Yoel Marcus
Haaretz (Opinion)
June 24, 2011 - 12:00am

The Israelis and the Palestinians are alike in their inexplicable fear of the dentist. They postpone one appointment after another with various excuses, knowing in their hearts that their teeth will not improve. They avoid the painful operation, but in the end the inevitable will happen. It will be both painful and expensive.

Both patients know the truth and the serious consequences of avoidance, but they can't bring themselves to the frightening dentist's chair. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, if we stick with this metaphor, is playing the self-confident hero, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak is describing the situation as an approaching tsunami. The two complement one another with confidence that everything will be all right. What did the hunchback say? Do you know how I got to be a hunchback? Everyone slapped me on the back saying that everything would be all right.

There are moments in history, says opposition leader Tzipi Livni, when the approaching fiasco is written on the wall: We're on a collision course with the world. It makes no difference whether it happens in September or October - the process has already begun. There is less understanding for Israel's behavior; Israel is being described as a colonialist country. "In politics, as in criminal law, a failure to prevent a crime is considered a failure after the fact," Livni says.

At this stage it's still not too late. It's not yet September. It's not yet certain that the Palestinians have decided they want to carry out the threat of UN recognition of a Palestinian state. At a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this week, it was reported that the Palestinian leaders are having second thoughts about whether to stick with the "gesture" of recognition by the UN General Assembly - not only because of the danger that the United Nations might base its decision on the 1947 partition plan, which divided the country into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The UN decision is liable to turn out to be a joke. While Israel will be recognized as a Jewish state to which the Palestinians object so strongly, the burden of proof that the Arabs in the original decision are actually Palestinians will hit them like a hammer.

September has become an important month not only because of the discussion that will or won't take place about recognizing divided Palestine as a state. Something else will be happening then far more important than the hollow decision at the United Nations: the Egyptian election. This event is important for us when it comes to the peace treaty that has lasted 30 years, but above all when it comes to the kind of Egypt that will arise after the Tahrir Square uprising. Will the election produce a government ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood? Will Egypt continue to be a responsible, stable and peace-loving nation? Will America, Europe and the moderate countries in the region be able to see it as an island of sanity and responsibility?

It's crucial that Israel be removed from the discourse about Egypt's election battle. It's important for Israel to be in advanced negotiations for an agreement with the Palestinians at the time of the Egyptian elections, not in a state of stagnation. So we have to switch from a mode of propaganda and haggling to a mode of a moderate policy. We've been operating for too long in the propaganda arena and not enough with a positive and pragmatic policy. The switch to rapprochement and recognition must be the product of an Israeli initiative.

American commentators say U.S. President Barack Obama does not have outbursts of anger, or a tendency to publicly insult people who have hurt him. But he doesn't forget. The trick that Bibi pulled on him in Washington is the type of thing one doesn't forget, unless we understand where we erred and how to help the administration in the two tests in September, both with an initiative to renew negotiations based on the 1967 lines and by refraining from presenting ultimatums.

Bibi speaks of unconditional negotiations but presents the Palestinians with the condition that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state. And let's say they recognize us and sign, then what? Don't we have experience from the time of the road map, when the first condition was to stop terror? All these caprices from both sides are not to the point. We're creating the problem and we're suffering the consequences. This is nearly the last moment to be serious about the summons to the dentist. Without teeth we'll be forced to eat cottage cheese, and that's too high a price to pay for giving up on peace.


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