It hardly matters to the Palestinians and Israelis who are facing aerial bombardment, but one downside of the fighting in the Middle East is that it is overshadowing the president’s trip to Southeast Asia. In my opinion, the timing of this escalation of fighting was at Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s choosing. He waited until after the U.S. election, but there was no particular reason to assassinate a Hamas leader on the eve of the president’s trip. Reading between the lines of this New York Times piece, it could not be clearer that the administration is angry with Israel for picking a fight right now and is deeply opposed to any incursion into the Gaza Strip.
The timeline of events is controversial, of course, as there is never really a beginning and an end to events in Israel and Palestine. And once rockets begin to fall on the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Israeli government feels compelled to keep fighting until the threat is eliminated. Yet, I think this just highlights how the status quo is not manageable for Israel. What they have done so far in this latest flare-up is to reveal that Hamas has longer-range rockets and can inflict unacceptable damage to Israel’s urban centers. They can periodically “mow the grass” in the Gaza Strip and go in, kill a bunch of people, and remove the rockets. But they can’t keep doing that and maintain their peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. They can’t sustain the kind of moral condemnation they receive from the international community every time they feel compelled to remove the threat.
At root, the problem is their determination to expand the settlements in the absence of any progress towards a Palestinian state. Even the United States government and its people do not see that as a fair and just policy. Israel it totally alone in pursuing this deteriorating status-quo. And it is going to start putting some serious strain on the U.S.-Israeli relationship very soon now.