Hopeful in Petra, Hopeless in Gaza, Betrayed on Jerusalem: Three Takes on a Troubled and Tragic Reality

Amidst the magnificent scenery of Petra-the ancient red-rock Nabatean capital which richly deserves to be voted among the seven wonders of the world (see http://www.new7wonders.com/index.php?id=409), as the Jordanian people so avidly desire-it was easy this Tuesday for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his vice premier, Shimon Peres, to be hopeful about the future. After all, the Treaty of Peace with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in many ways the one great viable legacy of Yitzhak Rabin's turbulent years, has held through thick and thin; it has proven highly beneficial for both sides-at the economic and hence the popular level, not only in the eyes of the governing elites. It may not have bred much love: The Palestinian majority in Jordan has not taken up the Zionist persuasion, and caricatures and essays in the daily papers are still all too often ugly. But it did create a stable, workable relationship, and at the highest levels of government, mutual respect and multilayered cooperation.

It is therefore entirely fitting that King Abdullah II seek a role as the one voice in the Arab world that can credibly address Israeli society. Like his father before him, he took actions over the years that prove that he and his government truly understand the craving of Israelis for security; any visit across the border quickly reveals the care and attention given to the prevention of cross-border gun-running and terror attacks. It would have been happier for all concerned had we been able to say the same about Egypt and the Gaza border: Sadly, there the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that the traditional excuses-incompetence, neglect, poor management-begin to ring hollow when it comes to the extensive flow of weapons and explosives into the Gaza Strip, right under the noses of the Egyptian security forces.

The news from Gaza-and from Sderot-indeed left little room for hope, even as the king feted his Israeli guests. For the last few days, we have been witnessing-despite the so-called "Mecca Accord" and the Palestinian national unity government-another round of murderous internecine fighting between Fatah and Hamas. (Perhaps this description of the violence is already elegant political shorthand for a much more complex landscape of clans and local gangs, fighting for turf and money, amidst the collapse of any semblance of authority: "Mogadishu," some observers have ruefully summed up what they see emerging there.) To turn attention away from all this, and to "mark the memory" of the Arab defeat in the war of 1948, which the Palestinians call the Nakba or catastrophe-May 15, 1947, being the day when the British Mandate ended (although the State of Israel had been declared a day earlier, on Friday afternoon, so as not to violate the Sabbath), and the Arab armies began their invasion-local Hamas elements launched a salvo of twenty-one Qassam rockets into Sderot and surrounding areas, this time badly wounding a woman and her four-year-old daughter in their home, as well as two others. (On Wednesday, as the Qassam total reached over thirty, the IDF struck Hamas's operational headquarters in Rafah.)

Perhaps this was a proper way for Palestinians to mark not only the disaster that befell them, but to relive its roots and origin: namely, the culture of callous irresponsibility that has become second nature to many among their gun-bearers and even their political elites. In 1947 they chose to defy the United Nations and to launch another genocidal attack on the Jewish people, less than three years after the previous one had ended. They were warned by some of their own that this would end badly, but they were swept up by the hate. Today, again, it is not difficult to envision what may ultimately ensue if gangs of well-armed but disorderly thugs continue to test the patience of an increasingly angry Israeli society and of the IDF. (Indeed, quite contrary to the blood libel about "trigger-happy Israeli generals," it is almost unthinkable that any country in our situation would have accepted for any length of time the regular shelling of its towns and villages.) Palestinian irresponsibility is becoming a constant refrain.

Recent events may have fed Hamas's delusions about the IDF performance in Lebanon; but they should have stopped to ponder the fact that even there, despite bad orders and indecisive leadership, IDF soldiers killed several Hezbollah fighters for every Israeli life lost (even though Hezbollah ranks among the best trained and most determined special forces anywhere in the world-practically none surrendered during the war). The folly of what the Palestinians think they can achieve, however, is fed by the attitude of the world at large, often with the best of motives, which has nurtured their sense that the international community owes them a living and will always be there to put the blame on Israel. This may at times seem farcical-even within Israel, you can find human rights groups who continue to argue that Israel bears full responsibility for the ills of Gaza, even after the last settler and soldiers left-but it is in fact tragic: Such misperceptions have for much too long been shielding the Palestinians from the consequences of their own actions, leaving them to be educated by the Hamas Mickey Mouse look-alike, Farfour, that all their troubles will soon be over when Islam will once again rule Jerusalem, Spain, and indeed the world.

It is against this background that the decision by the United States, the European Union and its members, and almost all other countries (with the noble exception of a few African nations) to boycott the celebration in the Knesset of the fortieth anniversary, by the Jewish calendar, of the reunification of Jerusalem may come to be seen (to be blunt) as a cowardly and harmful act. The lame excuses were all too ready: After all, even in West Jerusalem, Israeli sovereignty-quite absurdly-remains a matter of diplomatic controversy, in obvious and prolonged contradiction to real life. One does not need to advocate the exact perpetuation of the present disposition in Jerusalem. But the sad truth is that the world betrays not us, but the Palestinians, by acting as if the new realities in Jerusalem were completely reversible; as if Israeli sovereignty in Judaism's holiest places would simply disappear; as if it would be a good and moral thing to cave in to Arab demands, carve up a living city, evict 200,000(!) Jews, and hand a quarter of a million Maqdisiyin (Palestinian Jerusalemites) over to the realities of governance by Hamas (or Fatah). Feeding such illusions is a bad idea. Its cost is manifest daily in Palestinian conduct. But this week, the world community-again-did just that.

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