Thursday, July 19, 2007

Forced to Get Along

New York Times: By Mark Helprin
Contrary to the received wisdom, last summer Hezbollah overplayed its hand. Israel emerged shaken but with few casualties and an economy that actually grew during the hostilities. It took 4,000 of the vaunted Katyusha rockets to kill 39 Israelis, they did little material damage, and not one has been launched in the year since the war. Israel showed that upon provocation it could and would destroy anything in its path, thus creating a Lebanese awakening that has split the country and kept Hezbollah fully occupied. Though Hezbollah is rearming, it remains shy of Israel.

Hamas, too, has overplayed its hand, which has provided the opening from which a Palestinian-Israeli peace may emerge. For the first time since 1948, a fundamental division among the Palestinians presents a condition in which the less absolutist view may find shelter and take hold.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and Palestinian president, is weak in many ways, but he has decisively isolated the radicals....

The starving and oppressed Gazans who watch Hamas fire rockets, the chief effect of which is to summon Israeli tanks, may soon see a prosperous West Bank at the brink of statehood and at peace with its neighbors and the world. The quarantine of Gaza will cast a bright light upon the normalization of the West Bank. And although Hamas leaders portray Mr. Abbas as a collaborator, it is they who may be held to account for keeping more than a million of their own people hostage to a gratuitous preference for struggle over success. ...

Egypt, the Persian Gulf states and Jordan have so much to contend with at home and in the east that they cannot afford an active front in their midst, and are therefore forming ranks against Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, bringing most of the rest of the Arab states with them.

This is extraordinary and it is where we are now: on the verge of a rare alignment of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the leading Arab nations and the major powers....Anything for the worse can happen in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and usually does; but now the chief pillars of rejectionist policy lie flat and the spectrum of positions is such that each constructively engaged party can accommodate the others.

In the heat of a failing war, historical processes have unfrozen. If Israel and the Palestinian Authority can pursue a strategy of limited aims, concentrating on bilateral agreements rather than a single work of fallible grandeur, they may accomplish something on the scale of Sadat’s extraordinary démarche of 30 years ago. The odds are perhaps the best they have been since, and responsible governments should recognize them as the spur for appropriate action and risk.

In my rare hopeful moments, I hope for something like this. Not very romantic or idealistic, but perhaps, just perhaps, a path forward.

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