This current tiff between Israel and the U.S. over settlements in East Jerusalem will probably blow over soon. The bonds between Israel and the U.S. are too tight to be unravelled. But Israel’s provocative behavior might be weakening Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Anyone who wants an end to this conflict should be furious about that possibility.
Abbas is trying to gain short-term diplomatic advantage by reneging on his participation in American-sponsored proximity talks, according to the
Christian Science Monitor and many other sources. But he and Fayyad must be alarmed at the long-term implications of this crisis. Haaretz notes that:
In one sense, PA leaders benefited from the construction plans: They scored a clear victory over Israel in the diplomatic arena. But they are also very aware of the long-term harm this incident could cause them among the Palestinian public: While most Palestinians are deeply skeptical that peace talks with Israel will produce any results, Fatah, the PA’s ruling party, has made the peace process its signature policy.
Thus they fear the new construction will further weaken Fatah’s status among the Palestinian public, to the benefit of the rival Hamas party, which opposes peace talks.
Fortunately, Palestinian security forces helped to keep a damper on violent protests in the territories during the Day of Rage called by Hamas yesterday. According to Ali Waked:
The alert declared Tuesday among Palestinian security forces, especially among the police forces deployed throughout Palestinian Authority cities, sends a clear message. The PA is not interested as of now in a conflict of any sort with Israel â€“ not a “rock intifada,” not “popular resistance,” and certainly not armed conflict.
But every provocative action in Jerusalem strikes at the heart of the quiet, determined, and resolutely peaceful Palestinian state-building that Abbas and Fayyad are championing. If they lose the already limited, skeptical backing they have in the territories, then Israel will have Hamas and Islamic Jihad (and al Queda) to deal with. That is the biggest danger looming from Netanyahu’s inability or unwillingness to impose discipline on the right wingers in his government.