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Israel & the lesser of 2 evils

| Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON

A majority of Israelis recoil in horror at the very thought of emulating the regime of apartheid —institutionalized racial segregation once practiced in South Africa — in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Yet that is what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considers less threatening than full-fledged Palestinian independence.

Apartheid is what gradually emerged in the West Bank under Israeli occupation since Israel's victory in the Six Day War almost half a century ago.

Netanyahu and his Likud Party allies view continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank as the lesser of two evils. The bigger evil is Muslim extremism, ranging from the would-be Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship in Egypt to al-Qaida and its associated movements in Syria and Iraq.

If the West Bank were turned over to Palestinian rule, Israeli hard-liners say Hamas hard-liners would quickly displace the moderate Palestinian Authority.

Today, some 320,000 Jewish settlers live in 132 settlements in the West Bank and another 200,000 moved into East Jerusalem, the two out of three areas Palestinians claim for an independent state of Palestine. Gaza is the third.

One Israeli member of the Knesset predicted that within 10 years, more than 1 million Jewish settlers would be living in Palestinian territory, thus making the emergence of an independent Palestinian state well-nigh impossible.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Victor reiterated U.S. opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But this didn't rattle Netanyahu. He has heard it all before and he knows that Congress will remain solidly on Israel's side.

Meanwhile radical Islamists in the Middle East have espoused radical solutions for the creation of a Palestinian state. Iran's navy is busy testing its mining capabilities for a possible showdown with the United States and Israel. Iran has repositioned itself to mobilize against an anti-Muslim front if one should emerge.

Fundamentalist-controlled Egypt now threatens to scrap the peace treaty with Israel that returned the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula to Egypt after the 1973 war. The treaty guaranteed the demilitarization of Sinai.

Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, north and south of Israel, are mortal enemies of the Jewish state. Syria, another hostile neighbor, appears to be falling prey to pro-al-Qaida extremists.

For Israel, it's not rocket science to conclude it is surrounded by self-proclaimed enemies. Israel's hard-liners are convinced that an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank would quickly fall prey to extremists who would look to the Mediterranean Sea as Palestine's new/old frontier — and a burial ground for all Jews.

There is one critically important lesson the United States and its European and Asian allies should have learned in a chaotic Middle East: Arabs and Persians aren't interested in Western models of democracy.

How to bring democracy to them isn't the problem. How to deal with a different system is the crux of the geopolitical dilemma facing the second Obama administration.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and United Press International.

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