Wednesday, March 17, 2010

flames of the third intifada at their height

The day before yesterday, with the flames of the third intifada at their height, the anxious organizer called and asked if I had a suggestion for a substitute.

You don't want me? I asked, offended. Of course we do, he replied, but the media is making it seem like Jerusalem and the territories are burning and it's not worth it to risk your life just for a lecture.

I shuddered. Only yesterday, when the police announced that even the Temple Mount was open to visitors, did I venture out of my home. I can imagine the surprise and dismay of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's admirers in the White House, the Tel Aviv newsrooms and the TV studios in Givatayim and Neveh Ilan that the third(!) intifada, for which they had so yearned, played itself out like thatHowever, never fear: In these places reality doesn't jolt the conception that intifadas break out only because of Israel's rejection of peace and its provocations (the accuracy of which was proven beyond a doubt back in the days of Yasser Arafat).

That conception will only grow stronger. In the next few days, the countdown will begin for the fourth intifada.

For months there have been whisperings that we are on the brink of an explosion, always couched in the menacing Palestinian terminology, "intifada," and always with the admonition: The ball is in Israel's court.

Of course it can be averted, but only if Israel "does (or doesn't do) something" - freezes, restricts, prevents, restrains itself, doesn't surprise, doesn't move, doesn't act, doesn't pave, doesn't build, doesn't inaugurate.

Doesn't breathe.

There's no doubt those "drunk drivers" at the head of our state are the ones who initiated the conflagration that has spread from Jerusalem throughout the Middle East. The flames are reaching Pakistan as well, and are set to engulf American troops.

Here it is again, the flat, detached, linear world outlook of the American administration and the people who have Obama's ear in his golfing coterie.

The upshot: an anti-Israel agenda that is firm, but lacking understanding and depth. One of its principles is that Netanyahu understands only force. It seems the Obama administration does not want to hold a true dialogue with Israel but to dictate where its borders will be and where it can build in its capital city.

It was not peace, but rather opposition for its own sake that motivated Joe Biden's irrational conduct and Hillary Clinton's statements, which were presumably okayed by the White House.

For long months George Mitchell has been working the lines that lead to the resumption of talks. That whole time the Americans and the Palestinians knew Israel would not stop building in Jerusalem. And had there not been a row, proximity talks would have begun as the prelude to comprehensive negotiations.

Along came Biden, Clinton, David Axelrod and others who, aided by Israelis yearning to see Netanyahu brought down, destroyed all the preparations made in the preceding months.

If their chief aim was the continuation of the talks, they would have held back, certainly in public, in the face of the clumsiness of the District Planning and Building Committee. Because now, after they have proclaimed that it is forbidden to build in Jerusalem, what Palestinian leader would dare to talk to Israel, even if only a school was being built in Gilo, and not a neighborhood in Ramat Shlomo?

At a time like this, especially with Jerusalem in the mix, it would be natural for Israelis, or at least the Jewish majority, to rally around Netanyahu if only because of the Americans' brutality or the affront to the prime minister's honor behind the kind of snafu that can and does happen in any bureaucracy.

But it's not like that in Israel. Here, a great many people, including some who don't oppose building in the capital, joined with the Americans to assist them in humiliating their country and throwing their prime minister off balance.

There is one important lesson that Israel never learns: If there is a master plan to build tens of thousands of apartments in Jerusalem and thereby assure that the absolute Jewish majority in the city be preserved for generations, it is the entire plan that should be approved, all at the same time. Whether 1,600 or 50,000 apartments are slated to be built, the condemnation and threats from within and the self-righteousness, panic and criticism from within, will be exactly the same. Instead of drawing such intense fire every year or two, it can all be concentrated into one anticipated blast, and the building of Jerusalem will continue after the condemnatory dust settles, as it always does.



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