Sometimes it’s good to have a functioning government. Then again, sometimes it isn’t.
Consider the long-running battle between Israel and Palestinians. This week, new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- beginning his second term as leader of the Jewish state -- made his obligatory stop in Washington to meet the U.S. leader.
Israel, of course, is a fully-functioning democracy, with regular elections and smooth transitions of power. If anything, it’s too democratic. As in many parliamentary governments, small, single-issue parties often have the ability to make or break national leaders.
President Barack Obama took advantage of the visit to press Netanyahu to do more to speed the Palestinian “peace process.” Let’s ignore the reasonable question of whether it’s even possible to have a “peace process.” If both sides wanted peace, there would be peace. If either doesn’t want peace, no “process” can generate it.
Still, “it is in the interests of Israel, the U.S. and the international community to achieve a two-state solution,” Obama said. “We have seen progress stalled on this front. I suggested to the prime minister he has a historic opportunity to get serious movement on this issue during his tenure.” The administration “appears ready to lean hard on Netanyahu,” wrote Washington Post columnist David Ignatius approvingly.
That’s fair enough, in one respect. After all, the Israelis were here, in the U.S. It was easier for Obama to lecture Netanyahu than to get some Palestinian on the phone and demand that he make concessions. And, Netanyahu conceded, “The important thing is to resume negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible. The issue is less one of terminology than of substance.”
Yet the Israeli should have added, “But with whom am I supposed to make a deal?” Because while an American leader can always publicly “lean on” his Israeli counterpart, there’s nobody on the Palestinian side to make peace with.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t even control the West Bank, where his Fatah party is supposedly in power. For two years now, the other Palestinian province of Gaza has been run by Hamas, a terrorist group with no interest in peace talks of any sort. In fact, Hamas and Fatah can’t even make peace with each other, let alone with Israel.