I’d been dimly curious as to what explained the paranoid attitude that seems to prevail in Israeli circles with regard to Iran, and yesterday’s New America event crystallized one possible explanation. Basically, from Mustafa Barghouti‘s perspective, the Israeli side side has basically lost interest in achieving a final-status agreement. They basically see themselves as having nothing to lose from the status quo continuing more-or-less indefinitely, though obviously if some kind of Palestinian quisling leadership emerges that’s willing to accept less than what was offered at Camp David were to emerge, they would listen to those guys. But basically the Israeli’s feel no urgency about this.
Rita Hauser essentially agreed, as did Daniel Levy and MJ Rosenberg. Not really being knowledgeable about Israeli politics, this seemed remarkable to me, because the logic of the situation seems to me to be that Israel should regard the demographic tipping point issue as a question of great urgency. Ariel Sharon himself seemed to recognize this just a few years ago, and though the “unilateral disengagement” strategy he devised to deal with it was fatally flawed, it at least constituted recognition of the issue, namely that we’re close to the point when Palestinians are going to start acknowledging Israeli sovereignty over all the land from the Jordan Sea and demanding rights — equal access to roads, equal access to education, equal share of water rations, voting rights, etc. — rather than a separate state and that’s going to be the end of the idea of a sovereign Jewish democracy.
Meanwhile, there is on the table right now the very promising “Arab Initiative” for full recognition of Israel in exchange for full withdrawal to the armistice lines. Israel isn’t merely rejecting this offer, but the Israeli government is refusing to deal with it until they can get an unrealistic guarantee of 100 percent assurance of perfect security from rejectionist attacks. Obviously, security from attacks is a reasonable thing to want, but since refusing to negotiate doesn’t provide perfect security and does risk throwing the entire Zionist project away by letting the window of Palestinian interest in a two-state solution close, this seems like an odd attitude to have.
One way to understand the somewhat hysterical view of the Iranian situation that seems to prevail in Israeli government circles is as a mirror image of the weird complacency about the Palestinian situation — perhaps it’s a kind of displacement of anxiety about the Palestinians onto an Iranian problem that appears more amenable to emotionally satisfying Gordian airstrikes.