Israel better prepare, for a Palestinian state is on the way
Israel has always tried to convince that it is reaching out for peace into the void. But this policy is about to sustain a shock.
Yuval Diskin is right. September always was a lousy month. Take September 1993, the cursed month when the the Oslo Accords were signed. Or 15 years earlier, the signing of the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt. The Nazi invasion of Poland took place in September, as did the Al-Qaida bombings in New York and the Second Intifada. James Dean was killed on September 30, and in September 1995 Israel agreed to hand over control of considerable parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians.
Lousiness, it transpires, is a matter of perspective. Whatever happens in September 2011, if anything does happen, will also be a matter of perspective.
Diskin's text, which adorned the Friends of Tel Aviv University conference, shouldn't particularly move or astonish anybody. Leaders of the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad, and former generals are not tested by their rhetoric. They are in charge of fear, and fear doesn't need that many words or poetic phrasing. Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, terrorism, rockets and, of course, an independent Palestinian state - that's all the vocabulary you need to phrase Israel's strategy of fear.
The head of the Shin Bet doesn't have, and apparently did not have, a peace conception. That's not his job. He doesn't create policy, he merely takes care of its ramifications. But the "policy" as he understands it is crystal-clear.
"Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad and the entire Palestinian Authority," he ruled, "represent only themselves, and certainly not Hamas in the Gaza Strip."
In other words, there was no point in talking to them from the outset, most certainly not now after they have reconciled with Hamas. The reconciliation may have shaken Diskin, he may not have expected it - or maybe he did and didn't say so - but it doesn't change the general picture. "Hamas did not change its ideas, ideology or policy," while the reconciliation will be "tested over time."
As if "time" was an independent factor unaffected by processes, policies, statements. As if neither Palestinians nor Israelis influence the content of this time and the manner in which changes will occur. And how much time are we speaking of, by the way? Are we now doomed to tear pages from a calendar until some deadline? Does the time run out in lousy September? Or maybe a year after the reconciliation agreement, when elections for the Palestinian parliament and presidency are supposed to take place? And when does that time even begin?
Diskin, of course, is but a metaphor. Maybe something will happen to him "over time" as well, and we will yet see him sign petitions or join to one of the peace initiatives. Many senior "security sources" experience such sudden enlightenment. But for now, he is unhesitatingly presenting to the public the fundamental assumptions that have shaped the Israeli government's policy.
There is no Palestinian partner and now there won't be, until the end of "time." The government doesn't even need to prove it. Reconciliation is an illusion, the Palestinian state will be a mirage, and neither of them obliges the government to change its vision. The government is already hacking away at the reconciliation, assuming that if it fails it will take Abbas with it, and if it survives it doesn't have room for an Israeli partner anyway.
But it is the debate over the identity of the partner that is illusory. It successfully substitutes the need to determine a policy, to decide the country's borders, to determine just how far it can reach into the occupied territories. It's empty babble, leaning on the theory of "confidence-building steps" since exposed as confidence-destroying steps, but still managed to make the question of the Palestinian partner - not the Israeli partner, God forbid - into the main issue in every political discussion.
Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress will spare no words from that absent partner; for this is the heart of a tactic masquerading as a policy. Israel has always tried to convince that it is reaching out for peace into the void. But this policy is about to sustain a shock in September. You can cancel out Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh. But a Palestinian state? One to which presidents and kings will suddenly start to arrive?