Headlines from recent days look like they were taken from a long-forgotten era. The blood. The horror. The bereaved families. The heart-wrenching personal stories. The element of surprise (these attacks always seem to catch us by surprise, despite intelligence warnings) and the flood of analysis filling the airwaves and our thoughts. There is no room left for anything else. The Trajtenberg economic reform committee? Daphni Leef? Margalit Tzanani? Tents? Protests? How could you even think of such matters at a time like this? Israel has reverted to its default setting, the same old familiar headlines that overshadow everything else.
And our reactions? Same old. We refuse to go back to business as usual. We'll build another wall. We'll strike back. We'll conduct inquiries. We'll draw the appropriate conclusions. But what will those conclusions be? That we need another Border Police unit along the border? That the next time the IDF gets a security alert from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) it must convey it to more senior commanders? That we need to improve coordination between defense branches? That we need more frequent security patrols until the border fence is completed? That we should appropriate more money for defense rather than cut defense budgets? That we need to hurry up and deploy more Iron Dome batteries?
You can't blame people for adopting this mind-set. Our arsenal of available responses is now 44 years old. Sixty-three years old, if you prefer, and it can even be traced back to pre-state Israel. It's also logical for the most part. What, if someone attacks our citizens on the road to Eilat don't we have the right and duty to strike back at whoever planned the horrific attack? If we have an internationally recognized border with a neighboring country and that border was breached by terrorists, don't we have a right and even a duty to construct a border fence? Most certainly we do. Launching inquiries and boosting security are the right things to do. The point is that even if a politician makes such decisions and gets ironclad political support for them, it will do nothing to avert the next terror attack. These are the means used by the government because it has to do something. This is what people expect the government to do. But that's it.
Does anyone have a magical solution?
I am not saying we should enter negotiations with the Popular Resistance Committees or Hamas as long as they refuse to engage us or recognize our previous agreements with legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people. But there is no question that we are passing up an opportunity to talk to an utterly sane PLO leadership committed to a non-violent solution. The PLO's mindset is a far cry from that of the violent organizations in Gaza. It is prepared to make peace with us.
Precisely now, as a new Arab world emerges without anyone knowing what shape it will take, and with the Popular Resistance Committees about to lose their main Syrian benefactor, now is the time to build a coalition for tomorrow. Conceivably this coalition could include Israel and the PLO under Mahmoud Abbas's leadership, along with Egypt (if its new leadership so chooses), and Jordan. The coalition might be supported by some of the Gulf states. The coalition will stand up against the Iranian-backed Palestinian rejectionists.
The key to building this coalition is serious engagement between Israel and the PLO, rather than exhausting ourselves in a futile attempt to thwart the Palestinian U.N. statehood bid.
Yes, this is still possible. After all, we are allied by our egotism. People on both sides of the divide want to live.