Mitchell Bard (March 19) takes America and Joe Biden to task for the recent imbroglio in American-Israeli diplomacy. It’s funny, but the last time I checked, diplomacy involves two parties. Or put another way, it takes two to tango. In fact, I would argue that Biden succeeded in maintaining a diplomatic mission, rather than turning around and heading home immediately (as some American critics of Israeli policy had counseled).
The fact that Hillary Clinton became even more engaged and that a meeting finally occurred between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reflects the ongoing vitality of American-Israeli relations. Those relations may not be tranquil at the moment, but the links are strong and the partners are working at keeping them intact. Contrast all this activity to a comparable period in 2000-01. It was not until after the events of 9/11 that the Bush administration got started on the “road map.” That concept emerged in June 2002, and it was not until June 2003 that President Bush finally visited the Middle East.
In his piece, Bard also points to a “simple historical truth” in regard to time and numbers. He takes a shot at President Carter (an easy thing to do) for not forcing Yasser Arafat to the negotiating table when there were only 12,000 Jewish settlers in the west bank. Now, says Bard, the Palestinians are in a worse bargaining position because there are 300,000 Jews in the area. This surely is not a simple matter, nor does it reflect a complete history.
The fact is that the Jews have not been in this area for approximately 2,000 years. Population growth among Palestinians far outstrips any possibility of a democratic Israeli state in the west bank (or Gaza, for that matter). And, in terms of the global picture, there are over one billion Muslims in an oil-addicted world. The Palestinians have nothing to lose by playing a waiting game. So, with apologies to Mr. Bard, I am not aware of anyone else who is making the argument that, with time, the Jews can solve the demographic time bomb that is ticking.
Let’s not blame Vice President Biden for the facts on the ground. America, Israel, and the Quartet support a two-state solution. The only question is how to get there, given a fractured Palestinian entity that appears incapable of entering into negotiation. The idea of proximity talks was and is worthwhile. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu will try and corral the political process in Jerusalem that resulted in the ill-timed announcement. That’s where the blame really lies.