Consciously or otherwise, the carrot-or-stick
motif conjures images of masters and the dumb donkeys they try to prod
and move along. Those lucky enough to be in position to choose between
inducing or punishing are obviously the power-wielding honchos.
to be tempted or whacked into submission are clearly the brutish
troublesome beasts which must be disciplined - one way or another.
Therefore, when US President Barack Obama's special Mideast
envoy fails to object to carrot-and-stick speak - and even bothers to
specify one stick's characteristics - he implies that he's in charge,
while we, threatened with a severe whack on the rump, are his asses.
So forget the nitty-gritty of George Mitchell's January 7
gibber-jabber in the PBS interview with Charlie Rose about withdrawing
loan guarantees if we Israelis don't obey pronto. Plenty of ink has
been spilled on whether this constituted a serious signal. The point
has been honed that we don't desperately depend on said guarantees,
that Israel repays all its debts dutifully and that it can get along
just fine, thank you, without Washington's grudging favor.
That's almost the lesser issue.
What ought to get our goat is Mitchell's attitude - and by
extension that of the White House resident who appointed him. It wasn't
the reference to a possible anti-Israel stick which made Rose's
interview with Mitchell outrageous. It was the hubris and
presumptuousness it exuded. Both interviewer and interviewee radiated
supercilious smugness and ostensible omniscience. Both the professed
honest broker and the opinionated talking head haughtily, almost
frivolously, reduced us to the lowly status of obdurate pack animals.
be sure, it was Rose, patronizingly sounding the voice of impatient
reason - intermittently even chiding Mitchell for not getting the pesky
chore of contracting a Mideast peace out of the way quickly and
imperiously enough - who first mentioned carrots and sticks. But
Mitchell could have refused to resort to the offensive terminology. The
fact that he didn't - and that he went so far as to hypothesize about
the likely stick with which he might smack Israel, but conspicuously
noting nothing with which the Palestinians might be thumped - speaks
volumes in itself.
SO DID the air of lighthearted camaraderie and lightweight
banter throughout the one-on-one. At some points it became surreal.
Clued-in viewers had to wonder whether the mutually ego-massaging chums
actually believed what escaped their lips or whether they merely
Take Mitchell's portrayal of the PA's PM: "an impressive
person, Salam Fayyad, who is trying to build, from the ground up, the
institutions of governance that will be able to govern effectively on
day-one of the Palestinian state." Rose cheerfully chimed in: "They
also call that bottom up." On cue, an agreeable Mitchell contentedly
poured on more syrup: "Bottom up, top down." Yep, we get it, the
Ramallah bunch is on the side of the angels.
Mitchell then proceeded to lay it on even thicker: "Now,
obviously, we have great respect for President [Mahmoud] Abbas. We
think he and Prime Minister Fayyad represent strong and effective
leadership for the Palestinian people and are the ones that we think
are going to produce a Palestinian state."
Who is Mitchell kidding? If he doesn't understand that Abbas is
a virtual leader and that both he and his clique are neither respected
nor trusted by anyone in the Middle East, then we are dealing with
Mitchell gets lots more cloyingly sweet: The Palestinian
"security forces are outstanding by any measure... Palestinians have
taken very significant steps. Until the last couple of years, the
principle problem from their side was the absence of security... that
was the Israelis' angle: 'We don't have a partner; they're not doing
anything about the terrorists and the violence.' Now you have a
government that is doing something, very actively, aggressively,
successfully, as even the Israelis acknowledge."
That upbeat assessment doubtlessly impresses Avshalom Meir
Chai's bereaved widow and seven children. He was shot in the head on
Route 57 near Shavei Shomron, after Israel obligingly removed a
checkpoint close to Tulkarm as a "goodwill gesture" to appease
Mitchell. Later IDF troops clashed with and killed three of the
murderers during an attempt to detain them. Abbas's "outstanding"
forces never tried to apprehend these snipers. Moreover, Abbas soon
shamelessly glorified them on PATV as "martyrs executed cold-bloodedly
by Israeli forces in Nablus." So much for promoting the spirit of peace
By ignoring this, Mitchell doesn't just innocuously look on the
bright side. He masks reality and abets falsehood. Mitchell boosts an
inciter who exalts drive-by shooters. They hailed from Abbas's Fatah
faction. If Abbas can't even control his own splinter, what can
rationally be expected of him? To distort the truth that Judea and
Samaria's relative calm is the IDF's handiwork is to disseminate lies.
To demand the removal of roadblocks and checkpoints which curtail
attacks is to undermine security, not enhance it.
GET A load of the following exchange. It begins with Mitchell
waxing ecstatic over Obama's alacrity to rid mankind of our conflict
once and for all: "This president began 48 hours after taking office.
He appointed me to this position two days after he was sworn in as
president. You know what he said to me? He said, I want you to go over
there tonight. I said, Mr. President, I've got a wife and kids, I don't
have any clothes with me. I have to go home and tell them I'm going to
leave. I had to go home for a day just to get ready to go. He was
anxious from the first to get into it."
Rose: Okay, but tell me, do you think things - since the moment
he said that to you and the moment that you prepare next week to be
back there - things are better or worse?
Mitchell: Oh, they're much better.
Well, you could have fooled us. Mitchell's assertion, though,
fits snugly into the interview's clipped judgmentalisms, worthy of a
righteous 1930s Hollywood cops-and-robbers flick. Mitchell, for
instance, noted that Israel annexed east Jerusalem and treats it as an
integral part of the state. To this Rose retorted: "So you're going to
let them go ahead even though no one recognized the annexation."
Our complex context, the genocide plotted against
us for over a century, are all simplistically condensed and
superficially redefined as an irksome kink that requires a quick-fix.
At best equal blame is artificially apportioned to both sides. Our
tribulations are boiled down to tiresome bellyaching that must with
great urgency be overcome.
very inability to risk the Jewish state's continued existence for the
sake of facile cliches paradoxically facilitates its demonization. When
our struggle for survival ends up trivialized and kitschified, the
remedy is clear: Get the darned donkey under control with one stick or