Part 2 of article
A tip for the Americans: Modesty. First of all, modesty. The current administration stormed into the Middle East, yet its leadership games, lofty declarations, and flattery for the Muslim world led Mitchell into a series of embarrassing visits to the region – while prompting the Palestinians to toughen their positions.
The direct talks did not come about because of the pressure exerted on Israel, but rather, because of the understanding that there’s a limit to how much pressure can be exerted on it. The construction freeze did not advance the talks, but rather, your understanding that talks cannot be started when their outcome is already agreed upon in advance.
If you try to push the sides too hard into doing things they’re not ready to do, it will end badly, and we shall pay the price in blood and fire. The talks about to get underway may end with a great farce, yet a farce for Obama means another drop in approval ratings, while for Israel it may come in the form of a bloody war next summer.
A tip for Ehud Barak: As opposed to the public bon-ton, your last year as defense minister had much dignity in it. The appointment of the next army chief, considering the difficulties, was undertaken in a proper, leadership-oriented manner. Your ability to serve as a level-headed voice in the forum of top seven government ministers, and the understanding that Israel needs a broad government are also part of a rather successful year for you.
The resumed talks are the end-of-year bonus you’re getting; a second chance to be part of a negotiation session and do it differently. What should you do differently? Instead of saying too much, allow me to remind you of one image which in my view tells the whole story: Clinton walking through the door after a group photo was taken. Arafat and Barak are showing respect to each other, as each one tries to be more polite and let the other enter the room first. Eventually, Arafat was forcefully thrown into the room by Barak, almost violently.
We all know the result: Barak pushed too hard, and Arafat, just like the Syrians before him, got scared and terminated everything.
At this time, Mr. Defense Minister, you have a chance to be part of a process that addresses the conflict a little differently, not as a watch that needs to be reassembled or as an enigma that needs to be solved, but rather, as a dance that needs to be danced together, carefully, at the same tempo and style. They say that porcupines make love carefully. Peace deals should also be finalized carefully. Very carefully.
And finally, a tip for Benjamin Netanyahu: Do not listen to any tips, neither those offered by this columnist nor those offered by other columnists.
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