In a few minutes I leave behind my Jerusalem home, and I board a plane for my DC home. The Jerusalem I leave behind is sullen and grey, defensive, and self-righteous. In three weeks the Israel Defence Forces wreaked more havoc, killed more civilians, including hundreds of children, and raised the century-old cycle of violence to a new height – or low. Israel won't mourn now, not when it is only Arab children we have killed. Our time to mourn will come in the not-too-distant future, God forbid.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Out of the depths of pain -- for the blood of innocents on my, yes, my hands, since I am as implicated as any citizen in the madness. Out of the depths of pain for those who can feel no pain, no emotion, at the passing of children. And why not? Well, take your pick: a) it is us or them; b) they started it; c) they could have acted better; d) all or none of the above, and a thousand other asine and idiotic justifications that only selfish children and -- world-famous novelists like A.B. Yehoshua – are capable of coming up with.
Yes, there is despair, but there is also disgust, both self-disgust and disgust and those who are not disgusted. Were it not for the fringe, the righteous in Sodom – no, were it not also for my belief that the public façade of self-justification and self-righteousness masks a lot of discomfort, even with all the cliches that we repeat like mantras to soothe ourselves – then my despair would be even greater.
Two plane rides, a half of day of traveling, and I will be in Washington, DC, the City of Hope, watching the inauguration of Barack Obama. I will rejoice in the national celebration of one fatherland, and try to suppress the memories, and the images, of the other.
Will the "audacity of hope" spill over from Washington to Jerusalem?
My fellow-blogger, and eternal optimist, Gershom Gorenberg thinks that it will. In an op-ed in Haaretz today, Gorenberg rejects the doom-and-gloom forecast of Husein Agha and Rob Malley in the current New York Review of Books and prefers the upbeat tone of Martin Indyck's latest book, where it is claimed that what we need now is an intensive effort on the part of the new president. (What would-be peace-maker doesn't make that claim?) Surprisingly, and without any argument, Gorenberg says that Indyk is right and Malley wrong – and that the Gaza War proves Indyck right.
After the years of neglect under Bush, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has blown up again, on Obama's doorstep. Grim photos appear in the media. Relations between Israel and Turkey, both American allies, are crumbling. While careful not to conduct foreign relations before the inauguration, Obama promised last week that his team would become "immediately engaged in the Middle East peace process." At her confirmation hearing for secretary of state, Hillary Clinton spoke of the "tragic humanitarian costs" borne by Gazans and of the incoming administration's "determination to seek a peace agreement."
But the last time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict blew up was after the American Administration made an intensive effort – some say it blew up partly because of that effort -- and two strong leaders (well, Arafat, anyway), were running Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The point of Agha and Malley's article was that no matter whether the American effort was intensive or half-hearted, whether the leaders were strong or weak, at the end of the day, the two0-state solution did not interest enough people on either side. (The Israelis are always in favor of the Palestinians having a "state," not a state.)
For Gorenberg, who wrote a great book on the beginning of the settlement enterprise on the West Bank, everything begins and ends with the 67 Occupation – as if one could only get Israel to evacuate settlements, and to withdraw to the 67 borders, all would be right with the world. That, of course, is the faith of the liberal Zionist. But on what is that faith grounded? Blessed are the peacemakers, and I include within that Indyk, Ross, Miller, and, yes, Kurtzer. But they are all failed peace-makers, and I don't think it is for lack of effort.
I am going to the City of Hope in a few minutes. The problems that Barack Obama face are extraordinary. But the economy will one day recover. The Iraq War will one day end. The war in Afghanistan will one day end.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I am afraid, will never end – not as long as Israel is Israel and Palestine is Palestine. It has been going on for a century. During that time the Soviet Union rose and fell, there were two World Wars, Europe began to adopt a federal model.
Yes, there were three years of hope, cut short by a Jewish assassin's bullet. But that hope may have been as false as the Middle East hopes of the new administration.
Things may get better at some distant time in the future. But not with the current constellation of power.
I sure hope my mood changes when I get to DC.