It demonstrates just how disconnected from reality both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships have become.
The failed attempt by the US to bribe Israel with a $3 billion security assistance package, diplomatic cover and advanced F-35 fighter aircraft - if Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu would simply agree to a 90-day settlements freeze to resume talks with the Palestinians - has been enormously clarifying. It demonstrates just how disconnected from reality both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships have become.
Oil is to Saudi Arabia what unconditional American aid and affection are to Israel - and what unconditional Arab and European aid and affection are to the Palestinians: a hallucinogenic drug that enables them each to think they can defy the laws of history, geography and demography. It is long past time that we stop being their crack dealers. At a time of nearly 10 percent unemployment in America, we have the Israelis and the Palestinians sitting over there with their arms folded, waiting for more U. S. assurances or money to persuade them to do what is manifestly in their own interest: negotiate a two-state deal. Shame on them, and shame us. You can't want peace more than the parties themselves, and that is exactly where America is today. The people running Israel and Palestine have other priorities. It is time we left them alone to pursue them - and to live with the consequences.
They just don't get it: we're not their grandfather's America anymore. We have bigger problems. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators should take a minute and put the following five words into Google: "budget cuts and fire departments." Here's what they'll find: American city after city - Phoenix, Cincinnati, Austin, Washington, Jacksonville, Sacramento, Philadelphia - all having to cut their fire departments. Then put in these four words: "schools and budget cuts." One of the top stories listed is from The Christian Science Monitor: "As state and local governments slash spending and federal stimulus dries up, school budget cuts for the next academic year could be the worst in a generation."
I guarantee you, if someone came to these cities and said, "We have $3 billion we'd like to give to your schools and fire departments if you'll just do what is manifestly in your own interest," their only answer would be: "Where do we sign?" And so it should have been with Israel.
Israel, when America, a country that has lavished billions on you over the last 50 years and taken up your defense in countless international forums, asks you to halt settlements for three months to get peace talks going, there is only one right answer, and it is not "How much?" It is: "Yes, whatever you want, because you're our only true friend in the world."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, what are you thinking? Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, offered you a great two-state deal, including East Jerusalem - and you let it fritter away. Now, instead of chasing after Obama and telling him you'll show up for negotiations anywhere under any conditions that the president asks, you're also setting your own terms. Here's some free advice: When America goes weak, if you think the Chinese will deliver Israel for you, you're wrong. I know China well. It will sell you out for a boatload of Israeli software, drones and microchips so fast that your head will spin.
I understand the problem: Israeli and Palestinian leaders cannot end the conflict between each other without having a civil war within their respective communities. Netanyahu would have to take on the settlers and Abbas would have to take on Hamas and the Fatah radicals. Both men have silent majorities that would back them if they did, but neither man feels so uncomfortable with his present situation to risk that civil war inside to make peace outside. There are no Abe Lincolns out there.
What this means, argues the Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halbertal, is that the window for a two-state solution is rapidly closing. Israel will end up permanently occupying the West Bank with its 2.5 million Palestinians. We will have a onestate solution. Israel will have inside its belly 2.5 million Palestinians without the rights of citizenship, along with 1.5 million Israeli Arabs. " Then the only question will be what will be the nature of this one state - it will either be apartheid or Lebanon," said Halbertal. "We will be confronted by two horrors."
The most valuable thing that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could do now is just get out of the picture - so both leaders and both peoples have an unimpeded view of their horrible future together in one state, if they can't separate. We must not give them any more excuses, like: "Here comes the secretary of state again. Be patient.