Israelis may have forgotten about the Palestinian issue, but the world has not

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has regularly voiced his support for a two-state solution, but his actions over the last decade and a half speak louder than his words.

Having managed to push the issue to the sidelines, he has just seen it come storming back in the form of a monstrous pogrom that cost the lives of more than 1,400 Israelis, the vast majority of them civilians.

Personally, I don’t think the atrocities committed by Hamas had anything to do with the Palestinian issue. What happened was cut-throat anti-Semitism. It was vile racism posing as something else.

Israelis I speak to feel their country is unfairly expected to stay its hand in response to barbarism that no other democracy would be expected to tolerate.

Why, they wonder, are they so scrutinised, so criticised, by so many in the UK?

The Israeli PM lives in Balfour Street; British-made Centurion tanks saved Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 50 years ago; British soldiers stood aside as a tide of European Jews landed on the shores of mandated Palestine in 1946/47.

From conception, to creation, to survival, Great Britain has been there for Israel.  

But the British believe in fair play and many feel the Palestinians deserve better.

Also, since the most right-wing government in Israel’s history came to power, the conduct of emboldened settlers in the West Bank looks like yet more injustice.

A wall in Tel Aviv with photos of Israelis missing and held captive in Gaza. Credit: AP

Earlier this year, a senior IDF commander called a settler attack on the Palestinian village of Huwara a "pogrom."

Israelis would argue that the Palestinians "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" and have spurned several generous peace offerings.

They have a point, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying.

When the Good Friday Agreement was struck at Stormont in 1998, a witty participant in the process called it "Sunningdale for slow learners."

Palestinians look for survivors after the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Deir Al-Balah on Sunday Credit: AP Photo/Hatem Moussa

He meant that the deal had a striking resemblance to a similar pact that was negotiated but soon scuppered in 1973.  

We all know what an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would look like, but those plans are just gathering dust.

Political failure has brought the Middle East to the brink of carnage. There is plenty of blame to go around.

What is far harder to spot is a courageous visionary leader who can offer any prospect other than dread.

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