by Jacques Attali
Once again, a conflict breaks out between Israel and one of its neighbors; this time, as in 2008, against Hamas, which still governs Gaza.
The downward spiral appears to be unstoppable: The killing of 3 Israeli teens. The abhorrent murder of a Palestinian teen. Missiles launched from Gaza by Hamas on Israeli cities and at Ben Gurion International Airport, without provoking a catastrophe for the time being, because of the extraordinary efficiency of the Israeli anti-missile shield. And the deadly Israeli bombing raids in Gaza to halt the rocket strikes.
The result of this downward spiral is clear: Thousands of victims from Palestine’s coastal strip, which will weaken Fatah, accused of « collaboration » with Israel. And other victims on the Israeli side, which will nourish a desire for vengeance.
In both countries, those in power increasingly weak.
In Palestine, a discrediting of all leaders; so much so that, if elections were to be held today, Hamas would win in the West Bank, and Fatah in Gaza, leaving the country, or its equivalent, totally ungovernable.
In Israel, a ramshackle coalition between the extremists of Mr. Lieberman and those of Mr. Netanyahu, losing ground. As President Peres prepares to step down from the presidency.
Not far, an already convalescent Egypt who fights against both the Muslim Brotherhood at home and Hamas in Gaza. Lebanon paralyzed by Hezbollah, that is to say: Iran. A martyred Syria, whose tyrant, and enemies alike, are supporting Hamas. Iraq in full meltdown in which two new States are emerging. One is a Kurdish state and peaceful, the other is a Sunni Islamic state, spearhead of a war of creeds between the two branches of Islam.
In this context, no great power is at ease.
The United States, who find themselves on the same side with Iran against Sunni terrorists, have timidly proposed the use of arbitration, that nobody wanted. France, who is torn between the traditionally pro-Palestinian position of the Quai d’Orsay and that of the French political class, a more balanced position, from both the Left and the Right. A Europe without leadership. China and Russia obsessed by the desire not to breed Islamic extremism for their own benefit.
If this situation continues for much longer, the Arabs, the Turks, the Persians, almost all Muslim, Sunni and Shia, will soon reconcile at the expense of Israel, in order to prevent the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from spreading discontent at home. And they will abandon the claim of creating a Palestinian State, realizing that Israeli colonization and messianism, make this option less viable with each passing day. They will advocate a one-state and binational solution.
At that point, it will be the programmed end of the State of Israel. Some will accept the single State, convinced that they will be able to dominate or expel the Arabs. Others will see the trap coming, that would transform Israel into a new South Africa, speedily banned by nations. Before its identity is lost, through demography and democracy.
Consequently, this leaves Israel very little time to dare to encourage the creation of a viable Palestinian State, next to it. And providing it with the means needed to ensure its development, without ever lowering its guard before the danger of terrorist attacks. Which is what the vast majority of Israelis desire.
This leaves very little time for the Arab countries, swimming in their dollar reserves, to provide Gaza with suitable ways to be a beautiful tourist destination in the Mediterranean.
There is even less time for other nations to create the conditions needed to solve this problem, which is causing all forms of violence to flourish.
In particular, France, (where Jewish and Arab communities could take sides and look for sources of division there) must speak loud and clear. And lead by example on the successful path to living together. – www.attali.com
Jacques Attali is a French economist, writer and senior civil servant.
Former adviser to President François Mitterrand and first president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, he founded the non-profit organization PlaNet Finance and was nominated President of the Commission for the Liberation of French Economic Growth. He is also Founder and President of A&A, a consultancy firm. He published more than fifty books, including essays and novels.
He belongs to the top 100 public intellectuals in the world, according to the Foreign Policy Magazine (May/June 2008).