Everything Except the Main Thing

A Canadian humorist proposed a shortcut to the happy life: Wake up late, don't go to work, throw the eggs out the window because they aren't fried right and adopt polite and courtly manners - ignoring one minor detail: You haven't got a cent in your pocket. This is more or less what is happening these days with the right and the left's 'diplomatic plans': a peace-free post-diplomatic process.

Like a wedding at which there is everything - a hall, invited guests, in-laws, music, quartered chickens - and only a bride, a groom and a wedding canopy are lacking: This is how the "diplomatic activity" that has recently stirred at all the ends of the political spectrum looks. On the right, there is the sudden micturition of the idea of "unilateral withdrawal" - pungent, angry and threatening, as if it were yet another military operation or targeted elimination. And it is back to normal on the left - as if the last three years have been but a passing fancy - the same "Oslo" (now "Geneva") effort, flaunting the same old excrescences and excesses as before, as if in self-parody; with the same verbal rigidity that sees the conflict as a "narrative" that can be amended by the successful formulation and revision of a sub-section; with the same magical belief that peace orations by celebrities at formal ceremonies will do for peace more or less what raising the salaries of senior officials will do for unemployment; with the same love of trips to the furthest reaches of the West, where "peace" is served at Scandinavian or North American room temperature. Whoever said that despair cannot be creative?

The Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock once proposed a shortcut to the happy life: Wake up late, don't go to work, throw the scrambled eggs out the window because they aren't fried right and in general adopt polite and courtly manners - on the assumption that this will swallow up and obliterate one minor detail: You haven't got a cent in your pocket. This is more or less what is happening these days with the "diplomatic plans" both on the right and on the left: a peace-free post-diplomatic process.

Three years of stagnation, diplomatic defeat, bereavement and failure of a policy of denial and bluff have made everyone fed up. Until one morning there was enough of the woe and the sighing, enough of the not getting anywhere, enough of the pessimism and also enough of the crazy conceptions of our officers about transformations of consciousness, targeted eliminations and the pathological fretting about Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, his exile, his ailments and even his sneaky demise (a move that incidentally would evanesce in a moment, like the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the moment Major General (Res.) Amos Gilad disappears from our television screens). The desire for change ripens slowly, and all that was needed was someone who would reach out a hand and pluck the fruit.

The fact that this was done by none other than Yossi Beilin, of all people, and that the diplomatic activity began from the direction of the "architects of the Oslo process" - of all architects and all processes - only goes to show the dimensions of the failure of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's anti-Oslo policy and the total aridity of the thinking of the leaders of the Likud and the Labor Party. It is a fact that those same folks who were left for dead, buried 50 times and endlessly bad-mouthed and excoriated are the ones who have once again become a catalyst. And indeed, "the Oslo camp" has set about to continue "the process" with the same creative diligence as before, with all the familiar tricks and wiles - but this time it has learned a lesson: This time it will be without that minor, pesky and always disappointing matter known as "reconciliation between the peoples and the solution of the problem by the leaderships."

In the past, before the dawning of the creative despair, we thought that this was the nitty-gritty. We thought that the heart of the matter was a historic decision by leaders with the strength to decide and implement, accompanied by a profound psychological turnabout in what is known as "the street." Not anymore. Now it turns out that it is also possible without this. Moreover, if in the past we thought that the formulation of the agreement and the determination of the tactic of withdrawal were only technical details that accompany the main thing, now it turns out that it is also possible "against nature" (like the title of Joris-Karl Huysman's famous book, A Rebours, which embodies the spirit of decadence): It is possible to do only the peripheral stuff, without the nitty-gritty. To formulate a text of agreements, to develop the tactics of withdrawal, to observe all the courtesies, to go through all the surrounding motions - while bypassing the issue itself. Has peace-shmeace slipped through our fingers? That's its problem, not ours. We don't need any favors. We'll show it that the process can go on without it.

And yet, what is it they ask in the advertisement for Viagra? "You send her flowers, you give her compliments - but are you taking care of the main thing?" And all the pathetic "diplomatic" running hither and thither - both Geneva and the withdrawal - are results of the strained effort somehow to bypass the void in the center, the main thing that isn't there. These are miserable default solutions, even if creative in their own desperate way, that derive from the fact that heading the two peoples today are two decadent, impotent leaders, shifty and twisted as spaghetti, who are capable only of talking, declaring, winking and deceiving - everything apart from taking care of the main thing: fulfilling commitments, leading moves openly, talking directly and aiming for an agreed solution.