Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Way

Rodney Dangerfield once heard Sinatra’s inescapable version of “My Way” once too often. “I did it my way, I did it my way,” Dangerfield googled at us. “I didn’t know there were that many ways to do it.”

The Israeli government and the Fatah leaders provisionally running the Palestinian Authority are, according to inescapable reports, conducting negotiations within the Annapolis framework, and most believe there is also a back channel bargaining in secret. They are doing it their way.

Or are they? In 2001, I argued (not alone) that the deal was essentially cut, and the real challenge was creating an international diplomacy, including international forces, to take the power of thwarting progress out of the hands of terrorists, ideological fanatics, settlers, and rogue officers. Again, a little while back, Sam Bahour and I noted that—from Clinton’s parameters to Geneva’s “Initiative”—a way has been found, and that what (mainly) silent majorities on both sides need is a great power fiat to fear and trust.

The foundation will be the boundaries from before the 1967 war, and Israel will compensate Palestine with land for agreed-upon border modifications; Jerusalem will be capital to both states, and its Old City will be open, free of checkpoints and restricted areas; international forces will help keep the peace, especially where jurisdictions are shared; the bulk of Palestinian refugees will exercise their right of return by settling in the new state of Palestine and accepting financial compensation, though a certain number will be allowed to return to Israel proper; and, finally, all Arab states simultaneously will recognize Israel.

Now, Haim Ramon, Ehud Olmert’s old pal and Vice Premier, has begun to tell us about their way. On borders, there should be a land swap. On Jerusalem, sovereignty should map to the composition of neighborhoods. Soon, no doubt, we will hear about their novel way to handle the problem of refugees.

Maybe our problem is simply that we are importing the wrong sad songs. Yesterday, at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, supporters of the New Israel Fund assembled to award its (new) annual prize to advocates of coexistence. A choir of Israeli high-school students, Jews and Arabs, sang “Imagine” in Arabic, Hebrew and English. I looked at Shimon Peres’ eyes when we got to the transcendence of country, religion and possessions. Not his way, I suppose, and not exactly mine. But we were all teared up anyway.