Out of this world

Last week I had the pleasure of dissecting the Middle East’s current status quo with a visitor from outer space who, given the media frenzy of late, was under the false impression that things were moving here. After I put him straight, he put me straighter with some simple ideas of his own.

Alien 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Alien 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An alien landing in Israel last week who read the papers every day and tuned in to radio talk-shows could be excused for thinking that the frenzy he is witnessing is a sign that dramatic things are unfolding.
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Given the inexplicable flurry of stories about peace plans, impending tsunamis, imminent speeches, American discontent, UN resolutions being-drafted-as-we-speak, bakery-fresh European peace ideas and a glorious Palestinian State just around the corner, our alien friend may well feel overwhelmed and confused. On the other hand, our alien, having traveled here using advanced technology, may possess the superior intelligence to realize that nothing is really happening in the Middle East.
Sure, Hosni Mubarak is out, Yemen is on the brink, Muammar Gaddafi is bombarded, Syria is up in arms, no one has a clue what’s going on in Iran, Lieberman may be indicted, and Israel could have elections before the US. But our uber-intelligent and techno-savvy friend could have known this without actually traveling here. In fact if I were cynical, I’d wonder why, of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, he chose to visit the Middle East. He should know better. I took matters into my own hands and decided to probe him about it.
As it turns out, the inquisitive alien is here on a fact-finding, what’s-all-the-fuss-about mission. He fails to understand the logic of Israel’s foreign policy these days and really wants to know if PM Binyamin Netanyahu has a plan at all and when will he deliver “the speech.” He is unclear about US policy for the region and President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in general. He’s desperate to unearth the details of the European Union’s bold new peace initiative and to get a better picture of the anticipated UN Resolution establishing a Palestinian State.
Our alien genuinely wants to know what Defense Minister Ehud Barak meant by “diplomatic tsunami” and would love to understand how all this impacts Iran policy. Most of all, he is puzzled about why nothing has changed with the Palestinians since they last sent a delegation here following UN Resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine in November 1947. If the alien was fooled into believing reports that things are happening here,  who am I to cast judgment? After all, everyone else believed the fallacy too. People are dying in Darfur, starving to death in the Congo, mutilated in the Ivory Coast, repressed beyond comprehension in North Korea and Myanmar, deprived of liberties in Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia and yet the world’s fixation with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and now with The Two State Solution - never relents.
A constant irritant on the globe’s agenda, it is an issue that refuses to go away and somehow finds devious ways to reinvent and reinstate itself. For better or for worse, the world perceives the Palestinians as being the last occupied people in the world and Israel as an intransigent, defiant relic of a colonial power. That is also what drew our alien friend’s attention. To be fair, he did wonder why Israelis are obsessed with “world opinion” when China, India, Nigeria, Russia, Japan, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil and most Americans, comprising slightly over 3.8 billion of the planet’s 6.9 billion inhabitants, don’t really care much about the resumption of negotiations between Netanyahu and Abbas or the fate of settlements.
Attempts to put Israel’s relations with Europe in historical perspective went over the alien’s head who shrugged and said that interest in Europe vanished for good in 1945. Who actually cares about what people think in Norway, Germany or Britain? If that’s the case, he quipped, you should have gone to Madagascar.
I provided him with every analysis, plan and article available on these issues. I explained the conflict, its origins, interpretations and narratives,  and drew out every possible scenario. I dissected Obama, Netanyahu, Barak, Peres, Sarkozy, Abbas, Hamas, Ahmadinejadand, and Assad. An alien, however misguided, deserves the best.
I thought that after digesting it all he would be either thoroughly satisfied or profoundly disoriented. Instead, he presented a list of simple questions. These, he said, are questions based on logic, rational thinking and cost-effective analysis.
-    If Israel thinks the West Bank is vitally important to its security, why negotiate at all? If a Palestinian State will become a bastion of Islamic extremism and a launching pad of terrorism why not say so clearly instead of contradicting yourself repeatedly?
-    If it’s all about security and the formidable scenario that a Palestinian State will become a terror haven, why not dismantle and evacuate settlements but leave the IDF deployed for an agreed-upon time? After all, you don’t really intend to stay there, do you?
-    If Israel endorses a Palestinian State, why not announce now that it will recognize it once the UN resolves its establishment? Try thinking a step ahead of them.
-    If Israel truly believes in the two states model, how is it compatible with settlements outside the so-called “three main-settlement blocs?”
-    There are so many scientists and mathematicians in Israel; don’t they know what demography is? It’s about numbers, stupid. You don’t need alien technology to see that in ten years you will become a minority. That’s no good for any solar system.
-    If Israel wants a coexistence or peace agreement but does not like the plans imposed on it by the EU, UN, Arab League and at some point maybe the US too, why isn’t Israel presenting a plan of its own?
-    I realize how inept the Palestinians are, but what on earth are you people thinking and doing in the meantime? Do you realize how impatient everyone is with you? Do you want to be prudent and prosper or do you want to remain self-righteous to the bitter-end?
Good questions, I said. But you want answers too? He smiled and said, no worries, I’ll come back in ten years.
The writer is a diplomat who recently served as consul-general in New York.