There is a Knesset position called commissioner for future generations, and the person in this post has the job of representing the future interests of the state and warning the legislature about decisions with long-term negative ramifications. Let us hope that Shlomo Shoham, the retired judge who fills this role, will hurry up and call to order Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who declared in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday that Israel has to wait for the next generation of Palestinian leaders to reach an agreement with them.
Mofaz expressed a stance that is representative of the current mood of the Israeli leadership, which can be summed up in the well-known slogan, "There's nobody to talk to" (on the Palestinian side). He is, in effect, offering a new motto with exactly the same meaning: "We have to wait for the next generation."
Regardless of whether this message reflects the state leaders' authentic situation assessment, or is nothing more than crafty spin designed to cover up undeclared motives - its usage is disappointing, dangerous. And no less than it attests to the caliber of Abu Mazen and his colleagues, it reflects the quality of leadership of the heads of the State of Israel.
The Talmud contains the observation, "The face of the generation is like the face of a dog"; i.e., the people's leaders are like a dog: ostensibly, it runs ahead of its master and leads him, but the moment it arrives at a crossroads, it waits for him to see which way he'll turn. The expression criticizes the leadership ability of the pillars of the community, and it states that they are not guiding the way, but rather being dragged. When the prime minister and defense minister announce that they have despaired of negotiating with the Palestinians, they are declaring leadership bankruptcy; if they haven't the strength, patience, ideas and initiative to figure out how, despite the difficulties, to get the country out of the mire of the quarrel with the Palestinians, then let them resign from their posts. The country needs creative and optimistic leaders that are blessed with the desire and energy to reach an agreement and save it from the cancer of occupation.
Stipulating that the task of achieving a peace agreement with the Palestinians must be left to the next generation is evading responsibility; whoever makes this claim creates circumstances that in and of themselves prevent ending the conflict because he legitimizes its perpetuation. Protected by the claim that there is no partner on the other side, it is possible to escalate the conflict, commit injustices, miss opportunities and thereby prevent future generations as well from reaching an agreement.
Whoever passes on to his descendants the responsibility for settling the conflict is constructing an alibi to get out of the effort of doing so himself. This evasion of duty makes one wonder why Sharon, Mofaz and their ilk are so eager to be reelected and to continue holding on to their lofty positions. If settling the conflict with the Palestinians seems to them to be an impossible mission, to what end are they asking for the public's trust?
The situation in the Palestinian Authority is, indeed, dismal and Abu Mazen does not meet expectations, but before succumbing to accept the diagnosis by Sharon and Mofaz - that Israel is fated to wait another generation before making an attempt to end the conflict - the two are required to fulfill Israel's part of the bargain: to decide on a withdrawal from the West Bank. The element of Israeli refusal to bid farewell to the territories is equal in weight to the element of refusal and chaos in the PA in terms of posing an obstacle to obtaining a peace agreement. Whoever complains about the Palestinians' responsibility for the deadlock should make sure his own hands are clean, and so long as occupation lust has not dissipated in Israel, its leaders' claim that there is no interlocutor on the other side remains unconvincing.
The attitude that there is no possibility of obtaining a permanent solution perpetuates the belligerent, short-sighted Israeli policy, which naturally contributes to escalation of the conflict. This approach appears legitimate these days as the Palestinians carry out terrorist attacks and launch Qassam rockets, but bear in mind that the versions the regime disseminates about the circumstances in which escalations in the conflict occur are not necessarily accurate, as recent books on the last intifada demonstrate. Not infrequently, what sets the bloody merry-go-round in motion again is a by-product of an idee fixe that there is no one to talk to.
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