A Special Place in Hell / Wanted: Two mad martyrs, to make a Mideast peace
The peace process takes no prisoners. No one makes peace and lives.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.
Martin Luther King, Memphis, April 3, 1968
On the face of it, there is no conflict more thicket-bound, more eye-gouging in its complexity, more heavily barricaded in its resistance to a solution, than the Israeli-Arab morass.
Would that all of this could be boiled down to something more digestible, more easily amenable to change.
It can. It comes down to this: The price of making peace is death. No less. The only leader who can make the kinds of political and social sacrifices necessary to forge a solution which provides for an independent Palestine alongside an independent Israel, is the leader who is fully prepared to make the ultimate personal sacrifice.
From Yitzhak Rabin to Anwar Sadat to Issam Sartawi to Ariel Sharon to Moshe Dayan, the peace process takes no prisoners. No one makes peace and lives.
We, the peoples of the Holy Land, demand no less. Is that fair? Of course not. But it's the way it works. The "land which devours its inhabitants" is even harder on the leaders who choose to try to make that land livable. We cannot forgive our leaders for doing the right thing. We can only forgive them, re-elect them, tolerate them, for doing the wrong thing, measure after failed measure, year after agonizing year.
Which brings us to Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak and, for that matter, Mahmoud Abbas. They have found the Mideast secret of eternal political life: Just say no.
In fact, our most effective rejectionists, among them Eli Yishai, Natan Sharansky, Avigdor Lieberman, are our most prominent political cowards.
In Barak's case, the lack of moral imagination, in Henry Siegman's apt phrase, is stunning. He has borrowed the secret of longevity from his Camp David classmate Yasser Arafat, and is happy as a clam. It is only the peoples of the Holy Land who are left mired in misery and hopelessness.
In the case of Netanyahu, the most absurd of explanations for his failure to seek peace also appears more and more to be the real one: So long as his centenarian father remains alive, lucid, and steely in his resistance to a peace process, so shall the prime minister be.
They are survivors, these men of crippled vision. They survive so that others may die.
What do we need to make peace between Israel and Palestine? A leader on each side who is mad enough and patriotic enough to be willing to be a martyr to the future.
Yitzhak Rabin made peace with Jordan, and was on his way to making peace with the Palestinians, when we killed him. Anwar Sadat was Israel's most lethal enemy, when he took the step that in one stroke made a landmark peace and regained every square centimeter of captured Egyptian territory. Just after Israel made its final large withdrawal, one of Sadat's junior army officers gunned him down.
What do we need from our leaders? Only peace, and their life's blood.
What kind of person could possibly be willing to take on that kind of challenge, in exchange for nothing more than a place in history and a future for millions of children on both sides?
Precisely the kind we seem to lack at the moment. A genuine hero.