The emperor is naked. Again. Now what?
In Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” two weavers offer the emperor a new suit from cloth so delicate those who are stupid or foolish cannot see it. The Emperor accepts and wears his new clothes in a parade. Everyone praises his beautiful outfit. Only a little boy reclaims reality, calling out that the emperor isn’t wearing anything.
On December 14, one of the emperors of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, declared to a crowd in Gaza. “We said it five years ago and we say it now… we will never, we will never, we will never recognize Israel.” Spin it any way you want, but that’s as naked a statement of rejection as you can make.
How will the world respond? Will it disavow Haniyeh’s words? Or will it reinterpret them much as Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984 maintained that, “Black is white and white is black”? As for the Palestinian Authority, will it continue the fiction of Palestinian reunification as a condition for reaching an agreement with Israel—of bringing Hamas into negotiations that Hamas declares purposeless? After three days, we’ve heard nothing. The silence leaves me more troubled than comforted.
Of course, it takes two. Will the Israeli government use Haniyeh’s statement to vindicate its refusal to extend compromises previously offered by former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert? Plain speaking: the Netanyahu government would be wrong to use Haniyeh’s speech as an excuse for abandoning a meaningful peace process with the P.A.—not that it isn’t backpedaling anyway. So far, not a word. But I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about Jerusalem’s policies. So what to do?
Tom Friedman in his New York Times column of December 11, “Reality Check,” proposed that the world step aside. If Israel and the Palestinians wish to pursue priorities other than peace, let them “live with the consequences.” I might agree if those consequences could be confined to Israel and the land on which a Palestinian state should reside. But the region can’t be hermetically sealed. We got that point on 9/11.
So I propose taking Friedman’s comments a step further. Let the United States in concert with the UN, European Union, Russia and the Arab League nakedly state what they already know. There will never be an agreement producing a viable Palestinian state and real peace unless both parties get down to the core issues and publicly acknowledge the only viable outcomes: East Jerusalem serves as the capital of Palestine. The Old City comes under joint/international control. Palestinian refugees forego a return to Israel while Israel contributes to the building of its new political neighbor. Settlers in the heart of the West Bank leave—or stay as permitted residents under Palestinian law. And a land swap enables Israel to keep its adjacent Jerusalem and Tel Aviv suburbs.
If anyone thinks that the core issues can be negotiated on any other terms, send me a check or money order for $1,000 and your size, male or female. I’ll stick an incredible new suit of the most delicate fabric in a #10 envelope and mail it immediately.