It’s probably unrealistic to expect more than a handful of folks with an
inordinate capacity for useless information to recall Portia Nelson, the late
American lyricist, artist, performer and 20th-century renaissance
Her most widely quoted creation was a 1976 poem “Autobiography in
Five Short Chapters.” As hippiedom transmogrified into New Age, “Autobiography”
became an instant hit with all sorts of self-help and self-discovery groups,
emerging as a cultural icon, reprinted in numerous publications and on pretty
Its premise was simple yet astute. Life’s like a walk down the
street. If we keep stumbling into the same hole, we alone are to blame. More
famous as “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk,” it went like this:
I walk down the
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a
I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
can’t believe I’m in the same place,
But it isn’t my fault.
takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it.
still fall in... it’s a habit.
My eyes are open. I know where I
It’s my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around
I walk down another street.
The beauty of the above is that
its straightforward common sense is applicable to all manner of troubles and
tribulations, not necessarily only of the personal variety. As Israel’s
experience incredibly instructs us, entire nations can be led into critical
holes in their proverbial pavements. Always impatient for that speedy saunter to
blissful peace and prosperity – or alternatively eager to temporarily alleviate
unkind American pressure – Israel’s leaders invariably seek shortcuts, which
inevitably land us all in that eminently avoidable hole.
besotted by wishful thinking and tired of the long, hard trek around the
menacing pitfalls in our national path, these leaders – with much of the
mind-numbed populace in tow – lackadaisically head for that familiar hole. Over
and over and over again. With eyes open.
LAST YEAR Binyamin Netanyahu
nosedived right into the construction-freeze hole. He stayed there for 10 whole
months, vowing that it’s a nonrecurring misadventure. History, however,
suffers no vacuums. Netanyahu’s ostensible one-off marked a precedent
tantamount to Israeli confirmation of the illegitimacy ascribed abroad to the
Zionist endeavor – not only in Ofra but also in Jerusalem.
essentially presses for benevolent eugenics – needless to say for our own good –
when insisting on a construction freeze to effectively end natural growth in
what he calls settlements, including significant swaths of Jerusalem. No greater
problem plagues the world.
To even indirectly validate this premise is to
inflict irreversible damage. Once the demonization is underscored by Israeli
weak will, construction could never resume without creating a massive stink and
inviting even worse pressure.
Expectedly, Netanyahu caved in to the
predictable pressure he imprudently invited and helped intensify. His very
readiness to as much as countenance a freeze extension makes the bad situation
he created so much worse – especially because it’s supposedly sweetened by an
enticing set of understandings with the Obama administration.
quid-pro-quo semblance attaches a price tag to America’s hitherto self-evident,
minimal, last resort support for Israel.
Thus the assumption that Israel
can escape the automatic pro-Arab UN Security Council majority is
gone. America’s veto has now been inextricably linked to Israel
compromising its vital interests. Our choice now is to be whacked by built-in
anti-Israel bias or be whacked by sacrifices made to win a grudging American
counterbalance to built-in bias. It’s a lose-lose proposition.
the sugary inducements themselves will be delivered only if a full agreement
with the Palestinians is achieved in three months. Odds are it won’t be. Hence
much of what we hope to gain by exacerbating the no-construction precedent will
evaporate into thin air.
Then there is the suggestion that this will be
the absolutely last freeze. But so we were told before the first freeze. That’s
why a time limit was slapped on it. Netanyahu should have known that
there’s never anything as permanent as something provisional. Precedents beckon
REMEMBER THOSE much-touted 14 reservations Ariel Sharon attached
in 2003 to the road map for peace? We were assured they were an inseparable
binding appendix. We were let on to trust that America accepted them. Yet
Washington disdainfully ignored these objections, which mattered momentarily
only in our internal self-deceptive discourse.
The blood-soaked map
continued to obligate us despite supposedly nonnegotiable provisos. It would
have been wiser to tear up the disastrous map (post factum deemed gospel) than
to accept it with conditions (post factum deemed illegitimate).
undertakings are highly suspect. At most they’re transient pledges good only for
the lifetime of the administration that made them – and even that’s not
Whenever some of us benighted sorts say so, we’re maligned as
rabid fiery-eyed nutcases, foaming at the mouth for good measure. We were
roundly derided for recalling how in 1967 nobody in the White House could find
the 1957 document spelling out US guarantees that Egypt wouldn’t blockade the
Tiran Straits again. American infidelity made the Six Day War unavoidable.
Washington could have preempted that showdown and its derivative so-called
The US-brokered 1970 Israeli-Egyptian truce hinged on
American guarantees that no heavy weaponry would be advanced. On the
cease-fire’s first night, however, the Egyptians moved dozens of anti-aircraft
missiles to the Suez Canal’s bank, facilitating the eventual launch of the Yom
Kippur War. American silence was deafening. At the end of the 1973 war, the US
saved the surrounded Egyptian Third Army from surrender, thereby robbing Israel
of incontestable triumph.
Anyone who ever counted on clever formulations
and American promises wasn’t a pragmatist but a fool.
undertakings not to deal with the PLO? Count on Obama – less sympathetic to our
cause than even his least savory predecessors – to just as cynically overlook
more recent declarations against pow-wowing with Hamas. Hence Obama’s feigned
ignorance of George W. Bush’s understandings with Sharon regarding settlement
blocks. Assurances Obama might offer Netanyahu would be just as fleeting and
downright more insincere.
Netanyahu is about to drop us not into a nasty
hole in the sidewalk but into a yawning, bottomless chasm. Inside darker
and more inextricable depths we’ll encounter more bloodshed, inimical “peace
partners” emboldened by Obama’s backing and mounting existential peril of the
sort Portia Nelson never imagined.
Her rule of thumb was that you’re
naïve only once.You’re foolish the second time around. Beyond that
you’re pathetic and need to save yourself. But our story lacks her happy ending.
We recklessly fail to avoid the hole and self-destructively reject the
It’s our fault.Another Tack will return in January; the
writer will be on vacation.