Yesterday evening, my regular keep-fit routine was disturbed. I could not get out of my head that 5 people had been slaughtered in their sleep, just a 2 hours drive away. That includes a 3 month old baby. Even now, it keeps buzzing in my mind – how can anybody be driven by such manic hate to do that?
According to initial reports, a couple of people had climbed over a fence, which had set off an alarm. The security team treated it as a false alert. 2.5 hours later, 5 bodies, and time for the perpetrators to celebrate.
Most readers of this blog will not have heard of the incident. Drowned in the information avalanche from Japan’s awful tragedy and hidden by the news of the no-fly zone re Libya, there was no space left for coverage on Sky TV. (There was just room for Charlie Sheen on its website.)
And of course, these were 5 humans who lived in Itamar, known as a right-wing hot house in Israel’s West Bank. So, in the politically correct spin of 2011, the media can afford to ignore the story.
I am not an expert on the peace process and rarely comment about it directly, but it seems to me that it will take a mix of 4 elements to get it to work.
Israeli compromise: Israel has already ceded land to Egypt and to Jordan in return for peace. It had offers on the table to both the Palestinians and to Syria a decade ago,which were ignored. And I dare say that while Netanyahu is most reluctant to give up anything else, he has declared repeatedly his willingness for a two-state solution.
Palestinian compromise: The Palestinians have pulled out of peace talks twice in the past decade, as they were approaching decision time. Chairman Arafat ran away from Clinton and Barak at Camp David in August 2000, seeking the path of Intifada. And two years ago, President Abbas could not bring himself to announce an agreement with Olmert. In fact, since the details were leaked, the Palestinian team has denied the whole story.
Support from Arab states: Former President Mubarak is no saint. As ruler of the strongest military regime in the Arab League, he kept the peace process alive with Israel. He enabled King Hussain of Jordan to join in, etc. He is now gone. Israel’s gas supply from Egypt has been “temporarily” shut off on a continuous basis. Iranian ships have sailed through the Suez Canal for the first time in years.
Western encouragement and neutrality: The commitment of Europe to find a just peace cannot be argued. Only last week, the EU’s most senior foreign affairs diplomat, Catherine Ashton issued another statement, demanding increased Israeli flexibility. Hague, Clinton et al did the same. However, as at Munich, it was difficult to find a similar demand from the other side.
Tragically, this flexibility has now been reflected in some poor patrolling and the death of five civilians. No generous comments of sympathy from Arab states and no return to the peace table by the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, I continue share something in common with Western diplomats. We have both put on a few kilos this week for lack of effort. I gave up on my exercises, and they have been sitting around again with the wrong peace formulas for the Holy Land.