Larry Derfner
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
August 24, 2011 - 12:00am

There’s a feeling of instability in the atmosphere, of built-up pressure hanging motionless. The air is hazy, the sky is pale and miasmic. Earthquake weather, it’s called. That’s the atmosphere in this country, geopolitically speaking.

And while no one can predict an earthquake, I don’t know of any aware, realistic person who would predict that the relative calm we’ve known for nearly three years, since Operation Cast Lead, is going to last very much longer. A few months, maybe a year. More than that is hard to imagine.

No one’s minding the store anymore, the store being the world. America is way overextended, militarily and economically; it no longer has the capability or will to keep a lid on events in distant places. For Americans, the economy is the only issue, for Obama it’s the economy and the Republicans and getting reelected. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is off his agenda; he can’t solve it, he can’t even begin to solve it, all he can do is hurt himself by getting involved. With a failing economy, an image of weakness and a reelection campaign to deal with, this president of the United States has bid us and our problems goodbye and good luck.

America’s second-in-command in the Western world, Europe, has ducked out, too, because of its economic emergency and because Israel/Palestine is America’s turf; if America has a do-nothing policy, Europe does, too.

Which brings us to September 20 at the UN, where the Palestinians will be seeking recognition of their would-be state-in-the-making from the General Assembly. At the start of this summer, mention of “September” brought a feeling of dread to Israel and of looming triumph to the Palestinians. Now, as the summer’s ending, it seems that much of the air has gone out of September. The Palestinians will win their declarative recognition from the General Assembly, they’ll get their 120-odd votes, including a few from Europe, but then what? What they’re looking for is momentum, for Europe to join the Third World in backing their campaign for statehood, to embarrass the US out of saving Israel again – but Europe is otherwise engaged, with its sinking economy. Palestine will have to wait.

If September turns out to be a bust, and I think it will, Binyamin Netanyahu and most Israelis will be smiling. But for how long? After the Palestinian Authority has been cooperating with Israel for four years in shutting down terror, shutting down Hamas, even shutting down anti-Israeli demonstrations, what will the mood in the West Bank and Gaza be if they are shut out by Israel and the West after September 20?

Again, no one can predict an earthquake, but does anyone want to predict that it will be business as usual in the West Bank, that the quiet there will continue? Anybody figure that tensions with Gaza will reach no higher, that the sort of terror attack that killed eight Israelis near Eilat last week, and the days of bombing in Gaza and the Negev that followed, will remain the exception? If things go bad, who’s going to step in to fix them? Barack Obama? Catherine Ashton? Hosni Mubarak? What will happen between us and this new Egypt if we go at it with the Palestinians? What will happen between Sinai and Gaza?

If things with the Palestinians deteriorate, I don’t see any stabilizing force from the Egyptian side of the border anymore, only a destabilizing force.

Put this all together – a vacuum in world leadership, a failed Palestinian initiative at the UN next month, and a bristling, defiant new Egypt. Now add in the last ingredient: Israel at its most rigid, a country desperate to hold onto a status quo that’s coming apart, unwilling to change, out of ideas.

What do you get? Quiet? Stability? Business as usual?

Looks like earthquake weather to me. If we make it through another year with the ground still intact, I’d call that luck.


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