If Howard Beale wrote a Middle East blog, he just might have my title as his new signature line. Machiavellian plotting is what Network and the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations or, better said, U.S-Palestinian-Israeli non-negotiations, best share: Is the raison d’etre of each side really two states for two peoples or is it plotting to restate the best old and older red (and Green) lines?
Let’s give that Oscar (or Razzie, in the case of Palestine-Israel ’47) to whoever can best irritate and obfuscate, and then reiterate and regurgitate so many advocacy group-tested lines:
They don’t really want peace.
We gave them Gaza and they gave us missiles and terrorism.
They aren’t serious about peace.
This has been our land since Biblical times.
They dehumanize us.
They have no right to (fill in your grievance).
They can’t be trusted.
We can’t have peace if they can’t acknowledge we’re a Jewish state.
We’ll never have peace if they won’t stop adding settlements.
I know I’ve missed a few dozen or so, so go ahead and fill in your personal favorites below:
The casting is easy; the roles are generally interchangeable.
Let’s get our hypothetical script started. It’s a musical….
Opening rap (rapped in unison by Palestinian and Israeli actors): Shoot me, bomb me, terrorize me. (repeat)
Invade me, raid me, kidnap me. (repeat)
Loosely Rhyming Expletives! (repeat 47 times…look, this is a rap and each of our post-1967 years should be appropriately commemorated.)
Lock me up! Trade me in a swap! (Random, unrhyming expletives followed by meaningless rhyming words.) Duck! Puck!
Israeli and Palestinian leaders just compare… They need to dare! Show they care!
We’re mad as hell! Answer our bell!
We ain’t takin’ it… no more! We ain’t takin’ it no more! We ain’t takin’ it no more!
Dayenu! It’s not new! Dayenu! It’s time we grew!
Lights fade. Scene One: It’s pitch black.
We hear an actor screaming: We’ve done everything we can to make a deal! You’re responsible if we fail!
Another actor, clearly aggravated, replies : I’ll tell you what I told your sales guy and your general manager: Yes, I like the idea of a new car. But so what? I asked for gray, not black or white. And your price is great, but you won’t take Bitcoin or let me pay this off over 30 years. My old model seems to be working just fine.
Silence. It’s still pitch black.
Enter God. Actor with a George Burns voice intones: Nothing will happen for either of you or MY Israeli and Palestinian people until you begin to recognize why it should be as important to each of you as it is to ME that you make a deal. As we say up here, God doesn’t like to play zero sum games…. or pay over dealer invoice.
Fade to car commercial placement.
Car enters scene. Car lights slowly illuminate the two actors, starting at their feet and slowly expanding to their entire bodies.
Suddenly we realize that they’re twins, dressed exactly the same.
They pause and look at each other. Then they face the camera and calmly say in unison, “Yes, we may be different, but we are really the same. We are both better off if we focus more on our similarities than our differences. It’s time to go together to our people. We will tell them that each of us has agreed to make tough compromises so that our two peoples can live in peace.”
Ok, I know that dialogue is a little stilted. I’ll work on it. But give me a reasonable deadline and take away my SAG card if I don’t come up with something better before the next round of U.S.-Palestinian-Israeli meet and greets.
Sadly, instead of our concluding scene fading to what would seem to be an appropriate car commercial placement where God gets both his peace and car deals, in the real world we’re more likely to fade to the car running over one of the actors, immediately followed by a lawyer 1-800 pitch.
Real world rational has yet to trump real world idiocy.
It also doesn’t trump our real world actors’ non-negotiating prowess. It doesn’t trump their lacking the mental preparation and acuity necessary to actually get to a peace agreement and then deal with the tzuris of their own internal politics or the irrationality of their carefully constructed confirmation biases. Palestinian and Israeli leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu know how to say no, but don’t understand when and why to say yes. And they are ceding their joint failures to future generations.
What could have been may still be, but time is only on the side of those who favor a dystopian future.
Since 1967, over 50 countries have acquired sovereignty — the majority, interestingly enough, from the U.K. Most were peaceful decisions fully recognized by other countries. Some, as with South Sudan and now Crimea, were not. None, however, seem to have the complex background of the initial U.K. decision to begin a process that resulted in the creation and recognition of Israel in 1948.
If only the originally envisioned process would have been accepted and worked as intended.
If only the Palestinian side stopped focusing on the unfairness of the 1948 process and the Israeli side stopped focusing on Palestinian rejection of that process.
If only we had two leaders who were visionaries, able to look to the opportunities of their future generations instead of wallowing in measuring the harms caused to their past ones.
If only we had two leaders who not only understood they were better served by a two-state solution, but were prepared for what a commitment to an agreement entails.
If only we had pro-Israel advocacy groups and Palestinian and Israeli political leaders who focused on helping with that preparation instead of arguing negotiation deal points, often based on rumors and uninformed speculation. (Thankfully, much of the uninformed speculation crowd is now remonstrating on CNN and Fox about Malaysian Air.)
If, however, after several wasted generations, the two sides do manage to finally reach an agreement, which presumably will be backed by the Arab League and approved in some type of vote by Palestinians and Israelis, the role of the advocacy groups and politicians should more naturally move to helping with implementation. And parts of the implementation (particularly evacuation and relocation of settlements and West Bank/Gaza security) will require constant positive advocacy as inevitable issues arise over what is likely to be a lengthy — possibly 10 to 20 year — period.
Tragedy does have a niche audience. But the vast majority of people prefer happy endings. It’s important we all work to give what too often has been a Middle East horror show, filled with individual tragedies, the type of happy ending that will sell to future generations.