We were intrigued by the near hysterical front-page New York Times account on Tuesday of a vote by the Likud Party to actively pursue the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
“An emboldened Israeli right wing is moving quickly in the new year to make it far more difficult to create a Palestinian state, signaling its intention to doom hopes for a two-state solution to the conflict” is how the Times reported the development under the headline “Energized Foes Push to Cripple Two-State Goal.”
The Times went on to make the point that these efforts – and similar ones by Israeli legal officials to extend the reach of Israeli civil law to the West Bank, seen by some as setting the stage for annexation – are the natural results of President Trump’s “recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in defiance of decades-old United States policy and international consensus.”
And the story quoted PA President Mahmoud Abbas who declared, rather imprecisely, that these development should serve as “reminder[s] for the international community that the Israeli government, with the full support of the U.S. administration, is not interested in a just and lasting peace.”
It’s about time, though, that Mr. Abbas and perhaps the Times as well get over their pique at the president’s introduction of a new approach to a problem that has defied all the old ones. As we’ve noted before, Mr. Trump has repeatedly said the elements of a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict will be found in agreements between both sides, not via a deus-ex-machina imposition from any third parties.
To be sure, the new approach, including the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, changes the calculus and requires the Palestinians to rethink their strategy of systemic recalcitrance and preconditions to negotiations based upon expectations of artificial leverage. And if they refuse, well, Israel is now in the catbird seat for the foreseeable future and it is the Palestinians against whom the clock is now plainly running.
Hopefully, we’ve seen the last of the days when the prospect of Israel’s being pressured to make concessions against its own interests by an American administration or the United Nations was a real possibility. It is time for the Palestinians to recognize their need to make a deal – and promptly.