UN Speeches Show Regression in Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Speeches mere foil for genuinely important step: President Mahmoud Abbas' application to the Security Council to recognize Palestine as a state.

It seems that both sides of the generations-long Israeli-Palestinian wrestling match have long since run out of all possible complaints, arguments and mutual insults: those uttered in the heat of anger, accompanied by violence and bloodshed; those said reflexively, out of habit; and those mumbled in the name of communication. Until, that is, the Great Speech Duel - held Friday in the General Assembly of the United Nations - came and exposed an additional layer: that of informed desperation, in which both parties no longer address or listen to each other, instead sowing their arguments and complaints in the wind in hopes of racking up one more "propaganda point" from those who have grown weary of any involvement in the conflict.

The speeches were a mere foil for the genuinely important step: President Mahmoud Abbas' application to the Security Council to recognize Palestine as a state. This measure was itself presented as the result of giving up on any dialogue with the Netanyahu government, and the chairman of the Palestinian Authority accompanied it with a bitter, stinging speech that fit this mood.

But the responses by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's circle and by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman were no less pessimism-provoking: These figures were quick to pounce on the speech as "the greatest incitement every heard" and to depict it as a challenge to Israel's very existence. This they did while twisting some of Abbas' words and ignoring the fact that he focused mainly on the obstacle posed by the settlements and also ignoring his declaration, "Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or delegitimizing it ... [but only] to delegitimize the settlement activities and the occupation."

That spirit, which attempts to cover up the question of the settlements, which is stuck in the heart of the conflict like a thorn, also enveloped the speech of Netanyahu - one more polished "speech of his life," which went from pogroms to the Warsaw Ghetto to Gilad Shalit and even back to the time of Hezekiah; a speech that from the outset was not meant for the ears of the Palestinians, whose electronic media didn't bother, in any event, to broadcast it.

From these two narratives of demand and complaint, it appeared as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict traveled in a time machine back to the end of the last century, and decades of dialogue were wiped out - to the great joy of the extremists on both sides. Not peace, but rather the very fact of direct contact between the parties is once more perceived as a goal, and even that is increasingly fading into the distance.