As a public sign of what we have been seeing here for a while now, the double-decker Jerusalem tourist bus is back on the roads. This is the cherry on the cake of greatly improved tourism to Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular. I am not sure whether the return of tourists and students on programs has been simply due to the fairly step decline of SUCCESSFUL Palestinian terrorism. I prefer to believe (with some reason I think) that those truly supportive or intrigued by this Land have decided to stick with it and give it a go, in the knowledge that terrorism probably won't disappear for a while yet.
Regardless, it is a good sign that follows in the footsteps of new restaurants, ice cream parlours and clothes shops that seem to be popping up afresh around Ben Yehuda Street and so on.
Still, it's not all ice cream and smiles! I have had this peculiar deja vu feeling enveloping my thoughts lately. So often I've heard people greater than myself talking about how Israelis and Palestinians fail to make peace because they fail to understand eachother's cultures, electorates and expectations. Many commentators argue that this is indeed what ultimately led to the failure at Camp David in 2000.
Frankly, I do not think either side have learnt very much since then though it's not as if the 'classroom atmosphere' has been very conducive to learning.
But take a look at comments coming out this week and you begin to feel that the region's leaders barely understand their own electorate and its downfalls. President Abbas is demanding that Gaza's Disengagement be followed by others. And if not, Sharon will be to blame for any disturbances that occur subsequently in the region or worldwide. (Sounds like a badly hidden doomsday almost al-Qaida-like threat to me). And then there's PM Ahmed Qureia who has been keeping the people happy with "Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem. Disengagement is only the first stage of a longer battle". Sound familiar? UPDATE: Qureia also quoted as saying: "a state will not arise without our achieving all the rights of our Palestinian nation and the right of return". And what is that about freeing of the entire homeland?
And while Israel is taking some steps in what many consider the right direction, I wonder what will come of Sharon's promises to Ariel this week, that it will always be a part of the State of Israel. Seeing as he said that about Gaza too, I question whether anyone on the left or the right would be moved by such comments. And yet, it might place expectations at a level which is unhealthy for Israel and its neighbors in the future.
At the end of the day, like in 2000, these comments - in particular those by Palestinian leaders who seem content on unfairly raising the expectations of their people - will come back to haunt us when such goals are not or can not be reached in one, two or ten years from now. We've seen the disappointment and incitement materialize into Palestinian terrorism and equally (but differently) we are now seeing how much damage misleading Israeli expectations can do to the unity of a people.
Whatever my political view and wherever you stand, we should be demanding a little more leadership and responsibility by the leadership. Abbas & Qureia will achieve nothing by providing false or at least difficult dreams. Sharon and friends too should learn to 'call a spade a spade' and not present reality to suit their political ends alone.
It's the way of the politician I know. Damn shame that!