Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time for peace now, is it? Or why Abbas will make me rich and dead.

Well, it is always a good time for peace out here, but is this a realistic time for peace? The peace talk these days is very much like the talk about the imminent release of Gilad Shalit from captivity in Gaza. Every other week we read that this time it is only a question of days, maybe weeks, and just five disputed names on the Hamas list of prisoners to be exchanged for Gilad. And stupid us, every time we again believe it and get excited. Every time a little bit less, to be sure, but still, one must not loose hope, right? Poor Shalit family.

So today we read in the Haaretz that Abbas can make peace, finally, if we just stop building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for six months. Independent of the fact that in my opinion we should stop to build in the West Bank for six years, or better yet, for ever, this new line is really pissing me off.

What is it with these people? Once more the Palestinians are blundering a chance for peace, and by all accounts maybe the last one for a long time to come. Netanyahu has been resized to human proportions by the American pressure (thank you, Mr. President, but still, you should not have accepted that Nobel Prize, at least not the one for Peace. Economy, maybe. Okay, that was just a joke for my follower(s) over at the Fox news), with some European assistance, and maybe, just maybe, a bad conscience for that freak show of a government he has assembled. Actually, his only way to fame is either a) a war with Iran, or b) peace with the Palestinians. I hope for the latter, but I have my money on the first.

So here we have Netanyahu, a solid right winger by any standard, sending the feared and fearless Border Police into the most extreme settlements to enforce a building freeze all over the West Bank, and what has Abbas to say? Not good enough, Jonathan, try harder.

While the building freeze is popular with the secular (still) majority, few members of which have voted for the Likud, it is hugely unpopular among the religious of all sorts - a central pillar in the coalition. In other words, this policy is not sustainable unless it brings a tangible benefit very soon.

Now, the hard core religious elements in the coalition will not consider serious negotiations with the Palestinians about a two state solution a tangible benefit, and may actually try to topple the government if there was a chance of those negotiations succeeding. However, in that case the Labor rebels, Kadima and Meretz would either join the government or support it from the benches, and once again a right wing prime minister was the one to make a peace agreement with an arch enemy.

I don't know what Abbas's reason for not picking up the ball is, but I have a suspicion. It seems to me that a short term tactical achievement is more important than the strategic goal of achieving statehood. This was the case in the final collapse of every serious peace initiative so far. If the Palestinians were a person one would say this guy has some nasty self-destructive tendencies and needs to see a shrink, soon.

So here is what is going to happen. Before Abbas wakes up Netanyahu's attempt will collapse under the pressure from his right wing religious coalition partners. The government will find a good reason why the negotiations are off the agenda - a few more Quassams fired from Gaza and we will be there. Abbas goes into retirement and a third intifada breaks out, terror attacks, suicide bombers, you know the drill. Now Netanyahu is really back to where he left off during his last tenure as prime minister, which is not generally considered a great success, to put it mildly. And this is when I get rich - remember the Iran option. Rich and dead, possibly.

But it doesn't have to end this way. Among the Palestinians there are reasonable voices, like Ray Hanania, the founder of Yalla Peace ( Ray has announced his candidacy for the office of the Palestinian President. Yes, he has. Whatever I'll have made from the Iran option, I won't bet on Ray for President. A) He is actually an American Palestinian, married to a Jew. So much for popular support on the streets of Ramallah. And B) he is just way too reasonable and balanced. His proposal for a two state solution is more or less what will be the outcome of serious final status negotiations, should there ever be any. We know it, they know it, but we can't just agree on the reasonable thing now, can we. As Abbas put the negotiations with Olmert (from the article linked to the headline):

"The next day, we started talking about maps. Olmert showed me one map and I brought back one of ours. He showed me a new map and I brought back a map of ours. And so it went. We agreed that 1.9 percent would be with you and Olmert demanded 6.5 percent. It was a negotiation, we didn't complete it. As a shopper enters a store, that's how we held the talks."

It is the Middle East here, after all. I have a proposal for Ray: Since you are married to a Jew, you can get the Israeli citizenship if you both immigrate to Israel. And then you can run for office in Israel. I'd say your chances here are somewhat better than over there and you can keep the platform as it is.

If we are still here after that war with Iran we may need every creative mind we can get...