Hawks Rule the Roost
We don't like to admit it, but Middle East politics is the domain not of the doves but of hard men who can sometimes be pragmatists -- but certainly not in response to sentimental or idealized desires.
Peacemaking on the Israeli side has never been -- and is likely never to be -- owned by the left. From Israeli premiers Menachem Begin to Yitzhak Rabin (breaker of bones during the first Intifada) to Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, the story of the Arab-Israeli negotiations is one of tough guys whose calculations were reshaped by necessity and self-interest, and who could deliver something tangible to the other side while getting away with it politically at home.
Abbas may well be the best Palestinian partner Israel has ever had. But if he can't deliver, well, Houston we have a problem.
Being the darling of the West counts for something. For good reason, Abbas and his reality-based prime minister, Salam Fayyad, emerged as the great hope among the peace-making set: Here were reasonable, moderate men who eschewed violence and were actually interested in state-building. But could they actually deliver what various Israeli governments wanted?
Irony of ironies, it was Hamas that emerged as the object of Israel's real attentions -- the Islamist nationalists, it turned out, had what Israel needed and could deliver it. When Israel wanted a ceasefire, who did it negotiate with? Hamas, not Abbas. When Israel wanted Gilad Shalit back, who did it negotiate with? Hamas, not Abbas. Indeed, the astute Israel journalist Aluf Benn wrote last week that Israel killed the de facto head of Hamas's military wing -- Ahmad al-Jaabari -- because he was no longer willing or able to play the role of Israel's policeman, squelching Hamas and jihadi rocket fire into Israel. In exchange for doing so, Benn posits, Israel shipped in shekels for Gaza's banks and support for Gaza's infrastructure. Jaabari had street cred and delivered for four years -- Abbas has little and couldn't.