A summer that lasts too long
Suddenly, it seems that everything is permissible because "there is a summit."
In Israel, as opposed to orderly countries, the summer sometimes extends until November. So it is too early to declare that the danger of "the war with Syria this summer" has passed. But there is no doubt that the time frame projected for the war is coming to an end. And when the prospects of one war become "less attractive" and the headlines are boring even themselves, the joy of peace replaces the joy of war.
Note, for example, the preparations Israel is making in advance of the international peace conference U.S. President George W. Bush seeks to convene this fall. What hasn't been said by those in the know? - That Israel is planning territorial swaps, that 100 percent of the territories will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, that there will be a safe passageway between the West Bank and Gaza, that there will be a Palestinian state, and that Saudi Arabia has already announced it will attend the conference. It has even been said that there is some sort of "outline" for solving the refugee problem, and all that remains is to reconcile between the "Peres plan," which talks about a 100-percent withdrawal, and the "Ramon plan," which proposed only 70 percent under a convergence accord.
So will there be peace? Here, for example, is a tiny Israeli condition that could ruin the joy of the summit. The safe passageway between the West Bank and Gaza would operate only after the Palestinian Authority - that is, the Fatah government - becomes the source of authority in the Gaza Strip as well. And how exactly will this happen? Will Hamas voluntarily relinquish control of Gaza? Will a Palestinian national unity government be established, which Israel of course will boycott? There is no answer to this question at the moment. So the safe passageway has no foundation and the two territorial parts of the future Palestinian state will continue to exist as two satellites in space.
Without a safe passageway, there is also no contiguous Palestinian state. And there is no possibility of exchanging territory because these swaps would be implemented in the Negev, where they would need to be attached to the Gaza Strip, which is still under Hamas control and will remain so at least until the international conference. Anyway, who is preventing Israel from creating territorial contiguity in the West Bank or releasing more prisoners or halting settlement expansion for which it will have to pay compensation a moment after the conference?
The Israeli condition does not only pertain to the question of physical control of the territories, it also dictates the essence and character of the Palestinian Authority. And no less serious, this condition also entails a delusion - as if PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah government are eternal, or that it is at least possible to make a deal with them that will obligate everyone forever. And what if the government changes in the legal elections following the withdrawal? Isn't it essential now to win Hamas' consent so the deal will have a broad consensus?
Even without tackling the big issues of refugees and the holy places, and even before starting to mobilize tens of billions of dollars to compensate Israeli evacuees from the settlements, there is another minor obstacle: In the wake of the fiasco of the Gaza evacuation, there is a complete lack of faith in the government's ability to create real solutions for the evacuees. This will now be used as ammunition against any notion of voluntary evacuation or "evacuation-compensation." If I were a settler without ideological ties, I would want first of all to see my new home and my burgeoning bank account before removing myself from the settlement.
It is mainly the Israeli government, not only the Palestinian government, that will need to implement the grandiose plans presented to the summit visitors. The Israeli government is still hobbling on the crutches of the Second Lebanon War, whose name is linked to a failed evacuation from Gaza, and - judging from the case of the homes in Hebron - Israel's army will apparently need to deal with evacuation refusals.
The intention here is not to spoil the joy of the summit, which will certainly be very festive. But it is necessary to consider the danger in the very fact of announcing the summit: Suddenly, it seems that everything is permissible because "there is a summit." It is permissible to kill children in Gaza, it is all right to continue to harass civilians at checkpoints, it is permitted to continue to strangle a million and a half people in Gaza - because there will soon be a summit and everything will be fine; we just need to liquidate another senior wanted man before the peace. And perhaps it is all a prolonged summer delusion.