So close and yet so far. That was the first phrase that jumped into my mind as
the socalled PaliLeaks started to flow into my consciousness early last week.
Suddenly, we read how a peace agreement had been so nearly achieved – and yet
the gaps were so wide that it remained unsigned.
The borders, too, had
never seemed so close, sketched out as they were on what Al-Jazeera nicknamed
the Napkin Maps. Each side had yielded land or principles.
distance between Israel Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman and Kadima’s Tzipi Livni
appeared to have been reduced to the point that they shared the same shaky lines
on the redrawn maps: Lieberman’s idea of leaving people where they lived and
just moving the borders reappears as one of Livni’s guiding principles when she
took over the negotiations from Ehud Olmert.
But I found it hard to focus
completely on the Al-Jazeera exposé. Other borders kept impinging.
close for comfort.
While the world examined the Al-Jazeera leaks as proof
that peace in the Middle East was indeed possible if not imminent, Israelis kept
a watchful eye on the existing borders. Iran’s proxy Hizbullah took over Lebanon
and Hamas continued to fire rockets from Gaza (already a de facto Palestinian
state at war with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority based in
Meanwhile, the petals from Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution were
carried on the winds into Egypt and Algeria. They didn’t smell so pleasant by
the time they hit the ground. Jordan also sniffed trouble, wary of an opposition
which includes a radical Islamist element, and understandably concerned about
the way its Palestinian population could react.
Even Qatar, Al-Jazeera’s
home and sponsor, is presumably observing the riots and unrest and wondering
who’s next – and how to use its media to influence events.
incidentally, maintains a mammoth military base in that Gulf state, and would be
wise to watch something other than Al-Jazeera for a clear picture of the Muslim
world. The leaks, after all, furthered the interests of Hamas and put the
Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority on the defensive.
The news, from
Al-Jazeera and other more reliable sources, was not good.
politics, dirty though they might be, are clearly a lot more pleasant than what
goes on in the surrounding regimes. And the local economy is booming – even
while taxi drivers protest the rise in gasoline prices and business tycoons
battle the government over who should benefit from the discovery of natural gas
off our shores.
We might complain about corruption, but we know that it’s
nothing compared to what Tunisians have had to put up with. Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s villa in Caesarea is no beachside palace erected on the
backs of the poor. The appointment of the next chief of General Staff might be
delayed as the state comptroller and state attorney discuss whether Yoav Galant
illegally extended his moshav home onto state land – and the general public
freely ridiculed his taste in architecture – but there was not even a split
second in which we thought the army might stage a coup.
at the thought of all the former ministers and MKs who are familiar with prisons
from the wrong side of the bars, but their convictions for criminal – not
political – offenses is the exact opposite of the sort of repression that our
neighbors, near and far, know and fear.
Our leaders are chosen
democratically, regularly, and can be replaced through elections, not
revolutions. This is no dictatorship based on nepotism or absolute monarchy. The
rule of kings here ended millennia ago, long before the world considered it a
problem that Jews lived in Judea and Samaria.
Which is probably why I
have yet to meet the resident of Beit Safafa or Jerusalem’s Old City who would
jump at a chance to become Palestinian by nationality rather than by name, as
the leaked documents propose.
Meanwhile the Jews of Har Homa, Ma’aleh
Adumim and Gush Etzion are as likely to agree to a peace on those terms as Hamas
is likely to lay down its arms and grant Netanyahu the keys to Gaza
The most telling lesson of the PaliLeaks revelations was the
response of Israelis and Palestinians. While the Israelis tended to see the new
information as a tool strengthening their existing positions – be they Left,
Right or Center – the Palestinians panicked, retracted and sought to cast the
It is even questionable to what extent PA President
Mahmoud Abbas would be able to carry out a peace agreement.
His fight is
with Hamas and Iran, not Israel and the US.
In any case, peace between
Israel and the Palestinians, as I tire of explaining, is not a recipe for world
harmony. Even if an agreement can be reached, it will not stop Iran, now on our
northern doorstep, from continuing its plans to become a nuclear
And that, of course, brings it dangerously close not just to
Israel but to Europe.
In an era in which revolutions are furthered on
Facebook and by Twitter, and the camera in a cellphone is as much a weapon as
the Molotov cocktails of old, reality can change with the speed of an Internet
That is perhaps one of the messages of WikiLeaks, PaliLeaks
and all the Leaks that are sure to follow. There’s a new world out there. It
lives in a global village.
And it’s changing every minute.
change can bring peace, democracy and economic growth – or the exact
And herein lies the main point raised by PaliLeaks: While the
Palestinians argued over borders and land, Israel was no less concerned with the
nature of the proposed peace. We have already had peace agreements with the
Palestinians – led by Yasser Arafat, who was in a far better position than Abbas
to impose his will – and what we got in return were missiles and suicide
bombers. Beit Jala never seemed closer to Gilo than when rockets launched from
the Palestinian-controlled area blasted the Jewish neighborhood. Gaza is a
stone’s throw away from Negev communities, but Hamas left the stone age a long
time ago; its preferred weapons today are Kassams and Grads.
afraid not only of signing an agreement, but even of being seen to have come
close to reaching one; Israel is scared of the result – not just in terms of
land and homes that might be given up, but of the missiles and wars that might
be launched from the surrendered areas.
There is sadly still a huge
distance to go until the two sides come together in peace.The writer is
The International Jerusalem Post.