|if we only pay up, the cat |
will ably strum jolly tunes
on its fiddle
[Arthur Rackham’s illustration, 1913]
18 September '14..
In her authoritative clipped cadences, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni admonishes those of us who refuse to sweeten Ramallah figurehead Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah cohorts with “daring initiatives.” She sternly disapproves of Israelis who “are not willing to pay the price of a diplomatic arrangement.”
We might of course nitpick and wonder whether a diplomatic arrangement is in fact attainable. And if so, we might further press and inquire why such arrangement hadn’t already been attained.
We might point out that the moderation Livni ascribes to Abbas connotes goodwill and that a minimal supply thereof should have facilitated some arrangement long ago – long before the advent on our scene of Hamas’s religious bad-guys. Secular enemies, as per Livni’s idiosyncratic political lexicon, aren’t quite enemies – certainly not extremists or terrorists.
So why then the absence of peace? Are we to understand that she pins the blame on Israel’s supposed small-minded stinginess?
We could ask in what gospel it’s written that diplomatic arrangements (which are hardly irrevocable) must be purchased with hard territorial and strategic currency (which cannot thereafter be recovered). But since in her world Livni writes the rules, this question is unlikely to be answered.
The long and the short of Livni’s logic is that we must put all our national eggs in Abbas’s basket because she proclaims him a moderate (in comparison to the Hamas and ISIS nutcases). According to Livni’s reckoning, remuneration in full will boost Abbas – a goal to which we presumably should ardently aspire.
Once we fork over the unavoidable fee, Abbas will proceed to quash Hamas fanatics; calm Palestinian agitation; deter his determined political opponents; pave the road to compromise and coexistence; remove from the agenda the notion of inundating the Jewish state with untold millions of self-styled Palestinian refugees; unite the warring elements calling themselves Palestinian; lead the Palestinian aggregate to conciliation with the Jewish state; magnanimously promise the Jewish state security and acceptance; obligingly demilitarize both the Ramallah and Gaza bailiwicks and altogether be the harbinger of lovability and light.
Not a bad deal, eh?
Livni’s deductive reasoning works like this: if we only pay up, the cat will ably strum jolly tunes on its fiddle, the cow will then be motivated to nimbly jump over the moon, which will persuade the dish to run away with the spoon and they shall surely all live in perfect harmony ever after.
The above childhood-ditty silliness makes every bit as much sense as Livni’s outlandish speculations. Her basic presuppositions are plainly fantasist and her follow-up extrapolations are untenable.
It begins with the shaky premise of counting on one individual to deliver the goods. That was proven disastrous throughout history but we Israelis might in particular painfully recall the assassination of Lebanon’s president-elect Bashir Gemayel 32 years ago. It instantly snuffed out our otherwise seemingly sound strategy.
Abbas’s intentions are likely way less honorable than were Gemayel’s, while his position is far more rickety. Abbas’s survival is entirely predicated on Israeli underpinning, to say nothing of the fact that no long-term hopes should be pinned on an octogenarian.
To boot, said octogenarian is unpopular in his domestic setting, even if foreign statesmen in faraway lands like him loads. Abbas can hardly be relied upon to designate future trends or contain Hamas – no matter how egregiously we reward his posturing.
We already paid through the nose in 2005 when we handed him the entire Gaza Strip, liberated of any hint of Israeli presence. It’s bon ton among the Livnis – who at the time aggressively promoted the Gaza Disengagement – to expunge from popular memory the negligible little detail that Gaza wasn’t ceded to Hamas. Gaza was bequeathed to what Livni and crew had even then promoted as Abbas’s responsible stewardship.
Despite his much-applauded political aptitude, Abbas managed to lose Gaza to Hamas. He was ignominiously kicked out and his underlings were callously gunned down in the streets or tossed to their deaths from the roofs of tall buildings. Even in the recent conflict, Hamas summarily executed dozens of Fatah stalwarts for alleged treason.
With such a record of incompetence-cum-helplessness, how can we trust Abbas to hold on to Judea and Samaria if we retreat? Is it rational to assume that the Gaza scenario won’t be replicated on our long convoluted eastern border, which loops right atop Israel’s dreadfully narrow and densely populated midriff?
The overwhelming odds are that Gaza’s evil response to Israeli largesse would be gruesomely amplified in the vicinity of the Dan and Sharon regions, bringing Israeli life as we know it today to a screeching and tragic halt.
Is this scare-mongering? Quite the contrary! Even the direst predictions by Disengagement critics nine years ago incredibly underestimated and understated the dangers from Gaza. Warnings about rockets hitting Ashkelon were then met with utter derision. We now know that Gazan rockets reach as far up north as Zichron Ya’akov.
What could be unleashed from the low hills of Kalkilya, directly adjacent to Kfar Saba, should rightfully freak us out.
But there are other compelling reasons to be scared. Looming large among them is a Palestinian opinion poll conducted by Dr. Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research [PSR]. It shows a dramatic rise in Hamas prospects, which in PSR’s own summation, is “unprecedented since 2006. Indeed, if presidential elections were to take place today, Ismail Haniyeh [of Hamas] would easily win over Abbas and Hamas would win the largest percentage of the popular vote in parliamentary elections.”
If anything, PSR findings indicate that Abbas’s own turf is hyper-radicalized and hardly likely to support any accommodation with Israel. If elections were held today, Haniyeh would walk away with the support of 66% of West Bankers, only 25% of whom would vote for Abbas. Haniyeh would even defeat Fatah darling Marwan Barghouti, now serving five life sentences in Israel for premeditated murder. Previously, Barghouti easily trounced Haniyeh. Now the Gazan Hamas leader would get 49% of the total versus only 45% for Barghouti.
In a three-way contest, Haniyeh would win 48%, Barghouti 29% and Abbas 19%. In a parliamentary race, 47% of the West Bank’s voters would opt for Hamas and a mere 27% for Fatah. No wonder Abbas, now in his tenth year of a four-year term as Palestinian Authority “president,” is wary of new elections.
The decline in Abbas’s electoral appeal is strikingly matched by PSR findings on a broad range of ideological perceptions. Its pollsters conclude that “an overwhelming majority of West Bankers wants to transfer the ‘Hamas way’ to the West Bank and rejects the demand to disarm the Islamist group or to disband the other Gazan armed groups.”
It’s a safe bet that Livni and her lot would peremptorily pooh-pooh the PSR’s statistics and deny that they jerk the rug from under Abbas’s adamant Israeli cheerleaders. Livni’s reaction isn’t hard to infer: if we only bribe Abbas sufficiently, we can prop him up as a nearly-believable peace-partner (regardless of his terror-glorification; the anti-Israeli/anti-Semitic incitement he encourages and/or tolerates; his aim to get the UN to impose a solution we cannot live with; his threat to drag us to international kangaroo courts and much more).
But say, for argument’s sake, that a bargain of sorts is struck. Our security would then depend on Abbas actually demilitarizing all the areas under his theoretical sway – Judea, Samaria and eventually Gaza too. Since – especially after this summer’s rocket extravaganza – the bounties of Disengagement are still too fresh in too many Israeli minds, our skepticism might be forgiven.
The inadvisability of counting on Abbas may mean relying on international forces and the UN to keep the peace. Now there’s a novel idea!
The rescue of Filipino UNDOF troops from Jihadi irregulars in Syria truly inspires faith in their ability, as does the imprisonment of their Fijian brothers-in-arms. Assorted international observers and military contingents have ever since 1949 proven themselves all incontrovertibly inefficient, indolent and biased.
Not long after our War of Independence, International observers refused to investigate a massacre by the Fedayeen (as terrorists were then known) on the grounds that the blood on the ground may be that of donkeys rather than of Jews.
That’s only to be expected. Ignoring Arab terrorism and gross infractions of purportedly binding agreements, keeps the overseers out of trouble. The Arabs, it needs be stressed, are threatening while Jews are not and hence it’s prudent to suck up to Arabs. It’s always Israel that carps about the peacekeepers’ impotence and thereby altogether sours their attitudes toward the pesky and exacting Jewish state.
After the 1956 Sinai Campaign Israel agreed to withdraw on condition that UN peacekeepers keep the Tiran Straits open to Israeli shipping. In 1967, on the eve of the Six Day War, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered them out. The peacekeepers dutifully obeyed and promptly skedaddled. They also ran off from Jerusalem as soon as Jordan attacked Israel on the first day of the 1967 fighting.
And who can forget UNIFIL’s intrepid exploits? Its misnamed peacekeepers indifferently watched Hezbollah attack Israeli soldiers on the Israeli side of the Israel-Lebanon border in 2006. The UN soldiers did nothing about the killing and subsequent abduction of the bodies of Eldad Regev and Udi Goldwasser – apart from covering up the evidence.
Likewise, Hezbollah rearmed right under the UN’s nose but the UN’s representatives failed to lift a lazy finger. Who can blame them? Why should they risk life and limb to keep us safe?
That said, why should we entrust our safety into their untrustworthy hands? Why should we trust Abbas? Why should we trust Fatah? Why should we trust Livni’s seductive visions of promising new prospects that would wondrously unfold before us if we only embark on “daring initiatives.”
These new prospects are about as credible as the nursery rhyme notion of musical cats. If we fall for her beguiling babble, we might as well swear by the “hey diddle, diddle” reality of “Fatah and the Fiddle” and take comfort from the contention that
The Cow jumped over the moon,
The little Dog laughed
To see such sport
And the Dish ran away with the Spoon.