BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Magic Words

Politeness counts!
Remember when you were a child and wanted something? Inevitably, you pointed and yelled out your demand. If your demand was somewhat reasonable, for instance a small toy or a candy bar, you got it.

Your parents did a quick mental calculation regarding the cost to their wallet and their peace of mind. The fact that the toy would be forgotten in a week’s time or that you would not eat your vegetables that night at dinner were sacrificed in order to get you to shut-up.

However, the demand was always met with the gentle admonishment of, “What’s the magic word?”

The magic word was, of course, “please.” As children, we often forgot that basic manners, which include politeness, count a great deal in civil society. As you grew older, you realized that there were many “magic words.” Practically every situation, from the bedroom to the boardroom has its own set that get you want you want.

Presently, in our relation with Europe and the US, there are three magic words that they want to hear: “Two state solution.”

The Pareto Principle
In the late nineteenth century a political scientist by the name of Wilfredo Pareto wondered why power and wealth were distributed the way they were in Italy. He studied the players and came up with a startling conclusion. About 80% of the wealth and power were controlled by about 20% of the populous. Even more startling was the fact that power was rotated among these elites and fortunes handed down, generation to generation.

For 80% of the world, things like the miracle-in-the-desert that Israel has created, the vast achievements of the Jewish people (and their vast sufferings) mean nothing. They are interested in their own problems. They weigh the voices of 21 Arab states and 56 Muslim nations against a solitary Israeli-Jewish voice. Although these states often loathe implementing democracy, they are more than happen to acknowledge it in world affairs. They are only too happy to kow-tow to the mathematics of the situation and throw their vote towards the Arabs/Muslims in whatever forum it happens to be needed, whether it is the UN, UNESCO, WHO or whatever.

About 20% of the world does count, and that 20% is in Europe and the US. It is from that 20% that are support emanates where the bulk of our trade comes from, where the bulk of our cultural inheritance comes from and where we as a people are best understood. It is in America and Europe that our high-tech goods are sold, on whose stock exchanges our high-tech companies are listed and where our government bonds are bought and sold. So, maybe we should think twice and say those “magic words.”

Everything has a price
Barack Obama believes in the healing power of words, obviously inspired by his own experiences and the philosophy of men such as Mahatma Gandhi and Desmond Tutu. Arab and Muslim states have often relied on hyperbole (and the application of force, to be sure) to rule over their populations, when their scant achievements should have sent them packing long ago. Nasser was able to ride-out the defeat of the Six Day War with a single speech!

So talk is not cheap. Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to keep this in mind when he says the magic words “two-state solution.” First, these words need to be uttered either in Europe or the US in a public forum. In all likelihood, they will have to said in both places and multiple times.

After he says them, that’s when the piper needs to be paid. The Europeans need to have their feet put to the fire on granting Israel EU trade status and dropping their flirtations with Hamas. Tony Blair doesn’t get to visit Gaza, let alone Gerry Adams, and the rest of the Eurostinians don’t receive Israeli press credentials or visas until the EU delivers.

The Americans also will have to pay the piper. The highly coveted tanker aircraft that Israel wants would be a nice “thank you” – again, politeness counts Mr. Obama – for starters. I’m sure there are more than a few items on the Kirya’s shopping list that Mr. Netanyahu would love to acquire.

Never missing an opportunity
The Palestinians, it was once said, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I wish I knew who said it first because I would really like to give him credit. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas would be caught flat-footed by such an announcement. They have been struggling for weeks now to come up with an agreement that would allow them to form a national unity government, so far with no results. An Israeli pronouncement acknowledging the goal of a two-state solution would obviously put both the PA and Hamas at a disadvantage.

The “thank you” delivered by the Europeans and the US could also hardly be missed in Iran. A trade pact with the EU would bolster the Israeli economy at a time when the regime in Teheran is struggling with the results of two decades of mismanagement and allocation of national assets towards a policy of belligerence. The delivery of tanker aircraft – and who knows what else – would give Israel an enhanced ability to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities. Perhaps enough of a reason to get them to negotiate seriously on the matter, but probably not.

Finally, stating the obvious, that a two-state solution is Israel’s goal would pull the opposition’s teeth in the Knesset. Israel has already committed itself to several agreements who’s ultimate end would be a Palestinian state. Acknowledging what it has already signed would seem to be a no-brainer. It is an opportunity that Israel should not miss.

April 11, 2009 - Posted by | Middle East | , , ,

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