Standing ovations in Congress do not come without queasiness and stomach churning. Last week a bunch of Congressmen flew to Israel to talk Netanyahu into toning down his embarrassing jingoism, and returned empty-handed. ("I am not coming to Washington in order to satisfy the president. We are meeting for a conversation"). Even American lawmakers are now aware that Netanyahu reflects the occupation mindset of most Israelis, whatever else he does not reflect. I am not terribly impressed by opinion polls which show a majority of Israelis welcome withdrawal and a two-state solution. When they come right down to the mathematics of settlement-removal, most Israelis will balk at loosing land and absorbing half-a-million unruly settlers, and this is the stance that Israeli politicians reflect. The tragedy of Israel is that it remains stuck in its post-colonial mentality. No politician, no matter how reconciled to Palestinian independence and the 1967 border, wants to be seen willingly accepting a radical rolling back of settlements. It would be pointless for Obama to edge out Netanyahu (something he can easily do if he is willing), because the next PM will not be able to come up with groundbreaking ideas. This leaves Obama with very few options. Imposing an American solution that trumps all approaches is easier said than done because there is little middle ground for a bridging proposal. Obama will have to make an aggressive revision of US policy and lean heavily on Israel, but he will not do that because it is not his style of diplomacy. So Netanyahu will eye-ball Obama without fear that the chair will be pulled from under him. Obama will have no option but to wash his hands publicly and leave Israel to navigate under her own steam. In September-October, Europe will carry Palestine into the UN with near acclaim. In December, Lebanon’s tour of duty at the Security Council comes to an end. The seat allocated to the Middle East will fall vacant. Palestine will be voted to represent the Arab bloc and there will be mass hysteria in Israel. Netanyahu and the others know very well they will not be able to turn back the clock, but they would be politically dead to admit it. They want to be seen fighting every inch of the way. The Last Supper? More like death of a million cuts.
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