A Trap for Fools
IN A classical American western, the difference is as glaring as the
midday sun in Colorado: there are Good Guys and Bad Guys. The good ones
are the settlers, who are making the prairie bloom. The bad ones are the
Indians, who are blood-thirsty savages. The ultimate hero is the cowboy,
tough, humane, with a big revolver or two, ready to defend himself at
George Bush, who grew up on this myth, sticks to it even now, when he is
the leader of the world's only superpower. This week he presented the
world with an up-to-date western.
In this western - or, rather, middle eastern - there are also Good Guys
and Bad Guys. The good ones are the "moderates", who are the allies of
the US in the Middle East - Israel, Mahmoud Abbas and the pro-American
Arab regimes. The bad ones are Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and al-Qaeda.
It is a simple script. So simple, indeed, that an 8-year-old can
understand it. The conclusions are also simple: the good guys have to be
supported, the bad guys have to bite the dust. At the end, the hero -
George himself - will ride off into the sunset on his noble steed, while
the music reaches a crescendo.
THE CLASSICAL western, of course, does not show us the heroic pioneers
stealing the land from the Indians. Or the United States Cavalry
attacking the camps of the Indians, burning down the tents and killing
their inhabitants, men, women and children. How the US government, after
signing formal treaties with the Indian nations, breaks them one after
another. And how it drives the remnants into desolate regions, long
before the term "ethnic cleansing" was first used.
Denial runs through the classical western like a purple thread, as it
does through this speech of Bush's. This finds its main expression in a
simple fact: the occupation is hardly mentioned at all.
In the Palestinian community, for example, there is a struggle between
the "moderates" and the "extremists". The extremists are killers. Why
are they killers? There is no why. They are killers because they are
killers. It's in their nature. They were just born that way. The
moderates are moderates because they are moderates. Some people are just
So the whole problem is a Palestinian problem. They must decide. They
must choose between moderates and extremists. If they choose the
moderates, they will get everything they can imagine: colorful glass
beads and gallons of whisky. If they choose the extremists, their end
will be bitter.
The Jewish Israelis do not have to choose between good and bad. Why?
Simply because there are no Bad Guys among them. They are just good.
They must help the good Palestinians. "Release" the Palestinian tax
moneys and give them to "Prime Minister (Salem) Fayad". Not to the
Palestinian government, but to one specific named person, the darling of
What else is required from the Israelis? They must understand that their
"future lies in developing areas like the Negev and Galilee - not in
continuing occupation of the West Bank". (That's the only time the
occupation is mentioned at all.) They should remove unauthorized
outposts and end settlement expansion. Also, they may "find other
practical ways to reduce their footprint (in the West Bank) without
reducing their security". Meaning: the occupation can continue, but it
would be nice if we take some steps to make it less visible.
A long time ago, the United States viewed all settlements as illegal.
When the Israeli government continued to expand them, James Baker, the
Secretary of State under Bush the father, imposed financial sanctions
upon Israel. Bush the son at first demanded that all settlements
established after January 2001 should be dismantled. Later he withdrew
all opposition to the settlement blocs ("centers of population"). In the
"Road Map" he decreed that Israel must immediately freeze the
enlargement of the settlements. Now he is satisfied with a sanctimonious
request to "remove unauthorized outposts" (with no article) - that's to
say, some of those put up without the official authorization of the
Israeli government itself. All this without "or else" or any mention of
In the last few years, only one such outpost, Amona, has been
dismantled, and this week Ehud Olmert decided to pardon all the fanatics
accused of attacking the police during that event. The Israeli
government knows that Bush is only paying lip service, and does not take
IN MANY classical westerns there appears a crook selling a patent
medicine to heal all ills: headaches and hemorrhoids, tuberculosis and
syphilis. George Bush has his own patent medicine, which appears in the
speech again and again. It will heal all diseases and ensure the final
victory of the Sons of Light over the Sons of Darkness.
The label on the bottle says "Building Palestinian Institutions".
How come we didn't think of this until now? Why did we go chasing off
after all kinds of solutions, and did not find this one, so simple,
lying in front of us for all to see?
It is an egg of Columbus, with a whiff of Alexander the Great's sword
cutting the Gordian knot. The Palestinians have no institutions. The two
good people, "President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayad…are striving to
build the institutions of a modern democracy." This means: "security
services…ministries that deliver services without corruption…steps that
unleash the natural enterprise of the Palestinian people…the rule of law…"
All this under occupation, behind roadblocks, walls and fences, while
the main roads are barred to Palestinians, while the West Bank is
chopped into pieces and cut off from the rest of the world. By the way,
in this matter Bush has another patent medicine: all Palestinian exports
will in future go through Jordan and Egypt, not Israel.
In order to realize the vision of "building Palestinian institutions",
Bush is sending along his poodle. According to Bush, the sole task of
Tony Blair is indeed this: "to coordinate international efforts to help
the Palestinians establish the institutions of a strong and lasting free
society." (Like which example? Egypt? Saudi Arabia? Jordan? Pakistan?
Morocco? Or perhaps even Iraq?)
Let's hope no one is rude enough to mention the fact that the
Palestinians held democratic elections for their Parliament, not so long
ago, under the strict supervision of ex-President Jimmy Carter. As far
as Bush is concerned, that just did not happen, since the majority of
the people voted for Hamas. Therefore, Bush mentions only the elections
held before that, when Mahmoud Abbas was elected president, practically
without opposition. Everything else has been wiped off the slate.
So this is the up-to-date vision: "democratic Palestinian institutions"
will be in place, free of corruption (as in the US and Israel), and
"capable security forces" will be functioning, and Hamas will be
eliminated, and the armed factions will be dismantled, and all attacks
on Israel will be stopped, and the security of Israel ensured, and the
incitement against Israel ended, and everybody will recognize Israel's
right to exist as "a Jewish state and a homeland for the Jewish people",
and all the agreements that were signed in the past will be accepted -
then "we can soon begin serious negotiations towards the creation of a
Palestinian state." Wow!
What a wonderful sentence! "Soon" - without a timetable. "Serious
negotiations" - without fixing a date for their conclusion. "A
Palestinian state" (again, without the definite article, which Bush
seems to detest) - without specific borders. But a hint is given:
"mutually agreed borders reflecting previous lines and current
realities, and mutually agreed adjustments." Meaning: the settlement
blocs and much else will be annexed by Israel.
IT SEEMS as if the speech writers, after finishing the product, noticed
that it was pitifully devoid of content. Nothing new, nothing that could
cause a self-respecting newspaper to give it a headline.
I imagine the media advisor saying: "Mister President, we must add
something that will look new." Thus the "international meeting" was born.
"So I will call together an international meeting this fall of
representatives from nations that support a two-state solution, reject
violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and commit to all previous
agreements between the parties. The key participants in this meeting
will be the Israelis, the Palestinians, and their neighbors in the
region. Secretary Rice will chair the meeting."
Wonderful. A meeting which has no date yet, but has a season of the
year. And for which no location has yet been fixed. And no list of
participants. And no planned conclusions, except the general statement:
"She (Condoleezza) and her counterparts will review the progress that
has been made towards building Palestinian institutions. They will look
for innovative and effective ways to support further reform. And they
will provide diplomatic support for the parties in their bilateral
discussions and negotiations, so that we can move forward on a
successful path to a Palestinian state." The meeting will not review the
progress made towards the removal of the outposts, for example.
It is not by accident that Bush omitted to identify the governments he
intends to invite. Clearly, he will try to fulfill one of the most
cherished dreams of Olmert: to meet publicly with a top representative
of Saudi Arabia. For Olmert this would be an immense achievement: an
official meeting with the most important Arab country which has no peace
agreement with Israel. A meeting for which he will not have to pay any
price. A free lunch.
It is dubious whether this wish will be fulfilled. The Saudis are very
cautious. They do not want to quarrel with any party in the Region - not
with Syria (which will not be invited, though it is a "neighbor" of the
Israelis and the Palestinians) and not with Hamas. Unlike Egypt, Jordan
and the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia cannot be bribed with money.
It has enough of its own.
THE FINAL objective is a "Palestinian state", the "two-state solution".
That is a far-far-off aim. Not for nothing is it called a "political
horizon", since a horizon, as is well-known, recedes in the distance as
one tries to approach it.
In his poem "If", Rudyard Kipling describes all the tests an Englishman
has to endure in order to be considered a "man". One of them is: "If you
can bear to hear the truth you've spoken / Twisted by knaves to make a
trap for fools…"
We, the small group of Israelis who raised the banner of the "two-state
solution" more than fifty years ago, now have to endure George Bush
turning it into a rag to cover his nakedness. In his mouth, it is an
empty, deceitful and mendacious slogan. Only a fool will fall into this
As Chaim Weizmann, the prominent Zionist leader and first president of
Israel, once said: "No state is given to a people on a silver platter."
The Palestinians, too, will not get their state without struggle, not as
baksheesh from Bush nor as a '"gesture" from Olmert. Nations achieve
their freedom by political or military struggle. Every struggle, violent
or non-violent, is a matter of power.
And power means first of all: Unity.