Monday, October 13, 2003

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

-- Robert Frost

Frost's beautiful poem is an ode to life's changes. Many will recognize it from its effective use in the film The Outsiders. The point being that nothing living stays pristine and new forever. Life goes on, the flower wilts, the sun goes down, the young man gets wrinkles...nothing gold can stay.

Israeli politics got a piece of gold this week as a group of opposition politicians met unofficially with a group of Palestinians to draft their own peace plan. Leave it to Israeli politics to come up with something odd.

This is like Al Sharpton and Ramsey Clark going off to Miami to negotiate a trade agreement with Cuba.

You know your peace plan has problems when even Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak are saying it's a bad idea.


Labor Chairman Shimon Peres refused to take part in the agreement because it makes reference to UN Resolution 194 that the Palestinians see as the basis for their “right of return,” and which Peres described as a danger to Israel. Earlier Sunday it was reported that the Palestinians had relinquished their claim to a “right of return.”


The unofficial draft peace agreement cobbled together by Palestinians and Israeli left-wing opposition members is "delusional," former prime minister Ehud Barak said Monday.

Barak - who has not returned to the Knesset since he left office in 2001 after offering the Palestinians far-reaching concessions for peace during his tenure as Labor leader - told Israel Radio he was sorry that the Labor Party had permitted a few of its members to formulate such a "delusional" peace plan as the Geneva Accord.

"This is a fictive and slightly peculiar agreement... that clearly harms the interests of the State of Israel," said Barak.

"Fictive"...heh. Well, it's true. This is the Ivory Tower fantasy writ large. The only possible purpose to this agreement is to discredit the government the Israeli electorate overwhelmingly selected in favor of the one they overwhelmingly rejected. A group of people with no power to implement negotiating with another group of people with no power to implement - even if they would or could, which is by no means certain. Cracks already show:

Also Monday, former Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Hisham Abd al-Raziq was quoted in the Al-Quds newspaper as saying that the unofficial draft peace agreement completed Sunday does not include a Palestinian concession on the right of return. Abd al-Raziq was a member of the Palestinian negotiating team.

Such a concession, which the Palestinians have agreed to exchange for Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount, comprises the core of the agreement, known as the Geneva Accord.

In reaction to Abd al-Raziq's remark, Meretz MK Haim Oron, a member of the Israeli negotiating team, said the Palestinians had agreed to concede the right of return and to solve the "refugee" issue outside the borders of Israel, Israel Radio reported.

However, Abd al-Raziq's statement appears to be partly a semantic comment on what the "right of return" actually means. Israel Radio quoted Abd al-Raziq as saying that those "refugees" who do return to Israel would be able to do so only with Israeli agreement, and that some Palestinians will remain in the countries where they now live or be absorbed by the Palestinian Authority - precisely the terms of the accord.

The agreement, though, also explicitly calls for the Palestinians to concede the right of return, and says that a decision to allow the limited number of Palestinians to settle in Israel will not be defined as realization of the right of return.

On a substantive level, Abd al-Raziq seems to be committing to the same treatment of "refugees" as the agreement specifies. However, his explicit rejection of a Palestinian concession of the right of return, despite the equally explicit wording of the agreement demanding such a concession, could be interpreted as a contradiction of the peace draft.

It would seem fairly important to get such "semantic" issues settled early on, and the fact that there are already disputes as to terminology despite explicit language in the agreement is not a good sign. This is the type of thing that can and has scuttled such agreements. In real, implemented agreements, seemingly small differences loom large. Where the rubber hits the road is where the skid begins. Fortunately, odds are that this one's never going to leave the show room.

We can look for other danger signs in the agreement that might instruct as to how things would work out if it did get out on the city streets:

* The Palestinians will pledge to prevent terror and incitement and disarm all militias. Their state will be demilitarized, and border crossings will be supervised by an international, but not Israeli, force.

The Palestinians are already under such an agreement, in substantial part. They are even now required to end incitement and disarm the "militias." Leaving aside the more difficult disarmament, an end to incitement ought to be the easiest thing possible and is in direct control of the PA. They could stop incitefull broadcasts, and curb the cult of Jew-hatred and suicide bombing they have created. Of course, they have taken no steps toward these things.

There is an elected government in Israel who is responsible for implementing policy and the Israeli electorate will determine whether that government is carrying out their will properly or not. Fantastic agreements entered into by an Israeli Left desperate to be used again ought not to be allowed to make the task of the government more difficult than it already is.

Hopefully this new "Geneva Accord" will be printed on beautiful and expensive acid-free paper stock, and hung in lovely frames for all to see and marvel at - a piece of printed artwork. It would be fitting, I think, because it is certainly destined to 'Stay Gold' forever.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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