How will the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, with this Gaza war the third in 6 years and unlikely to be the last, ever end? US support for Israel has always been seen as unquestioning and unconditional (except, interestingly, during the reign of George W. Bush), but that is now under greater strain than ever before. It rested however on certain key principles which are now beginning to fray badly. One was a shared belief in the two-state solution to which hitherto Israeli leaders have always paid lip service and some like Yitzhak Rabin genuinely believed in. Another was the legendary power of the Jewish lobby in Washington in corralling US public opinion to the side of Israel at any time of crisis. Both are wearing thin.
Netanhayu has gone out of his way to snub American efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He destroyed Obama’s initial efforts by refusing to stop the relentless building of new settlements on the West Bank. Most recently his intransigence crippled another US effort to foster talks led by John Kerry after a year of indefatigable effort. Last month the Israeli PM went even further by declaring forthrightly that he did not believe in the two-state solution: “There cannot be a situation under any agreement in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the river Jordan”. That not only kills the two-state idea stone dead, it also pulls the rug away from one of the fundamentals of US foreign policy without offering any viable alternative for long-term peace in the region.
On the second point too the forces of pro-Israeli reaction are under challenge as never before. The US media, previously bastions of unabashed Israeli backing, have this time had the opposite effect through their emotive TV coverage of women and children blown to pieces by indiscriminate Israeli shelling at UN refuges or hospitals or schools. This change of attitude is, significantly, most notable among younger Americans of whom more than twice as many have been polled as disapproving of Israel’s actions as approve. the legendary American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) no longer monopolises the debate. Already in February it failed to persuade Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Iran. Its support for a a bill authorising force against Assad seemed likely to fail last year. And if an increasing number of American Jews and even Israeli Jews are beginning to speak out against a war that is perceived as dangerously destructive for Israel itself, the balance of forces that Israel could always unquestionably count upon is clearly beginning to unravel.