At the Globes Conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday, economics wasn’t the only topic discussed by the politicians invited to speak at the podium. With Knesset elections a mere five weeks away, any opportunity to raise the issue of the “peace process” is seized with gusto. And money matters, like everything else, can be tied to Israel’s relations with the Palestinians.
Because this conference was held following a significant weekend, during which Qatar-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal arrived in Gaza, it was inevitable that defense and foreign policy would upstage fiscal concerns.
But need it have been an occasion for a burlesque performance on the part of the usual suspects?
Let’s begin with the master of the absurd, President Shimon Peres. The father of the concept of an imaginary “New Middle East,” who only deigns to modify his definition of that fantasy when Israelis are blown up on buses or holed up in bomb shelters, outdid even himself on the stage.
Indeed, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and recipient of the Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama asserted that Mashaal’s statements about the intention never to “cede an inch of historic Palestine” and to continue killing and kidnapping Israelis, indicates that Israel must run to embrace Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a “peaceful partner for peace.”
To explain his position, he opted for metaphor. He said that a bottle of poison with a clear label is less dangerous than an unmarked one, because the former at least lets you know that the substance inside is lethal.
This is actually a perfect analogy to Hamas and Fatah. Hamas screams for the murder of Jews and announces its true goals; it constitutes the bottle of poison with the label. Abbas and Fatah, on the other hand, alternate between showing and hiding the label, but the contents of the bottle remain equally deadly.
Rather than reaching the right conclusion from his own clever comparison, Peres used it to insist that Israel race to drink the unmarked poison.
To add idiocy to insanity, the Israeli president gave an interview to Spiegel Online International the following day, in which he claimed that the Palestinian Authority’s new non-state observer status at the U.N. made it more necessary than ever for Israel to engage in peace negotiations with Abbas.
“Now the major issue will be the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the two parties will try to hunt each other. Is that a prospect for the future? That's what we've done the whole time: They used to blame us, and we used to blame them. But we have to forget the past,” he said. “…My proposal is: Draw a line and say there is a forgiveness of the past; we are not going to sue each other. It's a waste of time. We have to open negotiations without prior conditions right away...”
Peres conveniently omitted what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out while addressing the foreign press on Sunday: "This weekend the leader of Hamas, sitting next to the Hamas leader of Gaza, a man who praised Osama bin Laden, openly called for the destruction of Israel. Where was the outrage? Where were the U.N. resolutions? Where was President Abbas? Why weren't Palestinian diplomats summoned to European and other capitals to explain why the P.A. president not only refused to condemn this, but actually declared his intention to unite with Hamas? There was nothing; there was silence, and it was deafening silence."
Another player in the theater of the grotesque at the conference was former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who attacked Netanyahu for not coddling Abbas, the “moderate.”
"We methodically hurt the ones who do want peace,” he said. “We help raise the radical elements instead. The result of this policy could be the collapse of the Palestinian Authority government very rapidly, which would create the worst intifada we've seen thus far. We are not far from it."
And, of course, there was an aria by former Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni, trilling her tired vocal cords on the same old stanzas.
"On Saturday, [Hamas] celebrated the defeat of the Israeli government,” she sang. “Every day that passes under this government, Hamas is strengthened and Israel is weakened."
Livni actually had the gall to bemoan Netanyahu’s having “negotiated” with Hamas, referring to the U.S.-Egypt-brokered cease-fire that the Israeli prime minister was strong-armed into accepting. Had he not done so, Livni would have been among the first to pummel him for alienating the White House and for being a war monger.
While Peres’ crime is to declare that history doesn’t matter, Olmert and Livni are experts at rewriting it.
It was when Olmert was prime minister and Livni foreign minister that Hamas took over Gaza. It was Olmert, too, who offered Abbas everything he was ostensibly asking for — short of the absolute annihilation of the state of Israel — and received a cold shoulder from the PA president.
The latest poll released by Haaretz reveals that a whopping 81 percent of the public believes Netanyahu will emerge victorious on January 22. It is not so much love for the current leader at the root of this assumption — since the Right does not trust Netanyahu to be staunch, even about building new houses in the so-called “controversial” E1 corridor, and the Left opposes him altogether. But a majority of the electorate cannot stomach the blindness and hypocrisy that characterizes his political enemies.
For this, Netanyahu has the honesty of the Palestinians — both Hamas and Fatah — to thank.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the Arab Spring.”