This time, the threat extends from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. There is a great deal of accumulated combustible material, heralding a blaze without precedent.
Every president must have a vision. A peace plan, even. Sometimes, a dignified summit and a historic photograph as well. And then, things fall back into place. Results tend to be scarce, at times reversible, as if a telluric force were keeping the embers glowing in anticipation of a withering fire, like those that routinely claim lives, riches and hopes.
It is still unknown whether Joe Biden has a vision, or even if he wants to have one, like his predecessors since at least George H.W. Bush. Or even more, if having a vision is a good thing, in view of the results reaped by those who have had them. His low profile is well known, right until the present moment, when the matter has blown up in his face. Judging by his first 100 days, it appears that his only vision was to stay away from the hornet’s nest, doing exactly the bare minimum to rectify the outlandish vision of his predecessor.
Donald Trump severed ties with the Palestinian Authority and withheld funds for the United Nations refugee agency. He moved the United States embassy to Jerusalem. He recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria. He legitimized the settlements in Palestinian territories. And he intended to indulge Benjamin Netanyahu by breaking the nuclear deal with Iran and by sponsoring the establishment of relations of four Arab countries with Israel.
Biden has already fixed some of these steps, but others are irreversible. However, under no circumstances will he abandon his commitment to the safety of Israel and its right to defend itself, a principle that is government policy in Washington. Nor will he change his mind on the two-state idea — one for the Jewish people and another for the Palestinians — although politically, that is a corpse no one is trying to bring back to life.
The current blaze disproves some of the recent cliches. It was assumed that the Palestinian cause was no longer the central axis for politics in the region, that it had shifted toward the Persian Gulf, organized around the animosity between the Sunni oil monarchies and Iranian Shiite Islamism. Similarly, the Palestinian Authority was seen as irrelevant, weakened by corruption, Mahmoud Abbas’ authoritarianism and further delaying the election, the first since 2006.
The deterioration of Israel’s ungovernable democracy has also done its part, with four elections in two years, together with the unexpected impact of the pandemic in Gaza, where it hardly had any presence but which has now been ignited with the same fury as in other poor countries with weak health care infrastructure. All that was missing were the always numerous and efficient agents provocateurs from both sides, and even from governments, alert to pour oil on the embers, particularly on Jerusalem’s holy sites.
This time, the threat extends from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea: mainly Gaza, the West Bank too, and even Israel, where Israeli Arabs and Jews are mobilizing toward a civil war. There is a great deal of accumulated combustible material, heralding a blaze without precedent.