Ten days ago, we were taken on a trip to wonderland. The U.S. president told us a story in Cairo that no other president ever had. He presented no plan or documents, no map and no road. A long, thin man, dark and elegant, told us a fairy tale that made our collective jaw drop. Everything will be fine, he promised - he'll talk to the Iranian neighborhood thug and make sure he stops scaring us. He'll make peace between the Palestinians and join the Israeli hand with the Arab. Regional peace, he promised. Better yet, world peace between Islam and the West: a procession of brothers and sisters marching together off into the sunset.
Today we will hear another fairy tale. The Israeli prime minister will tell us how to bypass the American fable. He will explain how we can survive eight years of the dream-peddling magician from Washington, and he'll promise us it will be the Israeli dream that ultimately survives.
The truth is that neither fairy tale is all that great - they would hardly succeed even as bedtime stories. After all, what does the American tale include? Sure, there will be normalization between Israel and the Arab states, and an Israeli flag will fly in Arab capitals from Sana'a and Khartoum to Baghdad and Damascus. Sure, fruits and vegetables from the Galilee will be exported to Lebanon and Dubai, Egyptian artists will participate in Mizrahi Music Week in Jaffa, and an air-conditioned bus will leave every hour from Kiryat Shmona to Damascus, stopping at the Lebanese towns of Marjayoun and Baabda. Fans of Egypt's El Zamalek soccer club will curse Beitar Jerusalem players and the Bahraini referee partial to the Jews.
This, they tell us, is what peace looks like. But Barack Obama didn't portray peace this way; it was all in our imagination. This is the most certain way to diminish and relinquish peace, to break it into tiny pieces and complain that each fragment bears "an enormous price": In order to eat falafel in Damascus, we'll have to give up the Western Wall.
The tale Benjamin Netanyahu will tell today will describe us as adults, people who understand that dreams aren't free. In the store window, peace truly does look wonderful, but once you press your face to the glass you can see its actual price tag. That bus to Damascus will cost us buses to Gamla and Har Dov in the Golan Heights, which will become accessible only via Syrian lines. For a soccer game in Cairo we'll have to give up shuttles to the West Bank settlements of Ma'aleh Efraim, Nokdim, Migron and Yitzhar. If for the evacuation of 7,000 settlers from Gaza we paid nearly NIS 10 billion, how much will it cost to evacuate 200,000 Jews from the settlements in Palestine (on the assumption that some settlement blocs remain)?
A massive increase in the settler population, thanks to immigrants from abroad, will sharply increase housing prices, bringing the real estate market to the boiling point. The brigades of soldiers released from having to guard settlements and their school buses will suddenly become unemployed, and of course we'll have to pay something to Palestinian refugees in exchange for relinquishing the right of return.
The window of opportunity is not framed by potential exports to Arab countries, the price of evacuating the settlements, the price of falafel in Damascus or leaving Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. The difference between Obama's vision and Netanyahu's response lies elsewhere. Obama is offering us a path that will allow us to let go of our fears, while Netanyahu sees fear as an asset. Obama is offering a revolution in our way of life, while Netanyahu was produced by that way of life. For 42 years we've been living amid occupation, and yet we still call Palestine "the territories," as if it were an empty real estate lot. Every Israeli under 40 knows no other reality. Even 50-year-olds had to learn about the occupation from books. Students are certain that Ofra, like Kfar Sava, lies within the State of Israel, and that the Golan is registered in our name in the Bible. The occupation has become our very DNA, and talk of peace has become an unproven theory, like the Big Bang.
Neither moving settlements nor withdrawing from the Golan are the major obstacle to peace. Rather, the obstacle is our way of life, our routine, the everyday concepts we've internalized and the fear that justifies everything - Obama is threatening all of these. We prefer a dream of opportunities that won't be realized and a leader that makes sure we dream forever. So let's join hands, lean back and listen to Netanyahu. He knows us well.
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