Dear Mr. President,
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has stated that he will dissolve the Palestinian government and force Israel to take responsibility for the West Bank. Abbas is clearly a much better poker player than I would have given him credit for.
If Israel does not stop settlement construction, Abbas would be wise to follow through on this threat. Abbas is correct when he says that he cannot be expected to lead, to be responsible for a territory he has no real control over. Israel bears little of the financial or regulatory responsibility for its occupation, and forcing the government to pay (literally and figuratively) for its policies is the only way to compel change. The threat may frighten Israeli leadership enough to get an actual settlement freeze or could pave the way to a more just single-state solution, should the Palestinians begin lobbying not for statehood but suffrage.
I certainly don't envy the headache Prime Minister Netanyahu must be suffering as a result of this announcement.
With Israeli and Palestinian firefighters working together to battle a forest fire, I hope that government officials on both sides recognize the potential for all of the people in this region to live side by side, to work together, in peace. It can happen, but such an outcome is absolutely contingent upon civil rights, economic stability and personal security for all people, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. It cannot happen under occupation, and I am glad that Abbas, at least, recognizes this. I hope that peace talks resume in a manner that is fair and respectful of both sides, but, should the intractable commitment of the Israeli right to continue the construction of the settlements prove to be insurmountable for Netanyahu, I fully support the return of administrative responsibilities for the West Bank to the Israelis. Palestinians have long been punished (often violently) for the actions of extremists within their midst while Israel has empowered, protected and elected their own fundamentalists. The price of this hypocrisy ought to be the social, financial and political burden of the occupation and oppression supported by those fundamentalists and spearheaded by settlers in the face of international law, the interest of peace and basic common sense.
Abbas has slid his chips across the table. Netanyahu must go all-in with him, or fold and face the consequences. As Israel's ally and an advocate for peace, (not to mention a leader familiar with the costs of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan,) I'm sure you can appreciate just how difficult Netanyahu's decision will be. Netanyahu should learn from history, freeze the settlement construction and return to the table for peace talks more willing than ever to compromise for the sake of peace. Call your friend, Mr. President, and tell him it's time to fold.