A peace horizon
Both the Israeli far right and Palestinian old guard are anachronistic. Neither has learned anything or forgotten anything.
The obvious revolution is economic. Trade between the Palestinian Authority and Israel has climbed 42 percent over the past year. The number of cars imported to the PA has increased 44 percent in that time. Fuel consumption is up 29 percent, while unemployment is down from 19.5 percent to 15 percent. The official figures say the West Bank's annual growth rate is 7 percent. Unofficial estimates are closer to 11 percent. There is no doubt that in the last two years Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has created a veritable economic miracle.
The hidden revolution is security oriented. In 2007 the Israel Defense Forces killed 76 Palestinians in the West Bank. In 2008 it killed 51. In the first half of this year it killed 12. The IDF didn't only decrease its number of roadblocks in the West Bank from 45 to 14. It almost ceased big operations there altogether. The military's dramatic lowering of its profile and reduction of friction did not lead to renewed terror. Things are currently quiet there, very quiet.
The quiet is maintained by unprecedented cooperation between the IDF and the five Palestinian security branches. The coordination among the branches, and between them and the PA and Israel, has never been so close. Unlike the Oslo era, this time there is no whitewashing, overlooking and pretending. There are no revolving doors. Two Israeli field commanders (brigadier generals Noam Tibon and Yoav Mordechai) and five Palestinian field operators have achieved a security miracle in the West Bank.
The third revolution is in public awareness. For dozens of years the Palestinian national movement was tainted with Arafatism. It pretended to be secular-pragmatic but was nationalist-religious. Arafatism focused on destroying Israel, not building Palestine. However, Arafat's death and Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip have freed the West Bank from Arafatism. Recognizing that the second intifada was a disaster sobered it up. The dread from religious extremism sped up the process. So the overwhelming majority in the West Bank finally started functioning as a secular-pragmatic public. Many Palestinians stopped acting and thinking as victims. Under Fayyad's leadership they have taken their fate into their own hands and started building their future.
But the three revolutions that changed the West Bank are now in danger. The first danger comes from the Israeli right wing - people who go to the West Bank and want to rebuild Homesh. A right that wants to legitimize the illegal outposts and continue building in all the settlements. A right that is trying to exploit the calm to perpetuate the status quo.
The second danger comes from the old Palestinian leadership. This leadership continues to insist on an immediate final-status agreement. It may cut short the West Bank Spring by reviving the argument about a right of return. It could destroy everything that was achieved in Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah with premature negotiations over Jerusalem. It could even try to demote Fayyad himself.
Both the Israeli far right and Palestinian old guard are anachronistic. Neither has learned anything or forgotten anything. They're both so '90s. So if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is booby-trapped by the settlers and if U.S. President Barack Obama follows in the footsteps of his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, an explosion would ensue. Just as the 1990s' moment of grace evaporated, so will the current moment of grace.
But if U.S. special envoy George Mitchell develops a creative peace plan for his president, it may be possible to avoid past mistakes. This new plan must be based on Fayyad and his way. It must bring the Palestinians closer to a state in a decisive but realistic way. Instead of dealing with the conflict's unsolvable theology again, it must establish a practical dynamic of hope. Obama's challenge this autumn is to give the West Bank revolution a peace horizon, without pushing it backward to a reality of war.