My Word: Freeze frame

Putting the blame on the settlements is easy, but it's part of the problem, not the solution.

By
July 4, 2009 20:48
4 minute read.
My Word: Freeze frame

liat collins 88. (photo credit: )

This is what happens when the Me-Generation's need for instant gratification meets old-fashioned anti-Semitism: Everybody wants to solve the world's problems - right now - and they know just whom to blame. When it comes to Iran, President Barack Obama can waver (or waiver) because peace in the Middle East can only be brought about if Israel reaches an agreement with the Palestinians, and we all know what's preventing that. Settlements. Iranian construction of nuclear plants and its atomic weapons program pose, apparently, very little threat compared to the building of homes in Ma'aleh Adumim, Har Homa or Betar Illit. A young man (no, make that "settler") who wants to build his home near his parents' in Givat Ze'ev could unsettle world order. The woman with a bulge wearing a T-shirt with the slogan "Under construction" is perceived as a greater global threat than a Holocaust-denying Islamic extremist with nuclear aspirations who can't even successfully win the elections he rigged. That's because she's a nobody, just some woman who lives in the shtahim who insists on her right to let her family grow even as the world from the US president down demands that any growth in her hometown be frozen. I can see the attraction of blaming the Jewish people. For thousands of years it has proven to be a successful diversion. And right now, the world needs a bit of distracting. There is something uncomfortable in the situation in which it finds itself: with freedom lovers everywhere condemning Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the man who just a few months ago met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in Geneva, and (shock, horror, gasp) lied. Now it turns out that he's not popular at home either. Could it be the Jewish state was on to something when it warned that this man is dangerous and not to be trusted? That's almost as difficult as trying to explain Israel's insistence that global jihad is not the result of poverty in Gaza. But, no problem. Trust the Twitter generation to find speedy, short solutions. Solve the settler issue and everything else will just disappear. And if peace agreements - or even peace talks - fail, well, you know where to point the accusatory finger. If you don't want to blame the Jews, blame the Israelis. If you don't want to blame the Israelis, blame the settlers. Israel's leaders are no less at fault: They have scratched their heads (and other parts of their anatomy) and still can't come up with a coherent, consistent stand, even within their own parties. No wonder every world leader or would-be major diplomatic figure is itching to have a go: There's an open wound and it draws them like flies. THIS ISN'T about world peace, this is about image. Both are fleeting, but the image is much easier to attain. A leader no longer needs to struggle to get into history books; let him have his moment of glory and Google will grant him an eternity in cyberspace. Four years ago, during a press trip to Istanbul, I met several Iranians - most of them middle-class journalists and businessmen. They included one man who, tears in his eyes, recalled how the Israeli doctors at Haifa's Rambam Hospital saved the life of his sister, who had been born with a heart defect. "If Israel were to change its leader, we could have peace again," declared the Iranian. Risking a new friendship, I pointed out that it was not necessarily the Israeli leaders who were preventing peace. I'm not sure I convinced him. After all, then-premier Ariel Sharon had an image problem bigger than his caricaturist's dream-sized girth. Nonetheless, it was Sharon who managed to take Israel out of Gaza, and look where that got us. If the Iranians manage to get rid of Ahmadinejad - and that is a huge "if" - would that bring peace to the region? Not if his ayatollah bosses stay in power. And not if his proxies, Hamas and Hizbullah, can help it. Hamas's assaults on Israel intensified after the disengagement, and Hizbullah launched its war three years ago, long after the last IDF soldier left Lebanon. It turns out, much to the surprise of their shell-shocked residents, that Sderot, Ofakim, Ashkelon and Beersheba are settlements; so are Haifa, Safed and Karmiel, which are under attack from the North. As for Jerusalem, well, who knows where to draw the line? I have had conversations (old-fashioned, I refuse to Twitter) with Egyptian journalists who berate Israel for the "occupation" of Gaza as a matter of course but are aghast at the suggestion that opening the border from the Egyptian side might ease the situation there. Then there is the question of who to talk to: As Yossi Alpher explained in an op-ed on July 1, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is about as moderate as the Palestinian leadership gets; former prime minister Ehud Olmert was about as moderate as the Israeli leadership is likely to be, and yet not only did Abbas reject Olmert's offers of peace, he distorted them. Right now, Abbas seems more concerned with making peace with Hamas - a greater threat to his rule than any Israeli leader - than in reaching a settlement (oops, better not use the "s" word) with Jerusalem. In fact, last week, shortly after he released dozens of Hamas detainees, Abbas hosted Abdel Aziz Dweik, the Hamas speaker of the Palestinian Legislative - who had himself just completed a three-year sentence in an Israeli jail. (Want to bet which detainees enjoyed better conditions?) A settlement freeze would not thaw the hearts of either man. It would embolden them. And a settlement freeze would not bring peace to the world - although freezing Iran's nuclear program would help, both by sending a message to other rogue nuclear powers such as Korea and by acting as a deterrent to its terrorist partners. A settlement freeze will not make the Israelis who live there go away, Palestinian poverty evaporate, or the real problems of the world disappear. It's time to put the settlement freeze idea on ice.


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