Israeli-Palestinian Direct Talks Will Lead Directly to Failure

The “Israeli-Palestinian direct talks” are now underway in Washington in which, yet once again, the intractable dilemma that bedevils the region will be addressed and hopefully resolved, at least in part. All the parties have expressed a guarded optimism, to a greater or lesser degree, that this latest round of talks will bear some kind of fruit. Everything, apparently, is on the table — even, according to some reports, the division of Jerusalem. With clearly anti-Israeli figures like Barack Obama and Ban Ki-moon — let’s be honest about this — fanning the proceedings, it should be evident things will not go well for Israel, and that the country will be blamed for not offering sufficient giveback to the Palestinians and for the inevitable derelictions that will ensue. Indeed, the UN secretary-general is on record urging that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas be “given full support” and international recognition. Nowhere does he extend the same counsel on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Nor does Ban acknowledge that Abbas has no legal authority to participate in the peace conference since his term as president expired in January 2009 and he has not called new elections.

Netanyahu is obviously keeping his gaze fixed on the big picture: the so-called “peace process” which to date has been all process and no peace, envisioning the chimera of two states living side by side in sandaled amity; intense American pressure; the discriminatory media ready to pounce upon Israel for every pretext they can manufacture; and the international trend toward delegitimation of the Jewish state. But sometimes the smaller portraits are just as important, and sometimes even more important, than the larger picture that monopolizes the attention of the usual suspects: diplomats, officials, negotiators, and, of course, the usual cohort of “liberal” agitators both in the West and among Israel’s arguably treasonable left-wing academics.

Given enough time, the little cameos add up and eventually come to crowd the entire frame, a development which the big picture people refuse to consider. They tend to neglect or to put out of mind the implicit assumption of an intimate contract between the state and the nation, the filaments that bind the government to the individual citizens it represents, which can fray and snap if the government is no longer perceived as honoring that contract, of holding up its end of the bargain. Speaking before a Tel Aviv audience on January 28, 2009, Aviva Shalit, the mother of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, faulted the government for abandoning her son, stating that the unwritten covenant between Israel’s leaders and its soldier-citizens “has cracked.” This is the unspoken peril now confronting the Israeli leadership.

The Israeli administration under Ariel Sharon waited too long to respond to the suicide attacks of the Second Intifada provoked by arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, which claimed 1,100 little portraits. When it finally sent the IDF into the Jenin terrorist nest, it sacrificed 13 of its young soldiers to booby-trapped buildings instead of doing what the Americans do regularly, striking from the air. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert waited years while the town of Sderot came under fire from thousands of Hamas-launched Kassam rockets and the community was effectively paralyzed, before giving the order to launch a retaliatory incursion into Gaza. Apart from the fatalities, statistics show that nearly 80% of Sderot’s children suffered from PTSD and required intensive medical treatment. Many still do. These tiny portraits obviously did not figure in Olmert’s big picture calculations.

Another little portrait, Gilad Shalit, still remains in captivity in Gaza, when a credible threat to destroy Hamas root and branch, clearly within Israeli capability, would lead to his release. On August 31, as the latest Washington exercise in futility was just getting underway, Hamas operatives murdered four Israeli civilians, Kochava Even-Chaim, Avishai Schindler, and Tali and Yitzhak Ames. Seven children lost their parents. On the following day two more Israelis, Moshe Moreno and his wife, were wounded in yet another drive-by shooting. One recalls Shalhevet Pass, aged 10 months, drilled in the head by a Palestinian sniper; Dorit Aniso, aged 2, and Yuval Abedeh, aged 4, playing under an olive tree, killed on the festival of Sukkot by a Gaza rocket in the Western Negev; and pregnant Tali Hatuel, shot point blank in her car by gunmen from Rafah, with her four young daughters, Hila, aged 11, Hadar, aged 9, Roni, aged 7, and Meirav, aged 2. These and many thousands like them are the smaller portraits filling up the canvas. They have now become the big picture.