Commentary: Hobbesian (not Hobson's) trap

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large  |  Jan. 25, 2013 at 6:58 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The continued occupation of the West Bank to block the creation of a Palestinian state wasn't even an issue in Israel's elections.

Binyamin Netanyahu continues as Israeli prime minister with a broadened coalition and diminished majority in the Knesset. Unspoken but understood is the indefinite military occupation of the West Bank -- the lesser of two evils next to the prospect of a Hamas-dominated Palestinian regime whose next objective would be a frontier on the Mediterranean Sea, or the death of the Jewish state. Or both.

Israel is now an island of prosperity -- fueled by an economic boom -- in a sea of Arab crises.

Syria and Israel have fought four major wars -- 1948, '67, '73, '82 -- and Syria itself is torn asunder by a civil war under way for almost two years, killing some 100,000, injuring more than 300,000. Many make it to area hospitals only to find them out of emergency supplies.

The Israeli-Syrian border on the Golan Heights remains quiet. Some 580 square miles -- officially annexed by Israel -- are dotted with 41 Israeli settlements.

Egypt, now ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood whose President Mohamed Morsi says he wasn't referring to Jews when he said, two years ago, "the Egyptians must learn to hate Jews" and called Zionists "bloodsuckers and pigs." He now tells visitors, including a U.S. congressional delegation, "that was obsolete campaign rhetoric."

Morsi is desperate for $1.3 billion in U.S. aid previously pledged to the Egyptian army under the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

The International Monetary Fund is also putting the finishing touches to a multibillion-dollar rescue package. Normally lucrative winter tourism is down by two-thirds.

Whether the Brothers want to live in peace knowing the check is in the mail or give in to the Muslim Brotherhood's radical brand and impulses of Islam is an unknown unknown.

In normally quiescent pro-U.S. Jordan, "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," as Shakespeare wrote in "Henry IV."

Angry Palestinians pressured Jordan's King Abdullah II to agree to free parliamentary elections. This, they believed, would then transform an absolute monarchy into a powerless symbol of national unity, similar to the crowned heads of the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Spain.

Social media were saying this would lead to a majority of radical Palestinian members of Parliament who wouldn't hesitate to abolish the pro-Western monarchy.

This week, King Abdullah took a chance on elections ahead of schedule. He made sure this would result in a parliamentary government and the political parties to keep it going.

In the first election since the "Arab Spring," turnout was low (56.6 percent of 2.3 million registered voters) and the bulk of the seats in Parliament went to pro-monarchy tribal leaders and independent businessmen.

The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamic Action Front (and several smaller Islamist parties) dismissed the King's move as "a meaningless gimmick" and claimed turnout was a paltry 17 percent.

Surveying these threatening scenes in the neighborhood, Israelis are in no hurry to negotiate a Palestinian settlement.

Both Egypt and Jordan maintain full diplomatic relations with Israel. And as long as King Abdullah remains in charge, relations with the United States are safe.

Israel is protected from West Bank intruders by a 430-mile barrier of separation. It ranges from 26-foot tall concrete walls to foil snipers to vehicle-barrier trenches that snake in and out of 10 percent of West Bank territory.

And that 10 percent is now on the Israeli side of what the Arabs call "Jihar al-fasi al-unsun," or racial segregation wall.

Paved West Bank roads link some 120 Jewish settlements with a population of 350,000, which has doubled in 12 years, a 4.5 percent increase in 12 months.

Some 300,000 Jews live in settlements across the pre-1967 war border in East Jerusalem.

One Israeli politician predicted the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would reach 1 million in the next four years. Right-wing politicians want to make sure there is simply no room for a Palestinian state.

There are 2.7 million Arabs in the West Bank and it's becoming increasingly clear that they are losing their best lands to Israeli settlers.

West Bank Arabs aren't authorized to travel on Israeli roads, forcing them to take long detours on dirt roads.

What strikes Palestinians as a long-range Israeli policy tantamount to annexation has favored the extremist organization of Hamas. Based in Gaza, their influence in the West Bank has far surpassed the Palestinian Authority.

The Authority's half-hearted move to gain full membership at the United Nations last fall didn't sit too well with the hard-liners.

Hamas tells the Authority's forward helpers that they have allowed themselves to be swatted into irrelevance.

Many are still pleading for another chance but Hamas has a different game in mind.

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