Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the UN was a bad one.
I could explain that he was speaking to his own public after a war in which
Palestinians were killed, and his people were angry.
I could point out
that throughout the world experts noted that the one real loser of the Gaza war
was Abbas and his Palestinian Authority.
It is also noteworthy that the
Palestinian leader was backed into the corner of going to the United Nations
with no apparent other choice, and that not doing so would have been the final
death blow to his own political career. All of this is true, but Abbas could
have still used the international podium for a different kind of speech that
would have addressed the Israeli public positively and would have scored a lot
more points for the cause of Palestine.
Ambassador Ron Prosor’s speech
was also a bad speech, although not as bad as Abbas’. Great speeches are those
used to launch a new policy, to change consciousness, and to signal new
opportunities. The Palestinian and Israeli UN speeches were old news, bad news
and missed opportunities, once again.
The cause that both sides should
have addressed is ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated
agreement that would provide security for both peoples and mutual recognition of
the existence of two nation-states living side by side in peace. That could have
been reality had the antagonism and threats surrounding the Palestinian move in
the UN been replaced by mutual agreement to utilize the UN resolution as a
stepping stone to renewed negotiations.
A deal was on the table that
entailed Israel accepting the resolution, Palestinian agreement not to take
legal steps against Israel in the International Court of Justice or the
International Criminal Court while both sides enter intensive ongoing
negotiations on the two-states-for-two-peoples solution. The opportunity was
lost and now the cycle of revenge has begun.
This scenario provides the
finest raw material for spin doctors planning the Israeli election campaigns,
and the populists are already competing for the best play against Abbas and the
Palestinian people. With only elections in sight, there is no thinking
whatsoever about the day after.
Who is going to pick up the pieces when
the PA is in financial collapse and perhaps political turmoil? Right now the
only mutuality and reciprocity in play leads us to a mutually injurious
stalemate, a situation in which neither party thinks it can win without
incurring excessive loss, and in which both will suffer from a continuation of
WE HAVE moved into the “lose-lose” phase of this conflict and
leaders on both sides seem to have adopted it fully within the mindset of, “We
will think about tomorrow, tomorrow, or the day after that.”
people, on both sides, have embraced our leaders and their lack of wisdom and
vision. We have bought into the myths that they have woven together to justify
our inability to grasp at opportunities for real change and breakthroughs to
peace. We want peace but the other side clearly does not. We are a peace-loving
people but the other side incites, teaches hatred and racism, and denies our
right to exist.
This conflict, despite all of the conventional wisdom to
the contrary, is resolvable. The parameters for peace are known, the
negotiations on all of the issues have been conducted over years. We can learn
the lessons of previous failures and create the means for better chances for
success. Public opinion research on both sides demonstrates the potential for
majorities to support a deal which would provide both sides with enough relative
justice to bring this conflict to an end.
Leaders and public figures on
both sides enjoy much more popular support when they transmit the opposite
message – peace is not possible, there is no one to make peace with, how can you
even suggest talking to the terrorists on the other side? That self-admiration
and praise to one’s own side and the venomous attack of the other are the
measure of the popularity of both message and messenger is the sign of societies
suffering from conflict fatigue. We deal with this through a combination of
prescriptive reliefs: avoidance, evasion, escapism, blaming and naming,
inflicting pain on the other side even when it hurts us, with a total inability
to see any way of changing our plight.
Our two societies are in desperate
need for a game changer, a new voice, a vision of hope with the ability to
deliver. We need a dramatic act with the ability to capture our imaginations and
allow us to go beyond the deadlock of immovability. The alternative is what we
have and what we know. And what we have, what we know and where we are going is
to another round of violence.
The stage is set, the players are ready,
and the show is about to begin again, but the final act has yet to be
Will the producers use the same old tragic ending? The audience
can help to decide, but will it? Will the spectators quietly wait until the
theaters goes up in flames or will someone yell “fire” before the match is lit?
The writer is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research
and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and
negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit.