To superficial observers of the Middle East, the latest round of fighting in Gaza looks like a replay of previous rounds. Once again, it seems, Israel pounded Hamas but didn’t crush it.
But there was something different this time around. This time, Hamas was far more isolated diplomatically. Egypt, the Saudis, and the Palestinian Authority all showed “no sympathy” for Hamas (as President Obama would say). Indeed, unlike President Obama — whose diplomacy initially bypassed Egypt, the Saudis, and the PA in favor of Hamas’ few allies — these entities actually seemed to tilt towards Israel.
Those like Obama and Kerry who want Israel “to take risks for peace” have seized on this new diplomatic reality. The time is now, they say, for Israel to align itself with the emerging Sunni bloc by making major concessions to the PA.
But I would argue that the new alignment cuts in the opposite direction. It shows how marginal the Palestinian question is to Middle East power politics, and thus militates against Israel taking the risks (which, after the latest rocket attacks, are even more manifest) associated with ceding territory to Palestinians.
The latest fighting took place in the context of a complete breakdown in negotiations between Israel and the PA. Thus, if reaching an agreement over the West Bank were so important, one would have expected Israel to be even more diplomatically isolated than usual.
But this was not the case. As noted, Egypt, the Saudis, and even the PA refused to side or even sympathize with Hamas. If anything, they were with Israel, objectively speaking.
Since the early days of Power Line, we have argued that the West Bank, which so preoccupies American policy, is a sideshow in the Middle East. These days, it’s doubtful that the West Bank rises even to that level. Not with Iran possibly on the verge of going nuclear and with Islamist barbarians sweeping through the region killing Arabs almost indiscriminately.