Parting Shot: Crossing the threshold

"There are lots of thresholds that we abut – some on a daily basis, others only once in a lifetime."

Netanyahu warns against nuclear Iran at 2012 UN General Assembly (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu warns against nuclear Iran at 2012 UN General Assembly
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For some reason, the word “threshold” popped into my sleepless head one night last week.
“The magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result or condition to occur or be manifested,” was the definition that the dictionary offered the next morning, adding that the first part of the word derived from the German “tread” while the second element was unknown.
I liked that tread part because it provided the word with a little more physicality – that point in space or time that can change reality in an incontrovertible way.
There are lots of thresholds that we abut – some on a daily basis, others only once in a lifetime.
We love to cross some of them – into a marriage, new apartment, onto the other side of a company funding goal. Other thresholds are more ominous – the threshold we cross lying, cheating or stealing that creates a situation from which it’s difficult to get back, the threshold of physical and psychic pain that can put us over the edge, the threshold of patience we have with our children or spouses.
People and nations have their own thresholds too – the amount of bloodshed and terrorism the Israeli people can handle before going on a revenge rampage; the level of humiliation and hopelessness the Palestinian people can absorb before deciding to pick up a rock, a firebomb or worse.
During the last year, with increased intensity over the last week, we’ve seen the latter threshold not only crossed, but demolished.
Knives, rocks, guns are all fair game as more and more Palestinians have decided that the recent speeches at the UN by their president, Mahmoud Abbas, and by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were dead ends and in response, joined the ranks of terrorists targeting any Jew in their path – man, woman or child.
It doesn’t matter whether the pundits label it a third intifada or a wave of copycat attacks that will subside like the previous waves.
What does matter is that it’s real, Israelis are increasingly growing more fearful and the government seems to be bereft of any plan to quell it.
A universe of events have passed since Netanyahu’s General Assembly speech when he warned about another threshold that he feared would be crossed – the no-return line of Iran becoming a nuclear power as a result of the recently signed agreement with the West.
Then with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, he repeatedly sent signals that Israel would not hesitate to cross its own threshold of military intervention if Iran violated the terms of the agreement and the West let it slide.
Those threats and scenarios seems like a futuristic pipe dream now – compared to the immediate crisis he returned to confront on the home front. Assuming that Netanyahu’s offer during the speech to meet with Abbas without any preconditions (except that pesky Jewish state recognition demand) was sincere, there’s no better time for it to take place.
Our threshold of endurance is being tread on to the point of wearing through. It’s only a matter of a short time before the ugly calls of “death to Arabs” from Jewish mobs turn into something more than words and we see revenge and retaliation along the likes we witnessed this past summer in Duma.
Netanyahu – stuck between the vexing “evenhanded” approach of the US that lumps Israeli and Palestinian victims of violence in the same crowded, disproportionate basket and the far-Right elements of his own coalition that would build a new settlement for every terrorist act committed by the Palestinians and storm the Temple Mount on the way – doesn’t have much of a choice.
Before the situation intensifies to a point that will befall catastrophe for us all, the only threshold that should be crossed now is the one Netanyahu and Abbas traverse entering each other’s office. Abbas may be a paper tiger or worse, but as odious as he is, he may be Israel’s only option to calm the situation.
Otherwise, both Israelis and Palestinians will soon arrive at that point where “the magnitude is exceeded for a certain reaction to occur.” And that won’t be good for any of us.