Sharon Brous is a Los Angeles based American Reform Rabbi (nebech). She’s a regular on both Newsweek’s and the Forward’s list of 50 most influential members of the American Jewish community. She was the founding rabbi of IKAR (Hebrew for “essence”), which describes its mission “[reanimating] Jewish life through soulful religious and spiritual practice that is rooted in a deep commitment to social justice.” And IKAR was named one of the nation’s 50 most innovative Jewish nonprofits.
So far there’s nothing wrong with this picture. But this week, Sharon Brous published a widely syndicated op-ed titled “Let’s bet on peace,” in which she touts Secretary of State John Kerry’s indefatigable efforts on getting Israel and the Palestinians to sign a peace treaty, once and for all. I’ll deal in a moment with Brous’s own part in this effort, but first I must share a difficulty I’m having with the following assertion:
“This is a rare moment — a precious opportunity.”
What has changed in the plot of blessed land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean that wasn’t there before? What were the organic political drives either in Israel or in the PA that gave anyone the impression of a sudden rise in the desire for a treaty?
I could think of a few things.
1. Over the past decade, the IDF has become very good at impeding the Palestinians’ attempts to recreate their terror infrastructure. The strategy involves a deep network of informers and regular early morning raids which pick up suspects. Since the entire Judea and Samaria area has been under martial law since 1967, the IDF can move freely and do its job professionally. The political arm of the PLO—the PA—was planning to make it harder on the IDF to fight terrorism. The moment the PA gets any kind of political recognition as an independent entity, the IDF will start violating stuff by carrying out the same mission.
2. Palestinian enthusiasm for statehood, which has always been less than certain, has been waning, as the constantly improving business ties with Israeli enterprises have been improving, bringing prosperity that reminded many of the good old days under full “occupation.” Back then, Palestinian baby mortality was the lowest in the Arab world, their roads were being paved and mended, their sewer system maintained. The PA and the Hamas are incompetent at running their communities, both relying almost exclusively on donations and on extortion of their local businesses.
Improved employment for Palestinians in Israeli owned businesses, and, more crucially, the growth of a Palestinian middle class that cooperates with and benefits from Israel could mean death to the PLO gang that was brought in by the Rabin government in 1993 as security sub-contractors.
The last thing the PLO wants are wealthy Palestinians who don’t rely on them for their income.
So, for both those reasons, it made sense for the Palestinians to try once more to gain control of their deteriorating political situation through a permanent peace treaty that would let them own the store.
Why was it such a momentous opportunity for the Obama Administration?
That one is a bit harder to figure out. The U.S. is about to declare energy independence; it no longer needs to worry about who does what in the Middle East. Let the Chinese inherit this headache, since they’re still lusting for the regional oil. The U.S. is already out of Iraq, next it’ll be gone from Afghanistan, Iran is in the bag from an American point of view (which can be argued, but the Obama team is convinced the Iran issue is settled).