Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
There is something fundamentally wrong with how the U.S. is responding to the continuing confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians. It is clearly apparent to most observers that Israelis are being attacked by Palestinians in an apparently totally random way throughout the country, especially in Jerusalem. It is also clear that many of the Palestinian assailants—when they are caught or identified–are being shot by Israeli police, military, or civilians seeking to prevent additional attacks against other innocent civilians. The problem is that the nature and tone of the response of U.S. Government officials was decidedly unbalanced until a hue and cry was raised to call attention to American officials’ failings.
Without in any way engaging in the critical question of why this is happening at this time or who is behind these attacks, nothing can be solved through U.S. intercession and assistance if there is a presumptive assumption that it is Israeli policies which have driven young teenagers to attack random people on the street with knives or even screwdrivers. State Department spokespersons cannot engage in unbalanced presentations blaming Israel for the upsurge of violence and then apologize for mis-speaking; the political damage has been done. Secretary of State Kerry cannot seek to insert himself and his good offices into bringing both parties together while at the same time clearly making statements seemingly sympathetic to the Palestinian’s plight or implicitly justifying the actions of vigilante Arabs expressing their frustration with the Israeli occupation by attacking random civilians.
Earlier Administration may have been seemed to be non-objective observers to events in the region because of economic considerations. There were also cases where the operatives at Foggy Bottom were blatantly anti-Semitic. There also were those decision-makers for whom the Arabs were being actively romanticized by some decision-makers in Washington circles.
Clearly given the turmoil throughout the region, the Obama Administration, like many others before it, needs finally to recognize that there is a fundamental fallacy in the underlying premises of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The Arab-Israeli conflict is not at the heart of the Middle East’s regional problems. The corollary as well is false that resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict will bring peace and stability to the region. Rather U.S. efforts must operate to bring stability to the area, but not from delusional premises. This realist approach will be harder for the Arabs but much more honest.
(A clear immediate example is the inability of the Administration to instruct its U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power to force a vote on the clear violation of a Security Council resolution by Iran when it recently tested a missile which could have carried a nuclear warhead. If a way cannot be found to phrase a resolution to all parties liking and Russia or China were to veto such a resolution, then let the international community see what the diplomatic reality truly is.)
So too this tactic is the only way U.S. foreign policy makers can hope to resolve the current problems between Palestinians and Israelis. The truth may hurt but eventually it must win or else the battle was not worth being fought.