On his part, Olmert apologized for the deaths of Palestinian civilians in recent Israeli air strikes. At least 13 Palestinian civilians have been killed in Israeli air strikes in the past week, including two people in a Gaza house on Wednesday and three children on Tuesday. According to the AP, Olmert said he felt “deep regret for the death of innocent Palestinians.” “It is against our policy and I am very, very sorry,” he added. [source]
You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in Jordan who is fond of the idea that Olmert has come to the country to attend the Nobel laureates forum in Petra; or even worse, to shake hands with Abbas. Not the best of times with the last couple of days filled with Palestinian bloodshed, but then again when is it not a good time?
I don’t sympathise with Abbas, but I have some empathy for the situation he’s in. The last couple of weeks while blogging about all this bloodshed I’ve found it easy to forget political context. Sympathy comes easy; it’s resolution that has a tough time finding its place in this conflict. A lot of people, especially in Jordan want to see justice but justice is hard to come by as well. There is no leverage, there are no options and there is no kryptonite in the equation. We’re left with diplomacy; we can always give that up too and spend the next century or two sifting through sand. Or we can take Shakespeare’s advice and just sit on the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings. That’s always been helpful in the past.
Diplomacy isn’t anyone’s idea of “justice” but the alternative is nothing and while it’s easy for me or anyone else sitting on the outside of this conflict to prefer the nothingness, to prefer that Palestinians keep fighting and therefore keep dying, it remains an unrealistic and unreasonable alternative.
I am not a fan of Palestinian politics or politicians, but Abbas is nevertheless trying to hold this thing together with scotch tape. To the lesser observers (who are many) diplomacy translates to best-friends-holding-hands; peace is equated with love, with a dose of hippie music from 60Ã¢??s playing in the background amidst fields of neon flowers. Yet politically speaking it’s a different story. Diplomacy is negotiations, compromises, resolutions. The things Palestinians will have to compromise for the sake of statehood are unquestionably harsh, yet the harsher alternative is the stuck-in-limbo reality.
If the leaders and diplomats who are around today do not work for Palestinian statehood history will remember it; the Palestinians who will inevitably die years from now will remember it. I’ve never met a Palestinian in Palestine who preferred war to peace with Israel, to sovereignty and statehood. Ironically practically everyone in Jordan would indeed prefer it; every one on the outside-looking-in says why not? I never fully understood it to be honest. I can see the element of “justice” behind it but nevertheless.
The ideal situation would be that all Arab countries (including Jordan) cut off all ties with Israel: diplomatic, economic, etc. The next step is obviously that all the Arabs get together and unite, politically, economically and militarily. Then of course they all attack Israel to wipe it off the map and as for nuclear weapons they’ll simply erect a giant umbrella to protect them. Or better yet the brightest minds in the Arab world can come together to build a time machine.
The likelihood of any of this happening is along the lines of seeing cows fly and if you ask a Palestinian in a refugee camp if he’d prefer diplomacy to cows flying…well.
But hey, I’m open to all ideas so if anyone has any better ones (which are realistically viable to Palestinians and not to one’s own sense of justice) then comment away; I’d love to hear’em. Most people don’t like this kind of thinking, it’s seen as a betrayal. Is it? I spent a great deal of my teenage years protesting and shouting the streets and chanting slogans pretty much like everyone else in the Middle East (including Israel). Are we all meant to grow up and see the world differently? For some reason if you support Palestinian statehood then you’ve given up something (something which was given up by everyone in 1948 and then again in 1967 and in both years I wasn’t born yet). To promote peace and diplomacy is to condone Israeli actions and that is an equation that I’ve read between the lines many times and never clearly comprehended. Why can’t we do both? If a diplomat can kill off screen and speak of peace on screen, then why can’t we fight for Palestinian statehood and condemn Israeli aggression?