Satisfaction - that's what Israeli faces radiate, at least as observed by people who just came out of Ramallah or Gaza and watch Jerusalem's busy Ben-Yehuda Street, the Ramat Aviv Mall or Ben-Gurion International Airport.
To the Israelis, nothing exists beyond the moment. It's just like the smugness exhibited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his private playing field, the AIPAC conference. Have our diplomats been expelled? Is the American administration angry? We'll bow our heads for a moment, the storm will pass, and we'll be accepted into the honorable club of the OECD. The main thing is that Israel's obstinate policy of separation has succeeded and that two adversarial Palestinian entities has been created.
One is building its Islamic principality in an isolated enclave, bouncing around promises that the second step toward the liberation of Jerusalem and Haifa has already been taken. The other proudly hosts representatives of donor nations in its small and crowded enclaves, and tries to persuade everybody that this is the way to build a state that includes Area C, no-man's land, Latrun, Gaza, Al-Aqsa and the approximately 70 square kilometers that Israel has annexed and calls Jerusalem.
But we Israelis know that everything is equally imaginary. We are the wizards of the status quo. We establish it as we like, moving an acre here and a military base there, until the world says it agrees. When God wants, Ramallah will also be called a holy city and Gaza will be crowned an Egyptian district capital.
That is not the way the future looks in the two separate entities. Their mutually contradictory rhetoric is based on a similar assumption: Both Gaza and Ramallah believe that change will eventually come from the outside, and that is the popular expectation as well.
The Ramallah government expects that the United States, Europe and the pro-Western Arab states will come to their senses and force Israel to do that which it has avoided since 1968: withdraw ("with slight border adjustments") and bring the settlers back home. The Ramallah government expects that external factors will cause Israel to understand that which it does not understand on its own. There is nothing boastful about this stance; rather, it is one of compassion for the Israeli people, which has encased itself in a bubble of smugness that ignores historical processes.
More than a decade ago, during one of the futile rounds of talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Saeb Erekat allowed himself to wonder: "Aren't the Israelis thinking about their grandchildren?" A similar question is heard from inhabitants of Gaza whose homes were destroyed and whose children were killed, as well as from Palestinian farmers in the West Bank who have had their fill of harassment from settlers. Everyone wants to know: Don't the Israelis understand that they cannot depend forever on their economic and military superiority? That it is impossible to maintain forever an aggressive regime based on extreme inequality and privilege for Jews?
In other words, it is a request to the West: "If Israel is so important to you, save it from itself."
That approach sees the Jewish Israeli community as an accepted part of the region, whether in one state, in two or in a federation of states. It does not matter. It proposes foreseeable time frames for implementation: two years, five years, 10. This is an approach that still preserves faith in Western common sense.
The Gaza government, meanwhile, is expecting a Muslim intifada to break out in countries near and far, which will turn the regional and the global balance of power upside down: Peoples will rise up, pro-Western governments will fall, and the new governments will not show tolerance for Western aid to Israel or the foreign element that the West has planted in the East. That scenario, too, sees Israel as the one responsible for everything that happens and might happen, but has no compassion for an entity that views 1 billion of its neighbors as unimportant. Its time frame is much longer than the compassionate scenario. Those who patiently anticipate a widespread Muslim intifada are convinced that their scenario, and not the one that expects the West to take action, is the one that will happen; after all, they are convinced, the West will not change its spots.
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