In the Land of Alibi

The government and the army are chattering endlessly about the chances of peace and the dangers of war with Syria, and then they explain that it's all hot air and accuse the media of exaggerations and irresponsible reports.

In the land of Alibi there is a huge uproar: The government and the army are chattering endlessly about the chances of peace and the dangers of war with Syria, and then they explain that it's all hot air and accuse the media of exaggerations and irresponsible reports.

In the land of Alibi, someone else is always responsible. The other side is always to blame for diplomatic stasis, the statesmen are disappointed by the way the army implements things, and the soldiers blame the government and the civil society for not backing them up.

In the land of Alibi, the prime minister began his term with determined statements and decisions, and when these blew up in his face, he decided that it is not worth taking risks. When every statement and deed is only used against you in the next investigative commission, it is important to cover yourself well with transcripts and votes of support to prove that you acted correctly, and that the failures came later.

In the land of Alibi, the government ministers insure themselves against any possible development, talking against a decision and voting in favor of it. In that way they will look as though they had done the right thing and evade responsibility for failures, which will be passed along to the prime minister and the military's top brass.

In the land of Alibi, policy is determined by the calculation of pressures: an estimate of the America position, multiplied by the results of the public opinion polls, minus the number of Qassam rockets, divided by the stability of the coalition. The result jumps around according to circumstances. Thus, one day it is possible to declare Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas a partner, the next day to refuse all his requests, and then blame him for the stasis on the third day. Thus it is possible to call Syria a terror state, to explain that U. S. President George W. Bush is opposed to talks with that regime, and then to send Syrian President Bashar Assad a proposal to hold talks "without prior conditions," but on condition that he first dissociate himself from all his allies. Thus it is possible to leak and to deny that Bush has given permission for the Syrian track.

In the land of Alibi, this confused frenzy can be depicted as a manifestation of diplomatic daring, and as the embodiment of the government's responsibility to examine every hint of peace. So what if Assad doesn't listen to messages that look to him like Israeli arrogance and an insult to his intelligence? The main thing is that it is possible to say that once again a mask has been ripped off the face of a cunning Arab leader, and his "true face" as a refuser of peace has been exposed, without giving up even a single millimeter of the Golan Heights.

In the land of Alibi, the army acts like the government. The new chief of staff, under the transparent cover of "a senior source," warns that if the negotiations with the Syrians aren't renewed a war is liable to break out, including firing on the Golan and the Galilee and missiles on Tel Aviv.

Translation: The government is not making peace, and the army is liable to be dragged into a war. The investigative commission will love this: The Israel Defense Forces issued a warning, the government level ignored it.

When things are published they are denied immediately, and the "senior source" explains that he did not want to pressure the government, but it is important to talk with Assad so that it will be possible to look the soldiers straight in the eye.

In the land of Alibi, the prime minister warns of a Syrian "miscalculation" that will lead to a war, declares that Israel has no plans to attack, and then establishes a forum of 11 ministers to examine the army's plans in the North.

The defense minister calls for negotiations with Assad, and then gets his picture taken at a military training maneuver for the occupation of a Syrian village. Whatever happens, the commission of inquiry will not be able to blame them for not consulting and not sharing and not carrying out training maneuvers, as in the previous war.

In the land of Alibi, screaming headlines, contradictory hints and vague slogans substitute for real and needed public discussion of the relations with Syria. At its center there has to be an assessment of the risks: Is holding on to the Golan, with its obvious topographical advantages and its control of the water sources in the North, worthwhile in light of the danger of war with Syria? A war that will lead to Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights even if the IDF wins it? And vice versa - is it worthwhile to revive the frozen deal with Assad senior, which is still on the table? Will the return of the Golan Heights - including deep disarmament on the Syrian side and American inspectors on Mount Hermon, an Israeli Embassy in Damascus and an arrangement for control of the shore of the Sea of Galilee - constitute a stable agreement, or will they only imply dangerous Israeli weakness? Here is a topic for the agenda of "the Syrian affairs cabinet."