My Word: Borderline crazy

There are more issues out there than those revealed in Al-Jazeera’s PaliLeaks.

By
January 29, 2011 23:07
Liat Collins

liat collins 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

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.

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Even the 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.

Too 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 Ramallah).

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.

The US, 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.

Israeli 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.

Israelis cringe 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 City.

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 blame elsewhere.

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 power.

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 connection.

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.

The change can bring peace, democracy and economic growth – or the exact opposite.

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.

Abbas is 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 editor of The International Jerusalem Post.


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