The past few days have been particularly depressing for me. Not only has there been absolutely nothing good on the news (besides the assured safety of the International Space Station crew, who were spared collision with orange-sized debris from an ancient rocket that was still orbiting the earth), but negotiations over Gilad Shalit and Palestinian prisoners collapsed yet again, while Kadima and Labor continued meeting with Netanyahu, despite promising their constituents to serve in Opposition.
In recent weeks and months, we began seeing a renewed effort on behalf of real of pseudo Mideast-analysts to explain, to the Obama administration and anyone else willing to listen, what has to happen in the region. Lengthy reports and articles covered Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and, of course, Israel and Palestine. On Iran, some suggested the Mullah regime already has enough material to create a bomb, while others claimed there’s still a window-of-opportunity (for both diplomatic and non-diplomatic options, presumably). On Palestine, expert opinions varied from “Only Two-State” to “Death of the Two-State” solutions. But everyone seemed to be in general agreement over one thing – the region is more unstable and more dangerous today, than ever before.
The nice thing about the Right in Israel, is that it believes time is on our side. They’re genuinely not worried. It is the sort of spiritual calm that makes liberal leftists jealous. And now, the Left has no influence whatsoever over the future – it has lost all control of the political reality in Israel. The two leftist (zionist) parties, Labor and Meretz, have barely 13% combined seats in Knesset (16 out of 120). The Left has never in the history of Israel become so insignificant. It has failed not only itself, but indeed all of Israel.
But this is also the beauty of democracy. When one side fails, another can replace it the next time around. The people of Israel have spoken, and have decided to give the Right a chance. A chance at what? At eliminating the Iranian threat, at saving our economy, and at changing our election system. That’s it. Those are “the issues”, according to the Likud, its various MK’s, and its leader Netanyahu. Palestine? No problem – no two-states (no one-state either), only “economic peace” (whatever the hell that means). Syria? No problem – no withdrawal from the Golan, maybe from one or two Druze villages, in return for Syria “flipping”, leaving Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and maybe Latakia and Tartous as well. Hamas? No problem – very likely Netanyahu will have to go back into Gaza and “finish the job” (their words, not mine).
And as for Iran, quite clearly the new Israeli administration is not considering diplomatic options, but rather the “other” option. And who’s going to stop Israel? A brand-new Obama administration, that already sent a clear message to the Palestinians (Fatah), suggesting 900 million dollars are conditional upon recognition of Israel!? What U.S. admiral can stand up to the charming-yet-not Israeli COGS, Gabi Ashkenazi? The same admiral that’s already neck-deep in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan? When political and military leaders use terminology and language such as “we are concerned“, rather than “we are opposed“, any interpretation goes. That’s not policy – that’s a carte blanche for anything, including war.
So where is all this leading us? Do we know? Does it matter? Well, I think it does. I think we do need to ask ourselves where do non-policies lead us. I think we do have to ask when and what will stop this bullet-train we’re on, headed straight for the abyss. And if the questions are tough (and they are), then the answers are likely to be as difficult. But they must also be clear, and loud, and not open to interpretation.
If the U.S. believes in a two-state solution, it needs to clearly define the two sides – is it merely Fatah and Israel, or the Palestinian People and Israel? Are the two states Bantustan and Israel, or a viable Palestine and Israel.? If the U.S. believes in diplomacy rather than force, then it needs to make perfectly (and publicly) clear its rejection of any attack upon Gaza, Lebanon, and Iran. If the U.S. believes in Syria’s right to the Golan, it needs to say so, loud and clear.
Because if things are not clear, then leaders and people on all sides can continue to fool and be fooled. Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas can continue to tell their people that the U.S. blindly supports Israel. And Netanyahu can continue to think that no Israeli settlements need to be dismantled. Hamas can continue firing missiles from Gaza, believing no one gives a damn or plans to do anything about the suffering of 1.5 million Palestinians. And Ashkenazi can continue readying his pilots for attack on Iranian nuclear installations.
But then again, which is better? Is clarity enough? If the U.S. and Europe do nothing to end the suffering of so many in the region, to influence the leaders and the people that cause and bear its consequences, then what good is passive “clarity”? Perhaps we need a very active kind of clarity – indeed a sort of “rude awakening”. And the one I have in mind, of course, is war.
What else will force upon us a moment of pause? What else will cause us to reconsider everything we thought was true, all our perceptions and misperceptions? What else will cause us to reexamine our false sense of invincibility? To recognize the other’s frustrations, and rights? To acknowledge our contribution to the suffering of so many? To finally understand the price for belligerency? To think more about our children’s future, than about our own? If not through death and suffering, how else can we learn, and change?
It seems that perhaps in our region, there is no other way. Maybe indeed it is time for war. Maybe we need it, far more than we’re willing to admit.
(Shai’s Note: No doubt the notion that war could be a good thing, is highly controversial. We must come to recognize that like fear, quite often the lack-of-fear is just as debilitating. If we do not visit upon certain possibilities, they may well visit us.)