(photo credit: AP [file])
The confrontation between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu at the opening Knesset session earlier this month reminds me of an old Jewish joke: A husband goes to the rabbi and complains that his wife mistreats and abuses him. "You're right," rules the rabbi.
After the husband leaves, the wife comes in weeping, and complains that her husband ill treats her. "You're right," rules the rabbi.
After hearing the two conversations, the beadle turned to the rabbi in amazement. "Rabbi, how can both of them be right?"
"You're right too," responded the rabbi.
OLMERT is right when he says that the current situation cannot continue, that in advance of the Annapolis summit, we must step up the dialogue with Abu Mazen because any other option will lead to a bloody and tragic demographic struggle that will not benefit Israel. True, in order to reach an agreement, there must be trust between the two parties. True, each of the sides must be willing to give up part of its dream, "the dream that it has carried in its national knapsack for many generations," as the prime minister so poetically put it. True, if we don't help Abu Mazen stabilize his government, Hamas will take over the West Bank.
And in light of the situation in which we find ourselves, what should the prime minister do? Sit on his hands? Does it make sense to leave a vacuum in the diplomatic arena? Such a vacuum would soon be filled by pressures that we would find it impossible to withstand.
What would history say of a prime minister who did not exploit this historic opportunity, with a president in the White House who is exceptionally friendly to Israel, a divided Arab world, and before the Iranians have managed to manufacture a nuclear bomb?
Shouldn't he be looking for solutions? And is there any solution that does not involve concessions?
BUT BINYAMIN Netanyahu is also right when he warns against the dangers involved in territorial concessions that will create a Palestinian state on the 1949 armistice lines (with the exception of large settlement blocs).
Abu Mazen's regime is tottering. Hamas could take over the West Bank, and if that happens, not only Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba will share the fate of Sderot, but so will Ben-Gurion Airport, cutting off Israel's ties with the world.
If we return the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, we will also be returning to a situation in which Palestinian snipers could take potshots at Jews walking about the streets of "Jewish Jerusalem."
And how can we even talk of concessions while the terror continues? Damned if we do and damned if we don't.
The prime minister and opposition leader refuse to accept the fact that, at least in this generation, there is no practical solution to the conflict in sight.
So what do we do?
Each must do the best he can. Olmert must hold negotiations with Abu Mazen in an attempt to reach an agreement. And Netanyahu must warn against the dangers involved.
Some situations have no solutions. And for the time being, life goes on.
The writer is a former minister of justice and former MK.