From The Wall Street Journal, MAY 17, 2011:
Sunday's coordinated attacks on the Israeli border mark a dangerous turn back toward Mideast conflict. Such a coda to the Arab Spring would be cheered only by Iran, Arab dictators and Islamists. And as perennial pawns in games played by stronger Muslim players, the Palestinians will suffer the worst consequences.
On the day that Palestinians call "nakba," or catastrophe, which follows the day Israelis celebrate their independence, thousands rushed military checkpoints in the Golan Heights, Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon. More than a dozen people were killed. Protestors also sought to break into the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
The usual suspects in the West are calling this a Palestinian version of the Arab Spring, but it looks more like the familiar violence of rock-throwing at Israeli conscripts. Then there's the role of Syria's Bashar Assad, otherwise engaged in murdering domestic opponents. Syria's regime engineered the worst clashes in the previously quiet Golan to distract attention from his own troubles.
Most of the Palestinians were bused to the border from two camps controlled by factions friendliest to the Assad regime. Syrian border guards, who since the 1974 truce have kept anyone on their side far from the frontier, let the arrivals rush through.
The attacks in Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon were not as well organized as in Syria. Jordanian and Egyptian security pushed the Palestinians back.
President Assad faces the gravest challenge to his family's 40 year hold on Syria, and though too weak to fight Israel himself, he would certainly benefit from a change of subject in the region. Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas—Iran's terrorist proxies to Israel's south and north—are always spoiling for a fight with Israel.
As ominously, Egypt's post-Mubarak elites are brushing up on their Nasser-style nationalism and anti-Israel populism. Some of the leaders who helped mobilize the protesters on Tahrir Square joined in calls for a "Third Intifada"—this time bringing the whole Arab world, not just the Palestinians, together against Israel. Secular groups have joined with the Muslim Brotherhood in demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
The Arab Spring began as an effort by Arab publics to reform their own sclerotic politics. Rather than invoke the usual bogies of America or Israel, Arabs rose up against domestic injustice and talked of promoting more widely shared prosperity. If they now retreat to blaming Israel for all of their problems, the uprising in the streets will be for naught.
The 1993 Oslo peace agreement put Palestinians in charge of the West Bank and Gaza strip. Corruption, terror, authoritarianism and stagnation were the result, particularly in Hamas-run Gaza. Fatah did better in the West Bank after Yasser Arafat died in 2004. But its unity deal with Hamas earlier this month, brokered by Egypt, puts them back in bed with a group that vows to destroy Israel. As long as Israel is threatened by a terrorist entity next door, an independent Palestine won't be established through negotiations.
President Obama plans to deliver a major speech on the Middle East Thursday, and he could help by saying candidly that this latest Arab turn is self-defeating. At a moment of great hope for a changed Arab world, nothing would be as destructive as a fourth Mideast war.