Israel, Ireland And The U.S. Peace Process

Gideon Rachman sees some illuminating parallels between Britain and Israel as US allies pushed by an American president to make real concessions for peace:

The Israelis’ furious reaction to the pressure they are under from the Obama administration is reminiscent of the British rage early in the Northern Irish peace process, when it became clear that our American allies were intent on “talking to the terrorists” of the Irish Republican Army. But, as it turned out, the Americans were right to insist that there was a peace deal to be made with the IRA. They are right again on the Middle East peace process. There is still a deal to be had – and if Israel does not take it soon, the long-term survival of the Jewish state will be imperilled.

This is a very sharp analysis of the core question, it seems to me:

For all their long-term concerns, the Israelis have failed to make vital concessions, because the status quo still feels more comfortable.

Israel’s assaults on Lebanon and Gaza have, for the moment, largely stopped the threat of rocket fire into Israel. The wall the Israelis have built around the West Bank has helped to prevent suicide bombings. The economy has done well in recent years. Things look good – if you do not look too far into the future. By contrast, calling a complete halt to illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land – as Mr Obama has demanded – entails risks and pain. There are members of the Israeli cabinet who still cling to the idea of a Greater Israel, incorporating all of the West Bank. If Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, delivered the settlement freeze the Americans want, his rightwing coalition would probably collapse. Many Israelis also worry that an eventual move to uproot at least 80,000 settlers as part of a peace deal could lead to a revolt in the army – some 30 per cent of whose officers are religious conservatives, presumed to be sympathetic to the settlers. Any such military revolt, one respected commentator told me, “would be the end of the state of Israel”.