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Let the Inmates Run the Asylum

When you cut it down to size, what my literary-inclined colleague from the right is proposing in his allegory to George Orwell’s seminal book Animal Farm, is akin to—and here comes my own allegory—letting the inmates run the asylum. After all, they did such a great job of it (Jews and Arabs alike) since David captured Jerusalem. Not to mention since the establishing of the state of Israel in 1948. Peace and tranquility all around.

With a lot of bloodshed to boot. But of course, that comes with the territory. Always has been, always will be; a few years of peace, follow by a few years of war. This defeatist notion, as far as the possibility and achievability of peace in the Middle East, comes not only from our own people. Everyday people you meet here and there would suddenly question you about it: Is peace over there at all possible? Yes, I tend to answer; being the eternal optimist. Forget it, man, they would retort: they’re doomed over there. Doomed to repeat themselves with this vicious cycle until they would finally blow themselves up, lifted into the air by poisonous nuclear clouds.

           To compare President Obama and his foreign police to Napoleon of Animal Farm is—do I need say that— preposterous. It was his predecessor, President Bush, who tried to impose his global vision of “Democracy” on Iraq, while neglecting to do anything meaningful about bringing peace to the struggle between the Israelis and Palestinians. Only the presidents who showed “tough love” towards Israel, as did President Bush the father, and before him President Carter, managed to get us somewhat closer to that allusive peace—first with Egypt and the 1979 Camp David agreement, and then with the Madrid conference, which led to a peace treaty with Jordan, and to direct negotiations with the Palestinians—and away, albeit temporarily, from the road of death and destruction.

           In the last century, Europe had suffered two major World Wars, both instigated by the Germans. In the last one we lost six million of our own people. And yet, to a large extent, bitter enemies have long since then buried the hatchet. For more than sixty years now no major war—other than some unfinished ethnic/tribal battles, and the fall of the communism in Russia, the real Napoleon Orwell was talking about—have erupted. Actually: peace and tranquility rein supreme. The European Union is in full force and growing to include Eastern European nations, all using a common monitory currency. The notion of a future war between Germany and England, or France, surely seems ludicrous now in this prism.

           Why not in the Middle East, then? Especially when the United States of America is fighting on your side, and has helped build you from the ground up (as it did in Europe with The Marshall Plan). Even a donkey such as Benjamin, you tend to think, will not dare to show his backside to his best friend and supporter. And yet, judging from his latest myopic action in East Jerusalem—refusing bluntly America’s request to stop building in a specific area there—that is exactly what he seems to be doing.

Here is what his father, a well-respected historian, had said after his son’s first major foreign policy speech on June 14, supposedly agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian state. When asked if his son really changed his position, the 100 year-old Netanyahu unequivocally answered: (translation) “He does not support (it). He supports such conditions that they (the Arabs) will never accept. That is what I heard from him. I didn’t propose these conditions, he did. They will never accept these conditions. Not one of them.”

Very true. And exactly my reaction when I heard that speech. It brings to mind another element in this equation: When I was growing up in Israel, up to the 1967 war and a few years after, it was always Israel who declared its desire for peace with its Arab neighbors, willing to sit and talk peace face-to-face as long as there are no pre-conditions to these talks. The Arabs, because they essentially didn’t want peace, always piled up multiples of pre-conditions. Results: Israel refused to oblige, therefore no talks, and continuation of hostility. Now the situation has reversed itself: Israel, which doesn’t really want peace with the Palestinians, and prefers the statuesque, it setting all these pre-conditions to peace talks.

           What worries me is that in the reality of the Middle East’s farm Benjamin Netanyahu is, indeed, a much more experienced, much more savvy and clever political animal than the mellow, no drama Obama. He will out-maneuver him, I’m afraid, out-smart him at the end. Making sure, in the process, that the naysayers—the inmates of that asylum—will continue to rule and make wars, shutting the gate not only on that farm, but on peace and sanity forever.

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