Fathers Know Best

Last night I was learning Pirkei Avot with my son and a voice from nearly two millennia ago was heard in the room. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel whispered the very words I had been looking for:  “I have found nothing better for the body than silence.”

The analogy of Klal Yisrael and a body is apt because even though the components are distinct and different, the same strand of DNA runs through them all, and every single part is needed to make the whole. The thing that would be best NOW for Klal Yisrael is silence with no further talking with the Palestinians.

Considering the present peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a modern version of this classic lesson jumps to mind, “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.” There is nothing good to say about the talks; there is nothing good being said between the parties; and if anything miraculously were to come of the present round, it is assured that there would be nothing good to say of its end result. All this negative noise begs the question, “Why is there so much talk about prolonging the negotiations?”

To answer this requires accepting that all the players are invested and that many reputations and much political capital are at stake.

Secretary of State John Kerry has been an indefatigable steward for the talks; no one could have devoted more effort than he. While Israeli Minister of Defense Ya’alon’s remarks calling Kerry “messianic” and “obsessive” were sardonic, they reflect Kerry’s complete commitment to achieving peace between the PA and Israel. Though the sincerity of Kerry’s efforts cannot be questioned, their efficacy can; although we may wish for the arrival of Moshiach bearing peace, the announcement seems premature.

Skipping Russia which is otherwise engaged, the balance of the Quartet, the European Union and the United Nations perceive the world as they wish it to be, rarely letting reality interfere. Consuming a daily regimen of mountains of misinformation about the Israeli-Palestinian situation provided by Palestinian sources and pro-Palestinian non-governmental organizations, it would be hard to imagine that they could take a different stance than their generally pro-Palestinian position. Their standing as a positive influence in the process would be greatly improved if they would better vet their sources, and by doing so realize the distinct agenda behind so-called neutral resources of information.

Case in point was the recent flap over comments made by EU Parliament President Martin Schulz regarding the alleged disparity of water consumption between Israelis and Palestinians. Schulz said he was provided information from Palestinians claiming that on average an Israeli citizen uses four times as much water as a Palestinian. When confronted with accurate statistics, Schulz admitted to accepting the data without bothering to verify it. Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that “… they [the EU] repeat accusations against Israel without examining them…”

Though the “Two-State Solution” is a failure and should be sent to history’s scrap heap, there are alternate paths to consider. There is already strong movement towards a “One-State Solution” due to the effect of Arab intransigence on issues key to Israelsurvival: Arab demand for return of “refugees”; Yerushalayim as its capital; return to pre-1967 borders; and NO recognition for Israel as a Jewish state. These terms prove unequivocally that the Palestinian Authority does not believe in or does not want a dedicated Jewish State and Palestinian State existing side by side.

Let us for argument’s sake accept this premise. It permits for one State, either Israel or Palestine.

Arguing for a one-state solution, a Palestinian State would fail financially and through internecine warfare in short order, while the State of Israel is a proven viable, vibrant, thriving Jewish state here already. The canard of the demographic issue is actually in Israel’s favor, and, oh yes, Hashem promised Israel to the Jewish people.

Israel could unilaterally annex Area C and accept all the Arabs of this sector as Israeli citizens, with full voting rights, providing them a platform of service superior to that which they would receive anywhere else in the region, without changing the nation’s demographics significantly.

The other plan which has its own quiet virtue is something both the Palestinians and the Israelis have made abundantly manifest: The present is not a propitious time to negotiate, let alone achieve peace. From the Israeli perspective it is not a simple matter of “nothing ventured; nothing gained.” Every time in the last generation that Israel has sat down to talk peace with the Palestinians, Israel has lost strategic position — both actual, as in the case of Oslo Accords, and theoretical, when both Barak and Olmert verbally ceded land to the Palestinians in return for a chimerical peace agreement. Subsequent negotiations with Palestinian leadership has picked up where these failed negotiations have left off, with the Palestinians showing gains on paper and Israel grasping at air.

It is a good habit when angry to count to 10 before speaking; doubly so when both parties are angry; geometrically so when both parties are enraged; exponentially so when the parties are at odds and intractably enraged for generations. And this last level would be the prudent place to find ourselves today in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Just ask Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel.

Silence… I like the sound of that.


Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.