As you know very well, I don't hold out much hope for the Middle East peace process. At the State Department and almost all the ostensibly important--but truly irrelevant--European foreign ministries however, officials are insisting that peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is at the top of their agenda. Sanctimonious, yes; realistic, no. Why? One reason is that there are more important hot spots in the world, more important especially for the United States. But not only. The Brits have given the Jews and the Arabs to Tony Blair as a hobby. The French have taken them on as peoples for Sarkozy to visit regularly and have them visit Paris in return. Who really cares what Norway thinks about where the lines should be drawn in Jerusalem. This is realism, the new realism. Palestine is an addiction for Europe. Manchester University has once again announced a boycott of Israel. Very important university. Oy vey: in continuous decline since Cham Weizman (later first president of Israel) was professor of chemistry there at the beginning of the 20th century. Any Israeli academic it keeps out will only diminish its standing a bit more. Oh, yes, and then there is Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts where you can major in the ecology of the Connecticut valley, a weirdo "new age" place if there ever was one; it is about to disinvest from companies which "help" the Israel Defense Forces, at the initiative of a far-left-wing Israeli student. Here we are in koo-koo land.
But let's go back to the fantasies of the real world. So let's put the spotlight on the truly cataclysmic possibilities in the world. The first is Pakistan and Afghanistan, the significance of which can be measured by who the White House has delegated to do the heavy loading. It is Richard Holbrooke. Nothing more need be said. Then there is Mexico, a failed state on our own borders that no one, neither in the administration nor in Congress, seems to have noticed. And Latin American in general where Comandante Chavez of Venezuela is waging a not so subtle form of warfare against the U.S. and, with revolutionary delusions, linking up with Peronism in Argentina and other wacky nostrums in other countries in the area. And, for that matter, there are Russia and China and North Korea and Iran, none of whose challenges to American interests and to the West would be relieved by any kind of settlement between the Palestinians and Israel.
That does not mean we should neglect the conflict that we've been trying to settle for 60 years. But it sure seems that we cannot put it in true prospective. Mrs. Clinton is going to Cairo for a conference on aid to Gaza. Hasn't she got something better to do with her time and energy? My friend John Kerry is going to see Bashir Assad. George Mitchell is returning to the region in the next few days. I suppose he is looking for some piece of evidence that will make his analogy to the Irish problem not sound so dumb. Yes, the real problem is that, however irascible the Irish Catholic ultras were, they did not have designs on London or Bath, Birmingham or Manchester.
Poor Mohamad Abbas. It is true, as an article in The Jerusalem Post reported this week, that his and Fatah's standing in Palestinian public opinion actually went way up, despite what the reflexive wisdom of the mainstream press assumes. And today he urged whoever actually forms the government in Israel to continue to pursue negotiations with him. All good.
But then a dispatch in Thursday's Ha'aretz by Barak Ravid reports that Abbas has been conducting an international campaign to get world leaders to isolate the Likud the way they isolated Hamas. With whom will he negotiate if not a Likud government if Bibi is the prime minister? His own Fatah movement depends on Israel for its sustenance. The left in Israel is not quite dead. Let's be generous: it is dormant. Labor no longer believes in what it used to believe. Ehud Barak is a hawk but his party...it will take a long time to figure out where his party stands.