to the second Obama administration: You can ignore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for only so long.

You can, with wishful thinking, derogate that conflict to a low priority on your list of Middle East tasks -- well below Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and the democratizing of political Islam. But it will contrive to bounce right back up to the top of your list.

Currently, the administration confronts two urgent developments related to the conflict: the Gaza fighting and the determination of the Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to seek U.N. General Assembly recognition of Palestine as a quasi-state.

Washington's natural inclination is to fall back on shopworn formulas for pushing these issues back off the immediate agenda: another Egyptian-mediated cease-fire, however temporary, in Gaza; and promises to Abbas that if he just backs away from the U.N. the administration will sponsor yet again discussion of the Oslo- begotten formula for a two-state solution.

These tactics might even work for a while, at least until the new administration gets organized and Israel gets through its Jan. 22 elections. But they are just that: tactics. They reflect the prolonged absence in Washington, Jerusalem and Arab capitals of a viable and realistic strategy for dealing with the Palestinian issue in all its complexity.

Looking at the Gaza Strip, five years of economic blockade failed to weaken or moderate Hamas, while giving Israel a bad name. Military reoccupation is justifiably shunned by Israel as counterproductive; every incursion into the Strip has a quick exit plan. Hamas refuses to talk with Israel and Israel, backed by Washington, refuses to talk with Hamas.

Now, with the support of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government and the deep pockets of the Qataris, Hamas feels more confident than ever, despite the bashing it has received from Israel. …

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