Friday, December 24, 2010

The bird and the sea

 or: the diplomats' predicament

In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel - headed by Mister Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foremost diplomat - there is a certain feeling of concern. There is a sense that this country's international standing is deteriorating, especially since the official announcement that there will be no freeze and that the settlements are going to grow and flourish over every hill and dell.

In particular, the Foreign Ministry got some indications that the Palestinian Authority is in constant contact with European countries with a view to letting them follow the lead of France and Spain and upgrade the status of the Palestinian diplomatic representatives there. The Palestinians are talking about this with Britain, and Sweden, and Finland, and Germany, and Denmark, and Belgium, and Austria, and who indeed are they not talking to? And in South America there is a continuing parade of countries extending diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders. And at the United Nations, there is no telling what will happen at the impending vote on the draft resolution stating that settlement construction is illegal and contravenes the Geneva Convention.

In short, the situation is not good. So, something must be done! All Israeli ambassadors are called to stand at the breach, and repel with all their might this dangerous offensive. And heavy ordnance was put at their disposal, in the form of a juridical position paper drawn up carefully by the Foreign Ministry's team of legal experts, a paper which all of the ambassadors are instructed to deliver immediately to the governments to which they are accredited.

What does this position paper say? Quite a lot, in fact. It explains at great length that there has never been a ban on the construction of settlements during negotiations, since the status of the settlements should only be determined when the permanent status is agreed upon. In proof of which, it is pointed out that Israel has already been negotiating with the Palestinians for seventeen years without ceasing to concurrently build settlements. And since in all these seventeen years Israel has not yet gotten around to talking about the permanent status, the settlements had in the meantime tripled in size.

On the other hand, the Palestinians are clearly forbidden to unilaterally create facts via the passing of all kinds of unsympathetic UN resolutions. Certainly it would be a very negative step if various countries begin to help the Palestinians in establishing such facts. It might sabotage and derail the entire peace process. God forbid, it might even preclude the possibility that the negotiations would go on for another seventeen years!

In the Talmud there is the story about a stubborn bird who was angry with the sea and tried to make it into dry land. He filled his beak full of grains of sand and threw them into the sea, and one more beakful of sand, and one more, and one more... Another bird, his friend, happened to pass the spot and told him: "Ye fool, how much can you achieve, when all is said and done?"