The Longest Distance Between Two Points

Math was never a particular strength, but I have some faint recollection from geometry or algebra (or something like that), that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Conversely (another mathematic term if memory serves), the longest distance between two points would be a crooked, bent, or circuitous line.

Flashbacks to the ancient history of my high school math lessons, a trauma which I thought I had sufficiently suppressed, were brought about by two entirely unrelated recent events. First of these was the long overdue and much needed vacation to Thailand with my wife, celebrating our 20th anniversary. Flying from Israel to Bangkok should not take more than 9-9.5 hours, but took us some10.5 hours because we flew on Israel’s national airline, El Al. 

Its not that El Al is slower or less equipped to make such a flight. The reason it took so much longer is because neither El Al, nor any other Israeli aircraft, are allowed the right to fly over air space controlled by most Arab or Islamic countries. As a result, flights to the east take an unnecessarily long and circuitous route.

In order to fly “direct” our plane flew in international air space, south over the Red Sea, with Egypt on our right and Saudi Arabia on our left. We hung a sharp left past Yemen, near Somalia, and flew over the Indian ocean, bypassing all the countries who not only don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist, but deny the most basic opportunity to allow even a civilian aircraft to fly through their air space.

An unnecessarily long but uneventful flight later, we arrived in Thailand to begin our vacation.

The day after arriving, news broke of the Israeli government planning to expand several different Jewish communities over the “Green Line,” the armistice agreed to at the end of hostilities in 1949 following the attempt of many of the same Arab countries to drive Israel into the sea. This was met with the knee-jerk round of international condemnation. 

It’s particularly noteworthy that the US State Department, doing the bidding for the Obama administration in the midst of an election campaign, took the lead in this while it was the same Obama administration that, two years ago, tried to broker a deal whereby Israel would suspend building over the “Green Line” in exchange for Palestinian resumption of negotiations for peace, and the elusive carrot on the stick of certain Arab countries’ giving Israeli planes the right to transverse their air space.

One would think that if the Palestinians truly desired to live in peace, negotiating peace and the creation of a new Palestinian state would not have to be something cajoled by the White House, but would be something that they would run to do, not run away from, as is seen time and again, with the preconditions they set just to resume talking worse than severe turbulence at 30,000 feet.

Though israel did agree to suspend construction in communities throughout the West Bank, Palestinian president Abbas barely made an effort to look civil at the launch of new negotiations at the UN a year later, negotiations that you’d have missed if you blinked, because the Palestinians waited until the last month of the building freeze just to sit down to talk. Then, almost immediately, they set new terms, insisting on a new building freeze, and then froze the negotiations so fast when that did not happen, that the seats in which they sat to talk briefly were still warm.

Oh, and no new Arab or Islamic countries were magnanimous enough to let El Al fly over their territory.  Thus, my 10.5 hour flight.

That brings me back to the crooked, bent, or circuitous line. I’m definitely a “green” in the sense that conservation of precious resources is always important, and wasting them something that’s not good.  The extra fuel used on a flight that’s easily 10 percent longer than needed bothers me, as well as the time cramped up on the plane. But it is what it is, and Israel accommodates realities on the ground, or in the air, as our existence is still challenged by most of our neighbors.

What bothers me the most is the naive and incorrect manner by which the Obama administration policies make the exact same mistakes, connecting dots that are not even in the same plane as if there’s a simple quick fix in making peace in our region. If it were as easy as connecting two dots in a straight line, we’d have had peace long ago.

Making matters more circuitous is the Obama administration’s own part in setting conditions and terms in this process.  The equation suggested for the Palestinians’ even agreeing to talk with Israel, that the administration perpetuates, is one where Israel gives concessions or provides “confidence building measures,” yet the same is not expected of the Arab side.  Even when Israel does this, the other side either does not deliver (like providing the right to fly over their air space), or spits in Israel’s face (like the recent return of the remains of terrorists who committed some of the most gruesome crimes against Israel, whose bones were given a hero’s welcome, lauding their martyrdom and murder of Israelis).

Later this month, Secretary of State Clinton is due to visit Israel in an effort to make something happen that looks like peace, or progress toward peace.  The mistake in the formula that she’ll be advocating is that Israel’s making concessions, (even just to restart peace talks) such as releasing more than 100 Palestinian terrorists who were involved in killing Israelis, will reduce the probability for war and terrorism, thereby increasing the probability for peace.  Based on past experience, this is the formula for a crooked or even broken line, if I ever saw one.

In high school math, I recall several instances where I got the answer to a particular question right, but the equation proving that answer wrong, and did not get credit for the question.  I hope I am wrong, but sadly, I don’t see this formula working or bringing peace to our region. 

And when I go back to Thailand, I suspect that I’ll have to fly “direct” at least an hour longer than needed, because even the condition of allowing Israeli planes to fly in their air space is not one most Arab and Islamic countries are prepared to allow.

About the Author
Jonathan Feldstein made aliyah in 2004, married and raising six children in the Judean mountains. He is a long time Jewish non-profit professional and works closely with many Christians who support Israel.