Jason Alexander comes here to make peace, but sounds more like George Costanza. Problem is, he’s not alone.
Jason Alexander (“George Costanza” in Seinfeld) is a good liberal, he cares about Israel and wants to see peace, he wants to see Palestinians have their freedom and Israelis their security. He and an American group called “One Voice” were just in Israel and the West Bank again, talking to Shimon Peres and Salam Fayyad, to Israeli and Palestinian notables of all sorts. On Thursday Alexander wrote an op-ed in Yediot Aharonot titled, “Yes, you can,” which was almost mathematically even-handed. He mentioned the 8,000 rockets that battered Sderot, he mentioned the wall and the settlements that strangle Kalkilya. “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] can guarantee the support of the Palestinians in the West Bank for an agreement with Israel and force Hamas to respect it. And I believe Netanyahu can guarantee the support of the Israelis.” The problem is “violence on the part of the extremists,” and the solution is negotiations and compromise.
Alexander writes that he’s been talking peace with Israelis and Palestinians for 20 years, which means he probably has a good deal of knowledge about the conflict, and also some perspective. So I’m convinced that privately, he’s not even-handed; privately he knows that Netanyahu and the Israeli government are the rejectionists in this deal, while Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are the conciliatory ones. He can compare Netanyahu and Lieberman to Rabin and Peres, just like he can compare Abbas to Arafat, which must lead him to the conclusion that Israel has been moving away from peace while the Palestinians have been moving toward it. He knows what Palestinian violence was like in the past and what it’s like now. He knows the settler movement at least used to have a fight on its hands, and that it doesn’t anymore. There’s no way an intelligent, knowledgeable, liberal person, which I assume Alexander to be, can really believe that Israel’s leadership and the West Bank’s leadership are equally to blame for this long coma in the peace process.
So why does Alexander write this “yes, you can” crap? Either he’s lying to himself, or he’s afraid – afraid to blame Israel and not the Palestinians, afraid to be called a self-hating Jew, an Arab-lover, afraid of being written off as biased against Israel. So he plays patty-cake – he doesn’t play the “blame game,” he’s “constructive,” he doesn’t take sides, he deals out the same advice to Israelis and Palestinians, and thinks he goes home a peacemaker.
But I imagine Abbas reading his op-ed and saying, “Thanks for nothing, shmuck,” and I imagine Netanyahu reading it and saying, “That’s my boy, George.” By being even-handed, by refusing to name names about who’s keeping his end of the land-for-peace deal and who’s violating it, by refusing to say in whose court the ball rightly lies, Alexander lets Bibi off the hook and adds the weight of his voice to the crushing weight of the status quo. He comes here to try to effect change, to push forward the two-state solution, and only ends up digging the stake another little teeny, tiny bit deeper into the two-state solution’s heart. With all due respect to Alexander’s good intentions, this is Middle East peacemaking, George Costanza-style.
The problem, of course, is not that Jason Alexander is too faint-hearted to tell the truth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and thereby possibly help change it; the problem is that this conflict is plagued by faint-hearted, even-handed, liberal failures just like him. From Obama to Ban Ki-Moon to Sarkozy to Ashton to Blair to Merkel to Cameron, from the New York Times to CNN to the BBC, everybody out there is afraid to say out loud what, from all impressions, they know to be true: that the Israeli government is the problem here and the Palestinian Authority is not. Western liberal VIPs are afraid of being called anti-Semites, they’re afraid of being accused of helping the terrorists win, so it’s always “both sides” this and “both sides” that. They don’t like the occupation, they want to end it, I’m absolutely convinced, yet they tiptoe around, whispering and wringing their hands, and by the time they’re finished, the occupation is looking better than ever while Palestine is looking worse.
Faint-hearted Western liberals. The only difference between Obama and Co. in the Middle East and George Costanza in Seinfeld is that George was funny.