While attending a social function in mid-September, a senior European diplomat and I got around to discussing the stymied "Oslo" process.
The very likeable gentleman denied being biased in favour of either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even as he spent a lot of time apologising for, or seeking to "explain", the failures and weaknesses of the Arabs. All the blame for Oslo's failure he laid at Israel's door.
Facts and reasons were at his fingertips; his arguments were not invalid, some were right on: The Palestinians are here and need a home, he said. Something has to be done to resolve the conflict. Justice can only be served by a fully independent state. And an economically viable "Palestine" would help to stabilise the region.
But realities that raised questions he dismissed with a shrug, like the fact that the corruption riddling the Palestinian Authority hardly bodes well for a future economy. As for the possibility that Arafat saw Oslo as the first stage in his long-held plan for Israel's phased destruction, well it was not worth considering. It was his informed opinion, insisted the diplomat, that the Palestinians and Israelis had all come to accept that they had to relinquish their dreams.
Some of his assertions were ludicrous: The Palestinians have got "nothing" out of Oslo, he declared. And if the whole thing did turn out to be a deception, then not only the US, but Europe too, would militarily intervene on Israel's behalf.
Two questions he asked himself, and confessed he could not answer:
How did the Jews manage to remain Jews despite all they had been through, scattered and persecuted among the nations? How come they are the only people today that adhere to the same religious beliefs they held 5000 years ago? "It's a mystery," he said. "No one knows the answer to this."
I corrected the diplomat, who earlier had confessed he was an atheist: "Actually, millions of Bible-believers do know the answer. The thing is, to you non-believers, our understanding is disregarded or written off as ridiculous."
He laughed, as he agreed.