What Are We Fasting For?

Israel is probably the only democracy in the world where people fast in protest about blunders in the previous war rather than embark on a hunger strike to warn of a policy that is leading in all certainty to the next war.

Israel is probably the only democracy in the world where people fast in protest about blunders in the previous war rather than embark on a hunger strike to warn of a policy that is leading in all certainty to the next war. Instead of preparing for the hurricane at the gates, everyone is engaged with the snows of yesteryear.

There is no need for a commission of inquiry to determine that the war in Lebanon has revealed the Jews' weaknesses to the people of the region. The unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip without peace taught our neighbors that what the Palestine Liberation Organization didn't get from Israel by means of the diplomatic agreement that was signed 13 years ago, Hamas achieved in a military way. The withdrawal from southern Lebanon, without the abducted soldiers, as well as the mass migration of the inhabitants of the north, proved that the violent way of the Shi'ite fanatics yields pretty good results. Why not strike again?

At this juncture, there's now a meeting of Israel's existential interests with the long-term interests of the government of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and even the leaders of Syria and Lebanon. Against its will, Israel, following the war in Lebanon and the crisis in the territories, is being dragged into the eye of the storm that is raging in the Arab world.

It is no coincidence that Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden's deputy, allocated to us an extensive chapter in his speech marking the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States. To us, and to the neighbors who have relinquished the vision of the destruction of the Jewish state. Al Qaida will flourish and erupt the more Israel lays a heavy hand on millions of Arabs. The Shi'a, under Iran's leadership, are getting closer to the centers of power in the Arab world as the places in Jerusalem that are holy to Islam grow more distant from the Palestinians.

Not to our benefit, or to our benefit - depending on how we behave - someone is going to drag "our" conflict into the heart of the conflict between the two large Islamic blocs: Shi'ites and Sunni fanatics on the one side, secular and pragmatic Muslims on the other.

Not to our benefit - there is no need to say much. An Egyptian friend relates that Egyptian girls are hanging Hassan Nasrallah's portrait over their beds. The terror attack in the heart of Damascus is indicative of the danger that anyone who is nostalgic for Hafez Assad will yet wax nostalgic for Bashar.

To our benefit - if the Israeli government takes its head out of the sand, an opportunity to transform Lebanon War II into a diplomatic-strategic achievement, the way the first Gulf War provided the opening for the first comprehensive peace process in the region, will fall into its hands. The Madrid conference paved the way to negotiations with the Palestinians, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and isolated the radical elements in the Muslim world.

Fifteen years later, all of the Arab participants are trying, almost pleading, to reopen the negotiations in all of the blocked channels. The leading countries in the Arab League are digging beneath the surface for peace initiatives, and are making efforts to shake the fig leaf called the road map off of the United Staes and Europe and disabuse them of the illusion of unilateral solutions. They have not suddenly been stricken with love for Israel. Like Bin Laden and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mubarak and Abdullah are not losing sleep over the fate of the Palestinians; they are fighting for their political lives against forces that are getting stronger and challenging the political order in the Arab world.

From the very inception of the state, we have learned that our leaders are prepared to meet Arab leaders "in any place and at any time." Even prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who was considered an arch-conservative, and Benjamin Netanyahu, who was deputy foreign minister at the time, did not pose conditions for sitting next to Syrians in Madrid and starting the negotiations (though barren) with the elder Assad. And now, when his son is trying to renew the negotiations on the same basis - territories for peace - Israel is depicting the negotiations themselves as a big prize, in return for the peace that we will get from Syria. After it distances Hamas from Damascus, severs its ties with Iran, and divorces Hezbollah, the prime minister will agree to talk with Syria.

What will they talk about? In order to prevent misunderstandings, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is declaring that the Golan Heights are an inalienable part of Israel. This is also how he is behaving toward the Palestinian leadership: the reward for good behavior is a promise of a meeting. And what will they talk about at the meeting? About everything except the problems that touch upon the roots of the conflict - borders, Jerusalem and refugees.

Anyone who understands Israel's deep interest in the stability of the moderate Arab camp, a camp that has tied its fate to the peace strategy, is not entitled to sit in a government that has adopted the "agenda" of the bear who refused from the Hebrew children's story - the bear who did not manage to learn anything except "no, no" and lost his way. For this it really is appropriate to declare a fast.