Another Tack: But to do and die

Israelis didn't take offense at Annapolis, though they should have smarted with a sense of insult.

Most Israelis paid scant attention to the mini-spectacle staged - in part to impress them - at Annapolis. Their prime minister's predictable court-commentators told them that the triumph of the pageant resides in the very fact that the curtain was raised, that the principal players at all showed up and that they obligingly recited their lines to the duly summoned audience, some of whose reluctant Arab members were successfully cajoled and bribed to put in an appearance. Having been reassured that G.W. Bush has their best interests at heart and that he cares deeply about their security and well-being, most Israelis switched off and returned unperturbed to their daily grind. They didn't pause to take offense, though they should have smarted with a searing sense of insult. The American president, hailed as their country's "best friend" (a much-misused and tattered label previously pinned wrongheadedly on inimical meddlers like Jimmy Carter and slick shysters like Bill Clinton), read out the text of the Annapolis declaration, which pro forma at least was composed with the consent of our own valiant and vigorous guardian of Israel's most vital interests, the inimitable Ehud Olmert. And what was the bottom line of that declaration, the one that should have left Israelis howling with indignation? It was - enveloped in saccharine sentiment about the perks of peace - that they are officially considered incompetents and/or suspected charlatans. Therefore, to preempt the benighted natives' chicanery, "the United States will monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides to the road map." Everything on the free-willed and cheery peace trek charted by that crumpled map hinges on progress "as judged by the United States." It won't be Israelis who'll assess whether they aren't double-crossed, whether (anyway skewed) road map directions are adhered to (minus any mention of those 14 reservations cynically touted at the time by Ariel Sharon, his deputy Olmert and the ever-opportunistic Tzipi Livni). It won't be up to Israelis to determine if things are progressing to their satisfaction. Their satisfaction is immaterial. It'll be Condoleezza who'll have to be satisfied. The evaluation will be American, and Israelis - like those hapless cavalrymen of Alfred Lord Tennyson's hauntingly tragic Charge of the Light Brigade - will have to "ride into the jaws of Death, into the mouth of Hell," obediently intoning that "theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die." Israelis will leave the reasoning to State Department career functionaries and James Jones, the monitor appointed to keep the erratic vassals in check. (The dictionary definition of a "monitor" is "one who admonishes, cautions and reminds, especially with respect to matters of conduct.") THOSE ISRAELIS predisposed to self-delusion may persuade themselves that the brunt of Jones's effort will focus on scrutinizing Palestinian Authority compliance with its most fundamental undertaking - to abolish terror - the undertaking the PA has thus far assiduously violated, regardless of wan lip service. It should be abundantly obvious - after years of suicide bombings, roadside ambushes, rocketing of civilians and abductions - that the PA didn't even begin to implement a single obligation. It'd take a just-landed Martian not to realize that the Palestinians didn't dismantle terrorist infrastructure but instead continued to exploit it, their disingenuous disclaimers notwithstanding. Yet the Annapolis declaration's drafters - one of whom we assume was Olmert - strove to ascribe no guilt to the PA and its token president, Mahmoud Abbas. This, despite the fact that Annapolis-eve terrorist predations were the handiwork of Abbas's own Fatah loyalists, as distinct from his Hamas opponents. Fatah's reliable "good terrorist" policemen (armed by Israel) murdered Ido Zoldan near Kedumim. BUT WHO cares about Ido? Protocol dictates that the pretense of equal culpability on both sides must be upheld. And so, in the cause of artificial even-handedness, blowing up entire Jewish families at a pizzeria is decreed morally equivalent to the villainy of Jews adding a bedroom to a Jewish home in a so-called "illegal" settlement in the historic Jewish heartland. It would have allayed some misgivings to have heard our premier say something about our right to exist at the bedrock of our nationhood. But Olmert sounded apologetic, as if our presence here is as bereft of natural justice as was the establishment of land-grabbing English colonies far across the ocean, colonies that evolved into what is today G.W.'s own country - the one that proposes to admonish, caution and remind us to conduct ourselves according to its stringent expectations. Olmert vowed to leave history out of the equation - and with it perforce historical truth. Therefore, it makes no difference that Arabs near and far unanimously rejected a two-state solution and for many years - pre-state, immediately upon Israel's birth and for six decades thereafter - spilled our blood yet blamed us for not dying as they insisted. The ostensibly enlightened stance of letting bygones be bygones undermines peace rather than advancing it. It allows Abbas and his minions to continue spewing lies and basing their demands on what we don't resolutely refute. Lies inevitably breed more bogus grievances and more lies. And so Bush could stand there and declaim the following from the mutually endorsed declaration: "We express our determination to... confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis." From this, the above-mentioned clueless Martian might deduce that there have been Jewish suicide bombers and that their numbers compare to those of Palestinian mass murderers. He might also believe that there are Israeli counterparts to noxious best-sellers in the PA like Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He might assume that Israeli classrooms and media resonate with venomous invective, just as they do in Abbas's bailiwick. After all, Israel's own head of government countersigned the declaration that attributes terror and incitement to Israel too - in the name of that sacrosanct fair-mindedness. Herein are already inscribed the monitor's predetermined painstakingly "even-handed" findings. The declaration Olmert sanctioned already encompasses, amid its honeyed avowals, the yet-to-be-filed, reality-flouting conclusions of Washington's supervisor. The dreadful gist of Jones's eventual verdict was already scripted in Annapolis.