Yesterday Haaretz came out with its annual Writers’ Edition, where famous authors replace the paper’s reporters for a day and try their hand at journalism.
When they first did this cute experiment, I wasn’t impressed. First of all, I though it was a slap in the face to the readers who deserve to get real news, every day. Second, it seemed to me like an admission that in the age of the internet they had lost the battle.
Today I look at it differently. I think it’s actually a gutsy move, and very creative. And some of the texts are really good.
Like the lead story of the paper, by short-story genius and playwright Etgar Keret, who supplied a great headline: “Netanyahu: The conflict is insoluble”.
Keret accompanied Netanyahu and several ministers on a recent trip to Italy. The following is a segment of Keret’s piece, where he talks about what happened after the briefing that followed Netanyahu’s press conference with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The reason you should read this, is because it shows that there is also an alternative headline to the item. It could have been: “Netanyhu’s solution: Wait till the problem goes away”.
The briefing is already drawing to a close and I half push in and stutter a question. I travel a lot in the world, I say, and hear a lot of people who talk about Israel. Some love it and some hate it. But they all describe Israel as bogged down and passive. The Palestinians can initiate a flotilla one day and a declaration to the United Nations on another, while Israel, it seems, has no plan and can only react.
The prime minister objects and says these are the kind of statements that appear in the newspaper I’m writing for, but that does not yet mean it is true and that Israel actually has a great many friends, although we like to say it’s isolated. I nod and say that without reference to the issue of our friends, it is important for me to know what the government’s peace initiative is and what the plan is that we are promoting to end the conflict with the Palestinians.
The reporters around the table convey to me mixed feelings of empathy and impatience. They look at me the way I looked at my wife 14 hours before when she asked me to give Netanyahu a note from her. I feel as if they like this strange attempt of mine to get a pertinent answer from Netanyahu to my question, but for some of them at least, it’s a shame to waste valuable time on this empty move, especially when the clock is ticking and the Piazza Navona awaits.
The only person who treats the whole thing with patience and seriously is Netanyahu. “This is an insoluble conflict because it is not about territory,” he says. “It is not that you can give up a kilometer more and solve it. The root of the conflict is in an entirely different place. Until Abu Mazen recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, there will be no way to reach an agreement.”
Netanyahu made similar comments at a press conference a few hours earlier, but then it sounded like lusterless, recycled spin. Now that he was sitting across from me, looking me in the eye and explaining the same thing with endless patience, it suddenly sounded like the truth. Well, not my truth, but his truth.
I continued to nudge him, saying that even if all that was right, I still didn’t understand what pragmatic plan would come out of that conclusion. Netanyahu told me right away that the practical plan for advancing the peace process is to reiterate this at every opportunity. [my emphasis]
“You have to see the effect it has on people,” he said, smiling. “You say it and they just remain slack-jawed.”
At Berlusconi’s press conference, I still saw in Netanyahu that slew of cliches that people typically attribute to him: scared opportunist wielding slogans just so he can hold on to his seat. But now, from a distance of just 20 centimeters, he looked like an obstinate and resolute man with an uncompromising, and very threatening, world view. I try to smile, but after this conversation I just can’t summon a smile, or hope. Just despair.
“The strength of the reactions was much more powerful than I had expected… As a guy who sits at home, my perception was that there are things that are shown on the outside, but surely there must be some secret chanels of negotiations, where Palestinians and government officials meet in Qatar. But what I found out was that they overtly told me No: From our perspective, a peace initiative is where we try to convince the Palestinians to say something. We’re moving sentences from one place to another. We make them clearer, more sharp but that’s all we feel that we can do right now to bring peace. Nothing other than that. For me, it kind of shocked me.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Tuesday with European Parliament President Prof Jerzy Buzek in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu told Buzek the he aims to push a diplomatic initiative that would see 30 UN-member nations block the PA’s bid. “It will not create an opposing majority, but it will balance out the bid’s potential support,” he said.
The prime minister further warned that if the UN allows the Palestinians to “get a taste of having their way, they’ll fall in love with it and will never agree to any compromise again.”
Oh yes. If there’s anything we don’t want to see, it’s people who have been occupied for 44 years getting a taste of having their way. And then falling in love with it.
Gives me the chills.