Israel’s decision to walk away from the peace talks with the Palestinians last week was more than justifiable. But no one should be celebrating.
Israel is being blamed in many quarters as the culprit for the breakdown in talks that seemingly weren’t going anywhere anyway. But with the decision by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to sign a new unity pact with Hamas, no one should expect the Jewish state to engage in peace talks with a terrorist group that neither recognizes its right to exist nor renounces violence against it.
Whether the talks are dead for good is too soon to tell. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry never got to present the framework for peace that he was long crafting. But despite his intense efforts, Kerry’s explosive comment about the possibility of Israel becoming an “apartheid” state was just the latest sign that as much as he invested in the process, he and President Barack Obama were sometimes less than constructive in their zeal for an agreement.
Officials in the Obama administration learned that they were no more equipped to resolve this seemingly intractable conflict than their many predecessors who tried and failed in the past. The old cliche that peace will come only when the parties themselves truly want it is as true today as it always has been.
What happens next is not clear. Cutting off funding to the Palestinians, already being discussed in Congress, may seem like the obvious — and politically expedient — response.
But that needs to be weighed against the potential backlash for Israel if the Palestinian economy and security arrangements deteriorate as a result of those cuts.
The timing of the Fatah-Hamas agreement and the breakdown of the talks come just as Israel is preparing to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day.
It’s a stark reminder that nearly seven decades after the creation of the modern Jewish state, the Israeli quest to live in peace with its neighbors is still a pipe dream.
Before the Yom Ha’atzmaut festivities begin on May 6, Israelis will pause to remember the fallen soldiers on Yom Hazikaron, a grim reminder that the state was born out of — and continues to suffer — great human sacrifices.
Israelis — and their supporters abroad — have many reasons to celebrate when the nation turns 66 next week. The country continues to thrive as a powerful center of intellectual, economic and spiritual growth.
But the collapse of the peace talks is not one of them.