A “Moment of Real Opportunity”

So said Vice President Biden as he arrived in Israel. Why?

So said Vice President Biden as he arrived in Israel. Why? What about this moment-when Palestinians are once again throwing rocks down on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall; when the Palestinian Authority (PA) negates Jewish historic and religious attachment to the Cave of Machpela and Rachel’s Tomb; when Salaam Fayyad and Abu Mazen travel around Europe demanding that countries recognize an independent Palestine when they decide unilaterally to declare one (the Kosovo option); when PA officials are trying to keep Palestinians from working in West Bank industrial zones; when the United States has been asked to demand that Israel scale back its “hot pursuit” of terrorists-what exactly about this moment makes it one of “opportunity”?

And opportunity for what? Not for negotiations, surely. But apparently ripe, according to Sen. Mitchell in The Washington Post, for preliminary proximity talks about the “structure and scope” of the actual proximity talks that in four months (according to the American plan) may yield talks about face-to-face talks. We find ourselves in odd agreement with Yossi Alpher, a very left-of-center Israeli academic, who told The Post, “It’s hardly a cause for celebration that after 17 years of direct official talks we are regressing to proximity talks.”

Well, said the Vice President, “The interests of both the Palestinians and the Israeli people, if everyone would just step back and take a deep breath, are actually very much more in line than they are in opposition.” What interests would those be?

The Government of Israel has expressed its interest as Palestinian and Arab recognition of the legitimacy of national Jewish sovereignty, accompanied by “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force,” in the language of UN Resolution 242. Fatah, one part of the Palestinian governing equation, has expressed its objectives as an independent Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem and the right of return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to places from which they ostensibly came. Hamas, another part of the Palestinian governing equation, has expressed its objectives similarly, with two key additions: the creation of an Islamic Palestinian State through jihad. Both Hamas and Fatah outright reject the legitimacy of national Jewish sovereignty and neither has indicated where the State of Israel would be after a peace treaty-in the sea does not count.

It is almost impossible to find-even breathing deeply-where these interests are in line.

The Obama Administration, like so many previous ones, flatters itself by thinking it will “solve” the Palestinian-Israeli problem. An American delegation that visited with the Palestinians in advance of Mr. Biden’s trip told them the United States “expects both sides to behave seriously, with honesty and in good will because, if one of the sides, in our judgment, does not fulfill our expectations, we will make our concerns clear and we will act accordingly in order to overcome every obstacle.”

Excuse us, but who are these guys to have “expectations” of anyone? And why would the administration think that neither side has behaved seriously or with honesty up to now? Certainly they both have-the Israelis have seriously and honestly demanded that their national legitimacy be secured and the Palestinians have seriously and honestly demanded their independence at the expense of the State of Israel.

That’s what the Obama Administration has to work with. That and the sure-to-follow understanding that this moment is not the one they were hoping for.