Yalla Peace: Hope for peace at a roadblock

Israeli and Palestinian leaders refuse to take the steps necessary to make peace.

February 14, 2012 22:10
3 minute read.
IDF checkpoint

IDF checkpoint 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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It’s almost become normal for Palestinians and Israelis who support peace to find themselves at the same old roadblock, going nowhere fast. The only things moving are the extremists who continue to pave the way to the mutual destruction of both sides.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders refuse to take the steps necessary to make peace.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has imposed several pre-conditions for peace talks to resume, including the demand for a one-sided end to violence. Palestinians must prevent their extremists from committing acts of violence but Israel can continue to not only attack Palestinian areas in the Gaza Strip with missiles but also to target Palestinians in the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s preconditions go way beyond what is acceptable. I call them his “no preconditions” preconditions.

The Israelis insist that Palestinian accept Israeli confiscations of West Bank land around east Jerusalem, and accept the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, too. Netanyahu has outlined that Jerusalem will remain undivided, merging east and west Jerusalem without any consideration of Palestinian rights.

Netanyahu has also imposed another pre-condition.

Palestinians have accepted Israel’s right to exist and recognize Israel as a state. But since the collapse of the peace process more than a decade ago Israel has demanded that Palestinians not only accept Israel as a “Jewish” state but also say the words.

Forget about the fact that when a state distinguishes between its citizens in a racial or religious way, that’s discrimination.

There are many words for it. Words that are destruction and words that try to keep the door open for reason and yet fail.

In the face of these preconditions, Israelis continue to declare publicly and with no shame that they are willing to enter the peace process with “no pre-conditions” but that the Palestinians refuse to make peace.

This bizarre claim of “no pre-conditions” consisting of a lot of pre-conditions was driven home to French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently during a meeting he had with the World Jewish Congress last week. Sarkozy was embarrassed when he was overheard at the G20 Summit in Cannes last Fall telling President Barack Obama that Netanyahu was “a liar.” Before that he offered strong words in support of the Palestinians, to encourage them to return to the peace table even without a settlement freeze.

It didn’t work and Sarkozy had to offer something to get the pro-Israel critics off his back. He has since softened criticism of Israeli settlement building, embracing one of the key points in Netanyahu’s list of “no pre-condition” preconditions.

And he told Israelis what they needed to hear, that France would stand with Israel in the face of Iran’s threats.

Maybe we can just accept that Sarkozy was “taken to the woodshed,” an American expression describing how a child is taken out back by a parent and spanked for doing something wrong to get them back in line. Sarkozy is gearing up for re-election and the “let’s make Jewish voters happy” strategy has overtaken the “let’s bring peace to the Middle East” strategy.

Even President Obama has dropped his push for Middle East peace based on compromise, barely addressing it in his recent State of the Nation speech. He’s running for re-election, too. So are we to be surprised as the moderate wing of the Palestinian movement continues to erode and the extremists continue to grow? Elections in the West, it seems, are not conducive to promoting Middle East peace.

In the short run, Israelis will find that the growth in Palestinian extremism is good for their goal of blocking statehood and continuing the expansion of Israeli settlements. Maybe all of the Arabs will just up and leave Israel and the West Bank? It won’t happen.

What will happen is that the moderates will become so weak that a return to violence and more conflict will only become an unavoidable reality. So is anyone surprised when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, finding himself in a corner in the face of Netanyahu’s “no pre-condition” pre-conditions, makes peace with Hamas? Israelis argue that as settlements only impact one percent of the West Bank land, they should not be such a stumbling block to peace.

Palestinians ask the same question. If they are not that important, why not freeze settlements? Isn’t peace that much more important? Sadly in Middle East mathematics and reasons are turned on their heads. The 1% and the extremist minority are far more important than the needs of the increasingly less active but larger majority of moderates.

The writer is an award winning columnist and radio talk show host. He can be reached at www.RadioChicagoland.com.

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