Keep Your Eye on the Ball
This is the advice often given in sports games in which
flinging or kicking or hitting a ball is a crucial element.
It embodies an important lesson that applies in many areas of
life: focus on the key issue, the important subject whose
progress is the main object of interest and do not get
distracted by side issues and sometimes even dramatic
developments that can catch the attention of many other
players in the game but are not important in the long run.
Everyone recognizes that this is important advice and people
try to keep it, wherever they are. However in real life, as
distinct from ball games, it is not always so easy to know
what the "ball" is, and in fact the key issue may shift from
time to time, without warning.
After the Oslo agreements were signed, the US and the Leftist
government of Israel and the Europeans seemed fixed on what
they thought was the main goal: a final end-of-conflict
resolution between Israel and the Palestinians that would
create, in the memorable words of Shimon Peres, "a new Middle
East." This terribly attractive goal, which seemed to them to
be attainable and in a relatively short time, led them to
dismiss any other events -- such as terror -- as distractions
that should be substantially ignored if they prevented
progress towards the real goal.
Yasser Arafat, on the other hand, was (and is) completely
focused on short term achievements. He wanted prisoners
released, he wanted guns and he wanted political and
diplomatic recognition. He got these, since they could be
understood as consistent with the final goal, and they
allowed the "peace process" to continue.
Now the Quartet -- the US, the European Union, the UN and
Russia -- has come up with another big plan for resolving
everything. Known as a "road map" -- short for "road map to
Middle East peace" -- the document purports to be a plan to
bring a permanent, stable settlement of the conflict between
Israel and the Palestinians with its central feature being an
independent Palestinian state.
However this time the Israeli government is focused on a more
immediate goal which, in these difficult days, has resonance
throughout the world: security. Senior Israeli officials
believe that Arafat is constitutionally incapable of
delivering this and must be pushed aside.
The Palestinians' immediate goals are release of prisoners
and some sort of enforced halt to Israel's anti-terror
activities, including targeted killing of terrorists.
According to past patterns, they would expect that the
Americans (and the Europeans) would pressure Israel to make
"confidence-building gestures" like releasing dangerous
prisoners and calling a halt to counter-terror measures. The
attempt to kill prominent Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rantissi --
who was reportedly the one who urged the most violent actions
in response to the recent peace moves -- and successfully
killing more than five other Hamas terror leaders, showed
everyone that Israel will not take its eye off of its goal of
One encouraging response to the recent events -- the Aqaba
conference followed by Hamas terror and Israel's strong
response -- was that US President George Bush, after
initially speaking out against Israel, later condemned Hamas
unequivocally and assured Israel that he understood its
concern with security.
While all this is going on, we must not forget that the main
thing that we must not lose sight of is the spiritual state
of ourselves and our community. If Hashem is with us, we need
not fear. (Bamidbar 14,9)
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