Anyone who has driven an automobile for some period knows the feeling now gripping the Jews of Israel. It is the feeling a driver has when the gauge on the dashboard signals the gas tank is empty. The driver is aware there is still some gasoline left in the tank - the gauge always allows for that - but is not certain how far he can travel on that invisible reserve.
The uncertainty of the situation, the lack of knowledge of where the next filling station will appear, and the frightening thought of being stuck alone on a deserted road all contribute to the feeling of desperate tension gripping the driver.
Well, that is pretty much how we in Israel feel today. We are driving on empty.
In our heart's heart, we know the current Saudi proposal is a non-starter. Saudi Arabia has trotted out this very same plan every so often to repair its fraying image in the West. It does not address any of the hard issues that are part of the current struggle. It is simply the old "land for peace" mantra that has proven so ineffectual until now.
How much land? What about just a little peace? Yasser Arafat already had in hand 99% of what the Saudi proposal purports to give him, and he has repaid us in blood and terror for our efforts at peace. Who can really trust him?
And who can trust Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad, Hizbullah, the Iranian mullahs, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his Hamas terrorists, the whole gang of evil that confronts us? Even the most fervent peace-seekers in our midst know deep down there is very little fuel left in that gas tank.
The use of additional force against the Palestinians may also not provide us with the security we seek. Destroying the infrastructure of terror in the West Bank and Gaza Strip may minimize the frequency and deadliness of the attacks against us, but the psychology of hatred and the continuing incitement of that hatred against us will not be crushed completely by force. In fact, the very triumph of force may enhance it. There will continue to be those who somehow see blowing themselves up to kill Jewish babies and innocent civilians as a noble and spiritually uplifting act.
Of course, given the choice of these imperfect options - surrender to terror cloaked in a false peace process or the use of force to attempt to control that terror - it is logical force must be employed to prevent our destruction. But ultimately, it may not be the answer to our dilemma. Therefore it is not clear how much fuel is left in that gas tank either.
IF THE OUTSIDE world was not so cynical in its attitude toward the struggle here in the Middle East, it could serve as a filling station for us. It could demand an end to the hatred and incitement, a reasoned approach to the problems, a recognition the previous solutions based purely on land for peace have failed and allowing the Arabs to exploit the "refugees" for more than half a century was a terrible error. It could then have legitimacy in providing a forum and plans for easing the pain of both sides and laying the groundwork for a framework that would, over time, probably a long time, serve to settle the outstanding issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
However, the statements and behavior of the European Union, Kofi Annan and the UN, much of the world media, and the resurrection of both open and winked-at anti-Semitism in so many countries gives us little confidence that this possible filling station is really open for business. So we have no choice but to keep on driving.
The Jewish people's automobile has always had an unseen and impossible-to- measure reserve in its tank. No people in the world has endured what we have and yet survived and even prospered in spite of all the odds. There is a reservoir of faith that sustains us, no matter our level of observance. Faith that there will be better days, that the God of Israel will not forsake us, that somehow there will eventually emerge a way out of this morass, that somewhere on our road there is a gas station open and prepared to fill our tank once more.
Even as we weep over our innocent victims and mourn the seemingly implacable hatred driving our enemies, we should renew our faith in ourselves and our future.
We are experts on driving on empty. It is a skill painfully learned over millennia. It will stand us in good stead now, when all of our other skills seem to be insufficient to help us.
©2002 - Jerusalem Post