It’s an interesting life, being the former leader of your country. If you are blessed with a natural charisma, like Bill Clinton, you can quickly switch to the lecture circuit, and earn six figures for each appearance. Then, you can just as quickly spend this money helping your unelectable wife fight for the Democratic party nomination against the only other unelectable candidate. In the meantime, John McCain sits back and watches, gleefully picking furniture for the next White House renovation.
It’s a tough life, coming down from the high of having so much power, and being in the spotlight for almost every waking minute. While your country provides you with a generous pension for the remainder of your life, after a few short years you often slip back into the obscurity from which you emerged.
So in a way, it was not surprising to see the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser, former prime minister of Australia, afflicted by a severe dose of Jimmy Carter-itis. My taxes provide him with income until the day he dies, a fine office in Collins St (I was just in the foyer the other day and noticed him on the list of tenants), a driver, and all the other mod-cons that any former leader enjoys. I don’t seek for a second to deny him of this; I just wish he would happily fade away like the rest of them.
I can understand if he’s a busy politician relying on underlings for information and policy, that he might end up misinformed with regard to the Middle East. But now, in his golden years, that he has plenty of time on his hands, surely he could use this time to properly study a topic he wants to address so he can write about it in a balanced way. Balanced is what he asks for, but he is anything but that.
He suggests, like Jimmy Carter, that dialogue with Hamas is the only path to peace. That since Hamas were the legitimately elected representatives of the Palestinians, they have earned the right to be partners to a negotiation. That they should be offered the opportunity to discard their policies that call for the destruction of Israel, and reform themselves, much in the same way that the IRA did in Northern Ireland. Of course, the IRA never had as their charter to destroy Britain and send the population into the English Channel.
He acknowledges the widespread view that Hamas cannot be believed, and that a cease-fire is only a “hudna” – a temporary period for them to rearm before the next wave of attack. But, he says, people who hold that view commit themselves to continued warfare. Therefore, he asks that we ignore these minor details and with open arms, engage in dialogue with Hamas.
Mr Fraser calls for a cease-fire, ending the blockade of Gaza, and cessation of settlement construction in the West Bank as the prerequisite steps towards peace. Did anyone tell him that every single day, rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel, terrorizing the town of Sderot? Surely stopping those would be a useful prerequisite step? Did anyone tell him that Gaza shares a border with Egypt, who conduct their own “blockade” of Gaza, and keep their border totally sealed (except when Hamas manage to blow a hole in it)? Besides, is any nation obliged to maintain open borders with a neighbouring region, especially one that continues to declare open war in both word and action?
Hamas are, quite simply, a vicious enemy who will do whatever it takes to reach their goal of the destruction of Israel. They have been happy to let their own people live in squalid conditions for decades just to be used as pawns in this game. They rejoice every time Israel kills one of their own civilians (from whose house a missile may have been fired) because it gives them the ability to paint Israel as the oppressor before a world media that laps it up like a hungry dog.
An even-handed approach may work when both parties equally seek a viable goal, a goal that is compatible with their mutual ongoing existence, and where there is some degree of goodwill on both sides of the fence. But this is not the situation. Carter, Fraser, and indeed Shimon Peres can talk to Hamas all they like, but no talk will make them change their spots.