Last week, the Palestinian Authority announced that it asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to begin a war crimes investigation of Israel, citing, as grounds, Israel’s recent confrontation with Palestinians in Gaza and its general settlement policies as a continuing violation of international law.
But by seeking recourse in that largely ineffectual body with claims that are palpably false – in the midst of the dramatic changes occurring in the Middle East – Abbas and company are stuck in a time warp of past reality. To be sure, the virulently anti-Israel countries in the UN and other international organizations may be continuing their cabal, but they have little to offer technologically and economically desperate third world countries and those fearful of nuclear-armed rogue countries that are increasingly gravitating toward Israel. Plainly, Israel has much to offer; if the Palestinians choose to ignore this emerging reality, it is at their great peril.
Thus, for more than two years, led by a Saudi Arabia and an Egypt wary of the Iranian nuclear threat, regional aspirations, and enormous support of terrorism, an increasing number of Arab nations have sought to align themselves with a militarily potent Israel that shares their concern about Iran and is in a position to do something about it. It is plain that the Israel-Palestinian confrontation no longer drives the policies of these Arab countries.
Moreover, recent events in Syria and the Golan underscore the tectonic changes that are occurring in the region. Israel has emerged as a strategic partner with the United States in the Middle East. While the U.S. recently conducted a missile attack against Syrian installations, the overriding U.S. concern is over the projection of Iranian power in the Middle East through a strong military presence in Syria. However, the U.S. is somewhat constrained by Russia’s presence in Syria.
So when Iranian missiles were launched from its bases in Syria, Israeli jets, with the full approval of the Trump Administration – using the state of the art, U.S.-supplied F-35 fighter jets – virtually destroyed the entire offensive Iranian military infrastructure in Syria. It was no coincidence that the Trump administration had positive things to say about this episode and the emasculating of the Iranian threat in Syria.
Of course, Israel had its own reasons for taking the action it did, irrespective of American interests. But it is the sharing of an interest in a defanged Iran in the region that is significant; as is the reality of an Israel upon which the U.S. can rely on to protect its interests. Moreover, there was much to be gained by avoiding the appearance of the Russians doing nothing in the face of its main competitor, the U.S., operating so close to its forces and demolishing its ally.
Adding to this mix is the intriguing, overall role of Russia. It should not be lost on anyone that on the eve of the Israeli air strike against Iranian military installations, Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, reportedly to alert him to what was coming, reassuring him that every effort would be made to avoid harm to Russian personnel in Syria and that Israel simply had to neutralize Iran, which was positioned close to its northern border with repeated vows to destroy the Jewish state.
As it happened, the Russians did nothing to prevent the Israeli strikes, nor did they respond to them. Moreover, Russia made a startling announcement soon after. It called for all foreign troops to withdraw from Syria, which the Iranians promptly and very publicly rejected.
Perhaps the new order of things in the Middle East is a tacit understanding between the U.S. and Russia that Israel will be free to provide for its clear security needs. And the Russians will not object even if U.S. interests coincide with Israel’s—as long as the U.S. doesn’t enter the fray.
The Palestinian move in the ICC triggered much discussion about whether the Trump Administration should close the PLO office in Washington. By its terms, a recently enacted law requires the State Department to shutter the office in the event that the Palestinians try to take Israel to the ICC.
Of course the law should be applied, if only to underscore to the Palestinians that the free ride they got in the Obama years is over. But that sanction is beside the point. The Palestinians have a lot more to worry about.