After living in Israel for the past 20 years, I have come to realize that the political ebb and flow of the region is essentially template-based.
Last night, we all huddled (well actually not really huddled considering the summer heat of the Levant) in front of our TVs to hear the rumbling tones of Bibi Netanyahu giving his long-awaited Bar Ilan address. After he rolled out his usual ramble about the amazing opportunities that await our Palestinian neighbors in the areas of desalinization and tourism and other fantasies, he finally did move on to what everyone was waiting for.
He “shocked” the Israeli right wing with his forced declaration of support for a demilitarized Palestinian state; “annoyed” the left by supporting the rights of the settlers to continue their sojourns in the West bank; and insisted on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, probably not shocking anyone. Then the political analysts started earning their retainers on TV stations around the world.
Why bother? It’s been the same for years, as the events of Middle East peace follow the same template year after year:
US President X demands that Israel step up and make more concessions. He flies around the Middle East gaining support and kisses from Arab leaders X, X and X.
Israeli Prime Minister X protests too much internally, incurring the wrath of, well, everyone outside the Israeli right.
Then Israeli PM X finally makes “the speech” that everyone was waiting for, and falls short of the what US President X wanted, but departs from a hard-line Israel policy.
Palestinian Leader X responds to said speech saying that clearly Israel doesn’t want peace, and so it goes on and on.
I suppose some of us have the naive optimism to believe that at some point, someone will burst out of the template and (forgive the overused cliché), will think out of the box on this Middle East mess. Maybe one, or hopefully even two, of the Xs will look back and see the same mistakes being made over and over and put an end to it.
Next step: US Secretary of State X does a whistle stop tour of the Middle East to draw the sides closer together and arranges a meeting of Xs at a leafy hideaway somewhere on the east coast of the US.
For now, it’s still all X-rated to me.