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Optimism since The Fateful Triangle?


What’s happened since 1982 (when I wrote The Fateful Triangle) is a mixed story. Some of it is reviewed in the extended updated edition. In some respects, there has been some progress. Official Israeli policy in 1989 (a coalition government,

Labor-Likud) was that there can be no “additional Palestinian state” between Jordan and Israel (the implication being that Jordan already is a Palestinian state, so there is no issue of Palestinian self-determination) and that the future of the occupied territories must be settled in accord with the “guidelines” of the Israeli government. That was endorsed by the Bush administration (the “Baker Plan”). It took almost a decade before either Israel or the US was willing to recognize some form of Palestinian national rights, and the proposals I just mentioned were far beyond what either had contemplated before. The issue isn’t “optimism,” but willingness to do something about it. There are great opportunities here. A large majority of the public favors the “Saudi plan,” which calls for Israeli withdrawal to the international borders, blocking aid to either party that is unwilling to negotiate (which would entail cancelling aid to Israel), and equalizing aid to the two parties if both agree to negotiate (which would be a radical change in US policies). In the latest in-depth studies, 75% of the population believe that the US should be neutral between the two, 17% favor a tilt towards Israel — again, radically different from US policies. That surely suggests that serious organizing and activism in the US could bring majority opinion into the political arena and the public domain. That hasn’t happened, but we have only ourselves to blame for it. If public pressures compelled Washington to shift in these directions, the -Israeli roadblock to political settlement could be removed: Israel cannot act independently, if the US takes a firm stand, and opinions in Israel would also shift, given the relations of extreme dependency. That could make an enormous difference. As always, optimism-pessimism don’t matter much. Action does.

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