What peace process?
By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM–Israel has been unlucky in its neighbors. Prior to the onset of mass migration to Palestine, some of the early activists considered solving the European problem of the Jews in Argentina or East Africa. Then they discovered the sentiments of Jews with stronger religious feelings than their own, and decided that only the Land of Israel could motivate large numbers to move.
It is not possible to rethink history. Israel has been a success, despite the screams of European and American barbarians when its officials come on invitation to speak at their universities. From poverty, mass migration of refugees, hunger and chronic threat of violence it has become an impressive military and economic force. Despite outlays on security three or more times those of other democracies proportional to the economy, the country’s per capita resources rank it 23rd in the world, higher than Spain, New Zealand, Greece, Portugal, and Saudi Arabia.
Unfortunately, the latest news from the West Bank (i.e., the better half of Palestine) indicates once again that the neighbors are far from the brightest spot.
Yesterday a man who had been appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas to expose corruption made a public report of what he called partial findings. It included documented cases of money being siphoned off by senior officials, including at least one member of the president’s family, from aid received from the United States and European donor countries. Estimates are that some 10 percent of $10 billion in aid has ended in personal bank accounts. The man charged with exposing corruption also produced a video clip of the President’s senior adviser in flagrante delicto with a woman said to be his secretary. An earlier release of that video led to the firing of the corruption investigator. Now he is threatening to release a full report if President Abbas did not move against corruption.
President Abbas did move in response to the report. His aides charged that the publicity was the work of Israelis intent on scuttling the peace process. They ordered the arrest of the official appointed to expose corruption, at least partly for the crime of selling land to Jews.
The man in question lives in East Jerusalem, where Palestinian police have no authority. But he is pessimistic enough to have purchased a cemetery plot.
So far the Israeli reaction to the revelations of corruption is closer to a ho hum than oy gevalt.
There has been more official comment about the killing of an Israeli in the West Bank by an officer of Palestinian security forces. Israeli officials in West Bank communities and a Knesset member from a right wing nationalist party blame the killing on gestures toward the Palestinians like removing roadblocks. According to them, there is no future in a peace process when Palestinians given arms and sworn to uphold law and order become terrorists. They accuse Netanyahu of sacrificing the lives of Jews for the illusion of a peace process. In this case, however, the victim was an Arab sergeant in the IDF, who was stabbed to death while sitting in a military vehicle.
Ongoing is violence in the Arab neighborhood of Shoafat, across a main road on the northern edge of our neighborhood French Hill. Some 45,000 people live in what had been a refugee camp, now within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem but almost entirely outside the reach of Israeli police, tax collectors, and other authorities. Shoafat has been left to its own devices, provided services by the United Nations organization, UNRWA. Now for better or worse, the present city administration, along with the national police, seems intent on collecting property tax, value added tax, enforcing court orders, and arresting troublemakers. For more than two days Shoafat has been a scene of stone throwing, arrests, and injuries. Palestine National officials are charging aggression, and saying that Israeli actions are yet another element that will doom the prospects of peace.
Not to worry. The tragedy of an Arab Israeli family and commotion in Shoafat will not derail the peace process. That is more likely to result from Palestinian intransigence, Palestinian fear of retribution from extremists if they compromise any of their iconic goals, or Israeli fatigue at the emptiness of the ritual . . .
Or all of the above.
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.