Netanyahu knows how far he will go, and he doesn’t plan to sell out Israel’s national interests. But one of Israel’s interests is the perception that U.S. power matters to the region and is a force friendly to Israel. That perception is broadly stabilizing: it’s good for everyone who wants peace and a continuation of the post-1945 international norms. If a day comes when it literally is not in Israel’s interest to support that perception of “stabilizing American power,” and of Israel aligned with it, the ensuing chaos will be catastrophic for far more governments and peoples than Israel’s.
Regrettably, the Obama-Kerry obsession with obtaining a “peace” deal on the Oslo premise, when the basis for it no longer exists, is itself a trend that undercuts stability. It just adds to the U.S. administration’s image of cluelessness – or even psychosis.
The latest example is the apparent deployment of the “Pollard card” to keep alive a scheduled release of jailed terrorists – a release that some Israeli politicians are now laying their bodies across the train tracks to stop, because it’s clear that nothing will ever come of the concession of releasing convicted, murderous terrorists to Abbas. Unrest in Netanyahu’s governing coalition could generate a crisis of government for him if he goes forward with the release. The Obama administration, by “not ruling out” a release of Jonathan Pollard, is dangling that as a last-ditch enticement for going ahead with the release of the terrorists.
But no matter what else Abbas says or does now, he has made it clear that he won’t negotiate on any basis that would make it worthwhile for Israel. Netanyahu has made it clear that Israel won’t sign on to a bad agreement – even if she sits down to discuss one. It’s the U.S. that would be the chump at the other end of this, having carried Abbas’s water without getting anything in return. Indeed, if we did release Pollard, that action would look as pointless and weak-handed as any gratuitous concession ever has. Regardless of whether we hold the card for a righteous reason, dealing it away for nothing just looks desperate and witless.
Unfortunately, even pretending to play it looks that way too. The rest of the world, outside of the haunts of Western liberalism, has many flaws and drawbacks, but it has one big advantage over the West right now. Its leaders don’t operate in a geopolitical echo chamber. Weakness is what it looks like, for the rest of the world, and the Oslo-based peace process is collateral damage in the collapse of the Pax Americana.