It was like a peace process re-enactment. An American President, an Israeli Prime Minister, and a Palestinian, eh... Chairman? President? Mob boss? And the rest of the actors showed up too. In Jeruslaem, activists took to the street. As before the disengagement, kids with kippot walked from car to car tying ribbons, this time gold for Jerusalem rather than orange for Gush Katif, onto car antennae. In our yeshivah, a few people came through passing out flyers, encouraging us to go to the demonstrations.
But it was all half-hearted. Bush has spent all his political capital and gone far into the red with is Iraqi misadventure, casting a long shadow on his own party's scant hopes for reelection. Olmert and Abbas were both selected as second-in-charge by their strongman predecessors, Sharon and Arafat, precisely because they were weak-willed and incapable of presenting any serious political challenge to their respective bosses. All three of them held the lowest political approval ratings amongst their respective societies on record. Abbas even lost an election last summer, but somehow he's still around.
And the protests lacked fervor as well. Instead of the 400,000 demonstrators who flooded Jerusalem when Barak attempted to give away the Temple Mount, only 10,000 filled the Kotel (Western Wall) Plaza. A few anti-Annapolis banners were plastered to public fences, and peace now also taped some small signs onto stoplights, but there wasn't even a serious bumper sticker campaign. The air was alive with apathy.
The summit itself went as expected. Everybody patiently listened to the Arabs list their demands and grievances, gathered to smile for a photo-op, and signed off on some mealy-mouthed press release about a Palestinian State, which was supposed to be created in 1997, and would now be created no later than 2008... try not to snigger, run for the bathrooms if you've got to laugh out loud. Olmert and Bush then left the larger gathering to have the more grown-up discussion about confronting Iran, and everybody flew home.
Olmert came home and preached to us about the demographic threat. The fear being that Arabs will soon outnumber Jews between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and will then demand Israeli citizenship to vote Israel into the grave. Just as Palestinian Nationalism is an fake imitation of Zionism, so too whatever comes to replace it will likely be a fake imitation of the anti-Apartheid struggle. Of course, these demographics threats are based on Palestinian Authority figures which wildly overestimate the number, and the Jewish birthrate continues to increase while the Arab birthrate declines.
Today is the 29th of November, the 60th anniversary of the historic decision of the United Nations to partition the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea into a Jewish and Arab state. The Jews accepted, the Arabs attacked, and they've never stopped. Israel's upper crust still doesn't get that the Arabs will never accept an independent Jewish state, even if it's squeezed onto the head of a pin. If the Jews have power, if they do not submit to the slavish sub-citizen status of all non-Muslims in the Islamic world, then the entire edifice of Islam, which means "submission," is disproved. The endless grievences are a bluff; the Arabs will never accept Israel not because of reason but because it's against their religion. I only hope it doesn't take Israel's rulers another 60 years to figure that out.