"The Tumult And The Shouting Dies…"
"THE TUMULT and the shouting dies, / The captains and the kings depart…"
Rudyard Kipling wrote in his unforgettable poem "Lest We Forget"
King George departed even before the tumult had died. His helicopter
carried him away over the horizon, just as his trusty steed carries the
cowboy into the sunset at the end of the movie. At that moment, the
speeches in the assembly hall were still going ahead at full blast.
United States will supervise the negotiations, act as a referee of the
implementation and as a judge throughout. Everything depends on her. If
she wants it - much will happen. If she does not want it - nothing will
That bodes ill. There is no indication that George Bush will really
intervene to achieve anything, apart from nice photos. Some people
believe that the whole show was put on to make poor Condoleezza Rice
feel good, after all her efforts as Secretary of State have come to nought.
Even if Bush wanted to, could he do anything? Is he capable of putting
pressure on Israel, in the face of vigorous opposition from the
pro-Israel lobby, and especially from the Christian-Evangelist public,
to which he himself belongs?
A friend told me that during the conference he watched the televised
proceedings with the sound turned off, just observing the body language
of the principal actors. That way he noticed an interesting detail: Bush
and Olmert touched each other many times, but there was almost no
physical contact between Bush and Mahmoud Abbas. More than that: during
all the joint events, the distance between Bush and Olmert was smaller
than the distance between Bush and Abbas. Several times Bush and Olmert
walked ahead together, with Abbas trailing behind.
That's the whole story.
SHERLOCK HOLMES said in one of his cases that the solution could be
found in "the curious incident of the dogs in the night-time." When it
was pointed out to him that the dogs did nothing, he explained: "That
was the curious incident."
Anyone who wants to understand what has (or has not) happened at
Annapolis will find the answer in this fact: the dogs did not bark. The
settlers and their friends were keeping quiet, did not panic, did not
get excited, did not distribute posters of Olmert in SS uniform (as they
had done with Rabin after Oslo). All in all, they contented themselves
with the obligatory prayer at the Western Wall and a smallish
demonstration near the Prime Minister's residence.
This means that they were not worried. They knew that nothing would come
out of it, that there would be no agreement on the dismantling of even
one measly settlement outpost. And on the forecast of the settlers'
leaders one can rely in such matters. If there had been the slightest
danger that peace would result from this conference, they would have
mobilized their followers en masse.
THE HAMAS movement, on the other hand, did organize mass demonstrations
in Gaza and the West Bank towns. The Hamas leaders were very worried indeed.
Not because they were afraid that peace would be concluded at the
meeting. They were apprehensive of another danger: that the only real
aim of the meeting was to prepare the ground for an Israeli invasion of
the Gaza Strip.
Ami Ayalon, a former admiral who once posed as a man of peace, and who
is now a Labor member of the cabinet, appeared during the conference on
Israeli TV to say so quite openly: he was in favor of the conference
because it legitimizes this operation.
The line of thought goes like this: In order to fulfill his obligation
under the Road Map, Abbas must "destroy the terrorist infrastructure" in
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "Terrorism" means Hamas. Since Abbas
is unable to conquer the Gaza Strip himself, the Israeli army will do it
True, it may be costly. In the last few months, a lot of arms have been
flowing into Gaza through the tunnels under the border with Egypt. Many
people on both sides will lose their lives. But "What can you do? There
is no alternative."
It may be that in retrospect, the main (if not the only) outcome of
Annapolis will be this: the conquest of the Gaza Strip in order to
Hamas, in any case, is worried. And not without reason.
In preparation for such a confrontation, the Hamas leaders have become
even more shrill in their opposition to the meeting, to which they were
not invited. They denounced Abbas as a collaborator and a traitor,
reiterating that Hamas would never recognize Israel nor accept a peace
agreement with it.
I CAN picture in my mind a conference of the opponents of the proposed
peace process, a kind of anti-Annapolis. Not the routine meeting planned
by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, to which only Muslims will be invited,
but a joint meeting of all extremists on both sides. Khalid Mashal and
Ismail Hanieh will sit opposite Avigdor Liberman, Effi Eytam and Benny
Elon, and deliberate together how to frustrate the "Two-State solution".
If I were invited to moderate this conference, I would start like this:
Gentlemen (Ladies will not be present, of course), let us begin by
summing up the points on which there is agreement, and only afterwards
deal with the points in dispute.
So: all of you agree that the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the
Jordan River will become one state (general agreement). You, Palestinian
gentlemen, agree that the Jews will enjoy full equality (agreement on
the Palestinian side of the table). And you, Israeli gentlemen, agree
that Arabs will enjoy full equality (agreement on the Israeli side of
the table). And, of course, you do agree that there will be full freedom
of religion for all (general agreement).
If this is the situation, gentlemen, then the only remaining
disagreement concerns the name - whether to call the state Palestine or
Israel. Is it worthwhile to quarrel and spill blood about that? Let's
agree on a neutral name, something like Isrestine or Palael.
BACK TO the White House: if the three leaders agreed there in secret
deliberations that the Israeli army will invade the Gaza Strip, that is
very bad news.
It would have been better to get Hamas involved - if not directly, then
indirectly. The absence of Hamas left a yawning gap at the conference.
What is the sense in convening 40 representatives from all over the
world, and leaving more than half the Palestinian people without
The more so since the boycott of Hamas has pushed the organization
further into a corner, causing it to oppose the meeting even more
vociferously and incite the Palestinian street against it.
Hamas is not only the armed body that now dominates the Gaza Strip. It
is first of all the political movement that won the majority of the
votes of the Palestinian people in democratic elections - not only in
the Gaza Strip, but in the West Bank, too. That will not change if
Israel conquers the Strip tomorrow. On the contrary: such a move may
stigmatize Abbas as a collaborator in a war against his own people, and
actually strengthen the roots of Hamas in the Palestinian public.
Olmert said that first of all the "terrorist infrastructure" must be
eliminated, and only then can there be progress towards peace. This
totally misrepresents the nature of a "terrorist infrastructure" -
regrettable from a person whose father (like Tzipi Livni's father) was a
senior Irgun "terrorist". It also shows that peace does not head the
list of his aspirations - because that statement constitutes a deadly
land-mine on the way to an agreement. It is putting the cart in front of
The logical sequence is the other way round: First of all we have to
reach a peace agreement that is acceptable to the majority of the
Palestinians. That means (a) to lay the foundations for a State of
Palestine whose border will run along the green Line (with limited swaps
of territory) and whose capital will be East Jerusalem, (b) to call upon
the Palestinian people to ratify this agreement in a referendum, and (c)
to call upon the military wing of Hamas to lay down their arms or to be
absorbed into the regular forces of the new state, similarly to what
happened in Israel, and join the political system in the new state.
If there were an assurance that this is the way things will go ahead,
there is still a reasonable chance of convincing Hamas not to obstruct
the process and to allow Abbas to manage it - as Hamas has agreed in the
Why? Because Hamas, like any other serious political movement, is
dependent on popular support. At this point, with the occupation getting
worse from day to day and all the routes to peace seemingly blocked, the
Palestinian masses are convinced that the method of armed resistance, as
practiced by Hamas, is the only one that offers them any hope. If the
masses become convinced that the political path of Abbas is bearing
fruit and is leading to the end of the occupation, Hamas, too, will be
compelled to change course.
Unfortunately, the Annapolis conference did nothing to encourage such
hopes. The Palestinian public, like the Israeli one, treated it with a
mixture of distrust and disdain. It looks like an empty show run by a
lame duck American president, whose only remaining pleasure is to be
photographed as the leader of the world. And if Bush gets the UN
resolution he wants to hide behind - another resolution that nobody will
take seriously - it will not change anything.
Especially if it is true, as reported in the Israeli press, that the
Israeli government is planning a huge expansion of the settlements, and
if the army chiefs start another bloody war, this time in Gaza.
THEN DID this spectacle have no positive side at all? Will it be
forgotten tomorrow, as dozens of other meetings in the past have been
forgotten, so only people with an exceptional memory are aware they ever
I am not sure that this is so.
True, it was only a waterfall of words. But in the lives of nations,
words, too, have their value.
Almost the whole of humanity was represented at this conference. China.
India. Russia. Europe. Almost all Arab governments lent their support.
And in this company, it was solemnly resolved that peace must be
established between Israel and an independent and viable State of
Palestine. True, the terms were not spelled out, but they were hovering
over the conference. All the participants knew what they were.
The representatives of the Israeli mainstream joined - at least pro
forma - this consensus. Perhaps they did so tongue in cheek, perhaps
only as a ploy, perhaps as an act of deceit. But as our sages said ages
ago: he who accepts the Torah not because of itself will in the end
accept it for itself. Meaning: if somebody accepts an idea from tactical
calculation he will be compelled to defend it, and in the end he will
convince himself. Even Olmert has already declared on his way home:
"Without the Two-State Solution, the State of Israel is finished."
In connection with this, a competition between cabinet members is
already developing, and that is a good sign. Tzipi Livni has set up more
than a dozen committees of experts, each one charged with dealing with a
particular aspect of peace, from the division of water to the allocation
of television channels. (For those with a good memory: this is happening
50 years after I proposed the setting up of exactly such an apparatus,
which I called the "White General Staff", as opposed to the "Khaki
True, the Annapolis conference was no more than a small step, taken
under duress. But it was a tiny step in the right direction.
The consciousness of a large body of people changes only in a long and
slow process, at an almost geological pace. This cannot be detected with
the naked eye. But, as Galileo Galilei murmured to himself: "And yet it