Israeli President Shimon Peres created a stir on Monday when he delivered a speech at the World Economic Forum in Jordan that strayed far beyond his circumscribed presidential mandate.
In a short and somewhat rambling address, and in remarks to reporters afterwards, the 89- year-old head of state made a number of brash and blatantly political statements that could just as easily have been penned by a pro-Palestinian speechwriter.
"President [Mahmoud] Abbas, you are our partner and we are yours," he said, as though oblivious to the fact that the Palestinian leader has steadfastly refused Israeli pleas to return to the negotiating table. Then, in a sentence as contorted as the logic behind it, Peres opined that, "What holds back the renewal of the peace negotiations are some gaps in the bridge between the beginning and the conclusion."
Sorry, Shimon, but that is just balderdash. The Palestinians have repeatedly insisted on various preconditions before talks can resume and they would like the outcome of the negotiations essentially predetermined. It is that – and not "some gaps in the bridge" – whatever that means – which has prevented a resumption of diplomatic dialogue.
But the truly troubling aspect of Peres' remarks is that he performed a great service to the Palestinian cause by obfuscating reality and portraying both sides as equally responsible for the current impasse.
This is moral relativism at its worst, and it merely reduces the pressure on the Palestinians to act in good faith. As the president of Israel, Peres should have defended the Jewish state's position rather than try to ingratiate himself to his audience at Israel's expense.
Indeed, not once did Peres use the word "terror" in his speech, nor did he refer to rocket attacks from Gaza or the Hamas regime which holds sway there. Instead, he offered an astonishingly naive and simplistic view of just how easy it should be to resolve a century of conflict.
"It's time for peace. It shouldn't be so complicated...
I do believe it is a real possibility," he said, belying the fact that the 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords have only pushed peace further away than ever.
Some like to view Peres as an irrepressible optimist, but when optimism becomes completely detached from reality, it is more akin to delusion than to hope. And this is hardly the first time that our timeworn president has demonstrated an unwillingness to come to grips with the world as it exists, rather than how he would like to imagine it.
In interviews last month with The Jerusalem Post and with the Walla news site, Peres insisted that he did not regret the Oslo Accords, even though they sparked the worst wave of terrorism in Israel's history. "There were terror victims before the Oslo Accords," he told Walla, as though that somehow diminishes the stain of responsibility from his record.
Just to put the facts in context: in the five years after Oslo, more Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorists than in the 15 years prior to the signing of the agreement. A total of 279 men, women and children were murdered in the half-decade following the accords, while 254 were killed in the previous 15 years.
And in the two decades since Peres and Yitzhak Rabin cooked up Oslo and forged a deal with Yasser Arafat in September 1993, over 1,400 Israelis have lost their lives to Palestinian terror.
Rather than acknowledge this devastating failure, Peres could not find it within himself to utter even a word of remorse or guilt. And that is what is truly remarkable about his observations in Jordan: not that Peres delivered them, but that so many people still take him seriously.
Peres brought disaster upon the country, handed parts of our ancient homeland over to our enemies, gave them weapons and thereby begat the most lethal period of anti-Israel terror in our history, and yet he still does not shy away from offering sage advice about how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
That is like the captain of the Hindenburg offering flying lessons, Lindsey Lohan preaching about responsible drinking or Barack Obama expounding about fiscal discipline.
Yes, Peres had a long and storied career, and he made important contributions to the country and its development in a wide variety of fields. But he was also directly responsible for one of the greatest strategic errors in Israel's history, for which we are still paying a heavy price.
And that is precisely why his propagandizing is so infuriating. As president, he has no right to interfere in the policy decisions of the elected government. And as a failed leader, Peres would do best to keep his opinions to himself.
As he himself noted at the outset of his talk in Jordan on Monday, "History is made of biographies of men and women who failed to forecast the future."