Palestinians: Don’t Put The Bubbly On Ice Just Yet!

magician.jpgI became a magician long before Harry Potter. Even JK Rowling wasn’t yet born when, for my eighth birthday, I was given a box bearing the legend l’Apprenti Sorcier. In  it was a black pointed hat adorned with silver stars, a magic wand, a red piece of cloth that could make an egg disappear, a set of loaded dice, a deck of marked cards, a small bottle of liquid that could turn water into wine and back again, four interlocking metal rings and a length of magic rope that you could cut in two and make whole again. It was, in short, a French-made magicians’ kit. It allowed me to astonish my friends and baffle my elders until they were heartily sick of me. Oh no, not the vanishing egg again!

Also in the box was a glass ball, filled with a clear liquid that would become milky and opaque if you gave it a little nudge. It would, according to the instructions, give the owner a glimpse of the future when nudged. I loved this ball more than all the other tricks put together, because it allowed me to use my own imagination. I could go up to someone, offer to tell his or her future and proceed to make the most outlandish forecasts without ever risking a clip round the ear. After all, was it my fault if the ball revealed that my elderly aunt Sarah would soon give birth to a Jack Russell terrier? In the end, though, I grew bored with magic and tired of my crystal ball. The future, I realized, was impossible to foretell, life was an endless succession of unpredictable events. Nobody, I felt, had any idea of what tomorrow would bring, let alone the day after or the following year.

Today, many years later, I still hold that view. Let the psychics, the clairvoyants and the palm readers do their stuff, it’s no more than a parlour game. Nobody, but nobody,  knows in advance what is going to happen and if they say they do they’re lying. Much easier is it to predict what is NOT going to happen. I know for a fact that I’m not going to wake up tomorrow able to play Mozart piano concertos. I know I’ll never be 25 again either. Yes, negative forecasting, that’s the ticket.

Another thing that’s not going to happen is this: there will be no firm deal on a free Palestinian state by the end of 2008. What were these people in Annapolis thinking of? The end of 2008 is only a year away. In the history of the Middle East conflict one year is the twinkling of an eye! How can the job of getting the immovable object and the irresistible force to bury the hatchet and live side by side in peace and harmony take only twelve months?  It can’t, of course. The fact that the end of 2008 coincides with the US Presidential election is a dead giveaway: George W. Bush, whose record so far consists of inflicting economic ruin on his own country and death and destruction on the world, would like to go out on a positive high. Hey, he and Condoleezza must have thought, let’s have a go at solving the Middle East. If it works we’ll be heroes and if it doesn’t (as it didn’t when Clinton, Barak and Arafat had a stab at it) there’ll be another Intifada for the Democrats to sort out. A win-win scenario for Dubya, which explains why he was grinning from ear to ear as Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas shook hands.

Well, the Israeli Prime Minister and the leader of the Palestinian Authority (a bit of a misnomer, that) can stand there pressing the flesh until the cows come home but that won’t alter the fact that neither man has anything substantial to give the other. Olmert knows that if he seriously starts pushing the idea of sharing Jerusalem with the Arabs he’ll be either out on his ear or dead. Abbas, for his part, may call himself the Palestinian president but who does he represent? Not the people of Gaza, for a start. They’re under the control of Hamas.  The fact is: both are weak leaders, much weaker than the ones they replaced. If the mess in Palestine is to be sorted out at all it will take two strong men; men who command the respect not only of their opponents, but of their own supporters as well. There are no signs that either man can claim such respect. Olmert is in trouble at home over corruption allegations and a disastrous adventure in Lebanon, at the slightest sign of him making a really important concession a fundamentalist knife may be plunged into his back; Abbas may have won an election in the West Bank, but many Palestinians -fearing that he may be about to flog the family silver- are baying for his blood. How could he keep any promise to curb terrorism?

So what is going to happen in the next twelve months? As I said, nobody knows. Probably a lot of jaw-jaw with Olmert being yanked back from the brink of agreement every time a sacrifice seems necessary. Future water rights, tricky. Settlements, hmmmmm…. Jerusalem, forget it. The Syrians want the Golan Heights back, up yours Assad! There are situations in which living with conflict and death is preferable to parting with what you’ve got. A lot of Israelis -too many for comfort- appear to feel that way. Ehud Olmert spoke of the need for ‘painful sacrifices’. So long as the sacrifices are perceived as more painful than the status quo he’ll be wasting his breath.  

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 2

    Kish hahn said,

    Superb blog and a precise endorsement and prediction of the insane mess in the Middle East that has and will continue to take tens of thousands of innocent lives ! What a profound evil tragedy ! Remember the words of that half witted soothsayer Neville Chamberlin in the late 1930s “Peace in our time ” ! Ha ha ! Tragically,it won’t happen for a long,long time ! Hell will have to freeze over first !
    Kish Hahn Waterloo,Canada


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