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We can’t make peace but we can sure make up terms
By RAY HANANIA
The Jerusalem Post
20/05/2010

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=175947

Palestinians and Israelis haven’t been able to come up with a workable peace plan, but they can sure make up original terms. In fact, a complete new dictionary can be filled with such phrases and words created by both sides up over the years: The road map for peace; Targeted killing; Righteous resistance; Martyrdom operation.

More recently, someone invented the term “proximity talks.”

It’s a term I had never heard before, maybe because I was never in proximity to the person who might have said it. But then, isn’t that the point of having peace discussions based on “proximity”? What exactly do proximity talks mean?

Well, for starters, it means not talking to each other, which probably makes both sides happy. It does allow them to talk to everyone else.

Pure genius, if the intent is to pretend peace talks are taking place, make President Barack “The Muslim” Obama look good and, well, do nothing.

I thought they jumped too quickly to the term proximity talks. Palestinians and Israelis could have initiated proximity talks in stages.

They could have had the “procrastination talks,” where each side promises to discuss peace, but never actually makes it to the negotiating table. Then, they could have moved from procrastination talks to the next stage, “approximation talks.” Maybe the two sides could have sat in the same room, but instead of talking, they do that thing people in the Middle East are known for – wiggling their outstretched hands at each other and making faces.

Then, from approximation talks they could have easily moved right into the proximity talks where they talk “at” each other, not “to” each other. It only works if you don’t listen to what the other side is saying, which is what Palestinians and Israelis are basically good at doing.

They could do this over the course of say, five more years, and from proximity talks they could then move to something more substantive, like “virtual reality” peace talks where Twitter and Facebook would play a leading role, and where words like “de-friend” and “un-follow” would be common.

They can do the whole computer e-mail dialogue and then spam each other with “flame wars.”

Maybe Obama can ask Dennis Ross to draw a map using invisible ink and offer it to the Palestinians, pretending it is an Israeli offer. And the Palestinians can then insist that they first have a cup of tea before engaging in anything of substance. The Palestinians might demand that the Israelis meet them at the negotiating table at sundown on a Friday night, for example. We can call those talks the “Shabbat shuffle discussions.”


AND WHEN it all collapses, they can start all over again at step one, with recycled procrastination talks. If that doesn’t work, Palestinians can promise to “recognize” Israel – in a police lineup, of course. Israelis can announce they are “freezing” settlement construction, not by suspending the construction of new housing units in the West Bank, but by installing high-powered air conditioners in the homes of settlers and forcing them to bundle up to stay warm.

Of course, the Israeli plan would require the purchase of huge amounts of air conditioners, paid for by American taxpayers, leaving Palestinians to wonder how come they can’t come up with ideas that require large donations from the Americans, too.

“Proximity” doesn’t mean that you have to hit your mark, of course. It only means that you get close. Close to peace, not actually getting there. That way, no one is disappointed and everyone could say “I told you so.” Everyone knows, though, that “close” only counts in horseshoes, a game most Israelis and Palestinians don’t play anyway. It doesn’t count in peace, as we have seen over the past 17 years of dead end talks.


Dead end. That’s another one of those road map terms. We could call them cul-de-sacs instead of dead ends if we wanted to put a positive spin on failure. No one likes to live on a dead end street, but people do like to live in cul-de-sacs.

I’m sure by now you are scratching your yarmulke or your keffiyeh wondering where this is all leading, or even better, what the heck am I talking about? Don’t worry.

That’s the brilliance of proximity talks, which is what this column has been all about anyway. It doesn’t take you anywhere at all, but you think you have been there when you are done.

The author was recently awarded the Sigma Delta Chi national award for column writing by the Society of Professional Journalists.

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