Aviv. Last week, James Wolfensohn gave a long interview to Haaretz.
He poured out his heart and summed up, with amazing openness,
his months as special envoy of the US, Russia, the EU and the
UN (the "Quartet") in this country - the same job entrusted now
to Tony Blair. The interview could have been entitled "A Warning
to Tony". Among other revelations, he disclosed that he was practically
fired by the clique of Neo-cons, whose ideological leader is Paul
and Wolfowitz have in common is that both are Jews and have the
same name: Son of Wolf, one in the German version and the other
in the Russian one. Also, both are past chiefs of the World Bank.
where the similarity ends. These two sons of the wolf are opposites
in almost all respects. Wolfensohn is an attractive person, who
radiates personal charm. Wolfowitz arouses almost automatic opposition.
This was made clear when they served, successively, at the World
Bank: Wolfensohn was very popular, Wolfowitz was hated. The term
of the first was renewed, a rare accolade, the second was dumped
at the earliest opportunity, ostensibly because of a corruption
affair: he had arranged an astronomical salary for his girl friend.
could be played by Peter Ustinov. He is a modern Renaissance man:
successful businessman, generous philanthropist, former Olympic
sportsman (fencing) and Air Force officer (Australia). In middle
age he took up the cello (under the influence of Jacqueline du
Pre). The role of Wolfowitz demands no more finesse than that
of the average gunman in a western.
belongs to the
humanist, universal, optimistic,
world-embracing trend in Judaism,
a man of peace and compromise,
an heir to the wisdom of generations.
Wolfowitz, at the other end,
belongs to the fanatical Judaism
that has grown up
in the State of Israel.
beyond personal traits, there is a profound ideological chasm
between them. To me, they personify the two opposite extremes
of contemporary Jewish reality.
belongs to the humanist, universal, optimistic, world-embracing
trend in Judaism, a man of peace and compromise, an heir to the
wisdom of generations. Wolfowitz, at the other end, belongs to
the fanatical Judaism that has grown up in the State of Israel
and the communities connected with it, a man of overbearing arrogance,
hatred and intoxication of power. He is a radical nationalist,
even if it is not quite clear whether it is American or Israeli
nationalism, or if he even distinguishes between the two.
is a standard-bearer of the neo-cons, most of them Jews, who pushed
the US into the Iraqi morass, promote wars all over the Middle
East, advise the Israeli Prime Minister not to give up anything
and are ready to fight to the last Israeli soldier. To
avoid misunderstanding: I don't know either of the two personally.
I have never seen Wolfowitz in person, and heard Wolfensohn only
once, at a Jerusalem meeting of the Israeli Council for Foreign
Relations. I admit that I liked him on sight.
arrived in this country some months before the "separation plan"
of Ariel Sharon. He says now that the separation would have succeeded
"if the withdrawal had been accompanied by the second part of
the separation, which, according to my understanding, would have
created an independent entity that would become a Palestinian
state." He believes (mistakenly, I think) that this was the intent
of Sharon, whom, unlike his successor as Prime Minister, he respects.
envisioned a blooming Gaza Strip, flourishing economically, open
in all directions, a model to the West Bank and a basis for the
new state. To this purpose he raised eight billion dollars. Unlike
other idealists, he invested several millions of his own money
in the greenhouses left behind by the settlers, hoping to turn
them into the basis of the Palestinian economy.
the Israelis, like to think that
we are the center of the world.
Wolfensohn, a person with a
world-wide outreach, sticks a pin
into this egocentric balloon.
Already now, he says, only the
West considers the Israeli-Palestinian
issue so important. Most of the world
is indifferent. "I have visited more
than 140 countries: you are not
such a big deal there."
at Condoleezza Rice's side during the signing ceremony for the
document that was to prepare the way to a brilliant future: the
agreement for the opening of the border crossings. The crossings
between the Strip and Israel were to be again wide open, Israel
undertook to fulfill at long last the obligation it took upon
itself in the Oslo agreement (and has violated ever since): to
open the vital passage between Gaza and the West Bank. On the
border between the Strip and Egypt, a European unit was already
the whole edifice collapsed. The passage between the Strip and
the West Bank remained hermetically sealed. The other border crossings
were closed more and more frequently. The products of the greenhouses
(together with Wolfensohn's investment) went down the drain. The
frail economy of the Strip disintegrated altogether, most of the
1.4 million inhabitants descended into misery, with 50 per cent
and more unemployment. The inevitable result was the ascent of
complaint stresses the immense importance of the border crossings.
Their closure - ostensibly for security reasons - spelled death
to the Gaza economy, and, by extension, to the hope for peaceful
relations between Israel and the Palestinians. Before the Hamas
victory, Wolfensohn saw with his own eyes the awful corruption
that governed the crossings. Relations between Israelis and Palestinians
there were openly based on bribery. The Palestinian products could
not cross without payment being made to the people in control
on both sides.
lays at least some of the responsibility for the ascent of Hamas
on the Palestinian Authority - meaning Fatah - which was infected
by the cancer of corruption. The victory of Hamas in the democratic
elections both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip did not surprise
him at all.
this idealistic person to resign?
He puts the
main blame on one person, who belongs to the clique of Wolfowiz:
Elliott Abrams. Like Wolfowitz, Abrams is a Jew, a neo-con, a
radical Zionist beloved by the Israeli Right. He was appointed
by President Bush as deputy advisor for national security, responsible
for the Middle East. With this appointment, Wolfensohn says, "all
the elements of the agreement achieved by Condoleezza Rice were
destroyed". The passages were closed, Hamas took over.
new actor on the stage,
Tony Blair, is exuding charm and
joviality, embracing and kissing.
We, the audience, know that
his lot will be exactly like that
of his predecessor.
accuses Abrams openly of undermining him, in order to get him
out. True, the Quartet is not under the authority of Abrams, but
a person in this position cannot function without solid American
support. Abrams pushed him out in cooperation with Ehud Olmert
and Dov Weisglass, Sharon's confidant, whose plans were menaced
by Wolfensohn's activity. It was Weisglass, it will be remembered,
who promised to "put the Palestinian issue in formaldehyde."
In the eyes
of Wolfensohn, both sides are to blame for the current situation,
but he clearly blames Israel more, since it is the stronger and
more active party. No doubt, Israel is very important for him.
He had a lot of sympathy for it (In World War I, his father was
a soldier in the Jewish battalions which were set up by the British
army and sent to Palestine.) He gave the interview to the Israeli
paper in order to voice a severe warning: time is not working
clock is ticking. Today, Israel is surrounded by some 350 million
Arabs. In another 15 years, it will be surrounded by 700 million.
"I don't see any argument that supports the idea the Israel's
situation will get better."
an expert on the global economy, with a world-wide perspective,
Wolfensohn could also point out that the importance of the US
in the world economy is gradually declining, with new giants like
China and India rising.
the Israelis, like to think that we are the center of the world.
Wolfensohn, a person with a world-wide outreach, sticks a pin
into this egocentric balloon. Already now, he says, only the West
considers the Israeli-Palestinian issue so important. Most of
the world is indifferent. "I have visited more than 140 countries:
you are not such a big deal there."
this limited interest will also evaporate. Wolfensohn rubs salt
the wound: "A moment will come when the Israelis and the Palestinians
will be compelled to understand that they are a secondary performance...
The Israelis and the Palestinians must get rid of the idea that
they are a Broadway performance. They are only a play in the Village.
Off-off-off-off-off Broadway." Knowing that this is the worst
one can tell an Israeli, he adds: "I hope that I am not getting
into trouble by saying this, but, what the hell, that's what I
believe, and I am already 73 years old."
I do believe
him - and I, what the hell, am already 83.
knows that there is
only one way to strengthen
Abu Mazen: immediately to start
rapid and practical negotiations
for the establishment of the
State of Palestine in all the
occupied territories, with its capital
in East Jerusalem.
metaphor from the world of theater looks to me even more apt that
Wolfensohn himself imagines.
is happening now to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is mostly
theater, and not the best in town.
actors drink from empty glasses, recite texts that nobody believes,
put on false smiles and embrace heartily while loathing each other.
best scene so far was the Gaza "separation". Contrary to Wolfensohn's
belief, it was merely a performance, melodrama at its best, directed
by Sharon and the chiefs of the settlers, the army and the police.
Many tears, many embraces, many sham battles. This week the performance
was again in the media, with a huge propaganda machine trying
to show how immense was the pain, how the poor evacuees have remained
without villas, how many more billions will still be needed. The
intended conclusion: it is impossible to dismantle the settlements
in the West Bank.
new actor on the stage, Tony Blair, is exuding charm and joviality,
embracing and kissing. We, the audience, know that his lot will
be exactly like that of his predecessor. Like him, he is the "special
envoy of the Quartet". His terms of reference are exactly the
same as those of Wolfensohn before him: much of nothing. He is
supposed to help the Palestinians to build "democratic institutions",
after the US and Israel have systematically destroyed the democratic
institutions that were set up after the last Palestinian elections.
has embraced Olmert, kissed Tzipi Livni, smiled at Ehud Barak,
and we know that all three of them will do their utmost to disrupt
his mission before he reaches a position that would enable him
to realize his real dream: to conduct peace negotiations, as he
successfully did in Northern Ireland.
that is happening now is theater. Olmert pretends that he really
wants to "save Abu Mazen", while doing the opposite. At Bush's
request, he allowed the transfer of a thousand rifles, with a
lot of fanfare, from Jordan to Abbas, so he can fight Hamas -
understanding full well that to an ordinary Palestinian this will
look like collaboration with the occupier against the resistance.
He enlarges the settlements, keeps the "illegal outposts" and
closes his eyes while the army is helping the settlers to put
up more outposts. That is a foolproof recipe for a Hamas takeover
in the West Bank, too.
knows that there is only one way to strengthen Abu Mazen: immediately
to start rapid and practical negotiations for the establishment
of the State of Palestine in all the occupied territories, with
its capital in East Jerusalem. Not more discussions about abstract
ideas, as proposed by Olmert, not another plan (No. 1001), not
a "peace process" that will lead to "new political horizons",
and certainly not another hollow fantasy of that grand master
of sanctimonious hypocrisy, President Shimon Peres.
next scene of the play, for which all the actors are now learning
their lines, is the "international meeting" this autumn, according
to the screenplay by President Bush. Condoleezza will chair, and
it is doubtful whether Tony, the new actor, will be allowed to
take part. The playwrights are still deliberating.
all the world is a stage, as Shakespeare wrote, and all the men
and women merely players who have their exits and their entrances,
that is true even more for Israel and Palestine. Sharon exited
and Olmert entered, Wolfensohn exited and Blair entered, and everything
is, as Sakespeare wrote in another play, "words, words, words."
can view the next parts of the play with philosophical detachment.
We, who are involved, cannot afford that, because our comedy is
really a tragedy.
The above article is published by Gush Shalom.
by Uri Avnery:
Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.
He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices
of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's
hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Those who want
to help out Gush Shalom can email [email protected]
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