The twisted parallel drawn last week by the United Nations under-secretary general, when he compared Sderot and Gaza as well as terror victims and terror creators, did not come out of nowhere. It was formulated and reached such scope thanks to consistent Israeli policy in the past two years – a policy that sanctifies negotiations – even under fire and while Israelis are wounded – for the purpose of personal political survival or the preservation of a certain political reality.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s declaration that negotiations under fire are a clear Israeli interest is no more than an official stamp on the ongoing erosion in Israel’s bargaining positions vis-à-vis the international community. Even if we can understand her logic, one must disagree with the naiveté inherent in her words – the kind of gullibility that forces Israel to face serious pressure and gives rise to miserable equations such as the one made by the UN under-secretary general who compared despicable terror to its victims.
Dialogue under the shadow of rocket terror, propaganda, and educational terror is not an Israeli interest, neither via a secret channel nor in a declaratory and open manner on the Knesset podium. The foreign minister’s naiveté, or is it in fact her effort to play dumb, in fact advances negotiations aimed at serving Prime Minister Olmert’s political desires and needs. Yet without noticing it perhaps, she erodes and weakens Israel’s most fundamental positions.
Olmert is trying to have the cake and eat it too. On the one hand, he engages in secret contacts over the most burning issues, such as Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, knowing that his political survival depends on the radical Left and the realization of its positions. On the other hand, he and his ministers turn to Shas and to some Kadima members, issue denials, and wink, as if saying: “Rest assured, nothing will come out of it.”
When diplomatic talks turn into a tool aimed at preserving personal or political status, and when negotiations turn into detached diplomatic chatter lacking any target or substance, politics gain the upper hand, while the country itself is weakened and destabilized. After all, it is clear to everyone that the three leaders, Bush, Abbas, and Olmert, will not be bringing the sought-after peace, each one for his own reasons. All that would be left of this diplomatic amusement is further erosion in Israel’s positions, and particularly weak opening positions once the genuine diplomatic process rolls around in the future.
For the time being, the failure of the contacts will be blamed on the State of Israel and we shall have to pay the price to Europe, the UN, and the Quartet.
Shas plays key role
Shas, displaying uncharacteristic political naiveté, allows Olmert to play with it while making constant declarations that it would not be party to a government that engages in talks under fire and discusses the division of Jerusalem. For Shas, the current political situation constitutes a convenient platform that is perfectly suitable for eliciting benefits and achievements on behalf of its constituency and this is legitimate and understood.
However, by doing so, Shas is reinforcing and stabilizing a government that is dismantling the State of Israel’s strategic and most vital assets.
Insisting on an end to terror as a pre-condition for dialogue is a position that must not be renounced. This is what Ariel Sharon believed too, when he adopted diplomatic move that circumvented talks.
Negotiations under the shadow of anarchy, Qassams, and suicide bombers blur the righteousness and legitimacy of Israel’s bargaining positions, and they must not be used in order to establish a coalition or survive politically. The UN under-secretary general made it clear to us even without intending to do so.
Knesset Member Reuven Rivlin is a former Knesset speaker