Wednesday, January 26, 2011

'Israel Not Interested In Making Peace'

By Michael Jansen
This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 27/01/2011

The “Palestine Papers” released by Al Jazeera have exposed the extreme weakness of the Palestinian side, longstanding Israeli intransigence and US perfidy.

From the outset of the conflict over Palestine, the Palestinians were in no position to resist the Zionists and their powerful backers. Although they were the indigenous people living on their land, Palestinians were far weaker than the Zionist movement, which had few people on the ground in Palestine but had been promised a Jewish homeland in the country by Britain in 1917.

The Palestinians were always at a huge disadvantage because, to cite Britain’s Balfour Declaration, they comprised the “non-Jewish communities”. This racist attitude has coloured the evolution of the struggle for possession of Palestine since Britain assumed the post-World War I Palestine Mandate and facilitated the close colonisation of the land by foreign Jews. These have been treated by the Western powers as the owners of Palestine, while Palestinians have been treated as troublemakers when demanding their rights and terrorists when fighting for their very existence.

Yasser Arafat was dubbed a terrorist when he waged armed resistance to Israeli occupation of his homeland, but was hailed as a man of peace when he agreed to the Oslo Accord in September 1993.

In his view, the accord - negotiated in secret by the very men who have been exposed as concessionist in the Palestine Papers - launched a process which would inevitably lead to the creation of a West Bank-Gaza-East Jerusalem Palestinian state.

He fervently believed that Israel would go along with the “two-state solution” involving the emergence of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. He was convinced this was in Israel’s interest, because it would end the protracted conflict with the Palestinians and Arabs and enable Israel to normalise relations with the Arab world.

However, Israel did not, and does not, see things the way Arafat did. Israel never considered the “two-state solution” as being in its interest.

Israel is not prepared to give up Palestinian land for peace. Its colonisation drive in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is proof positive of this contention.

Israel rejected the Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed by the 2002 Beirut Arab summit, because the country’s leaders are not really interested in developing normal relations with their neighbours.

Indeed, Israelis have cultivated a racist view of both Palestinian citizens of Israel (whom Israelis call “Aravim” rather than Palestinians) and Arabs. Israel feels it does not need good relations with its neighbours because it has close connections with the US and Europe, which dominate the global political scene.

The Obama administration, which took power two years ago, partakes of the anti-Arab racist attitude held by Israelis, although President Barack Obama tried to sweet talk the Arabs into believing otherwise during his first year in office. However, the Palestine Papers reveal that the administration insists that the US is no longer committed to the idea that the repartition of Palestine will be based on the 1967 Green Line, with small equal swaps of territory which would enable Israel to annex major West Bank settlements built illegally on, across or east of the line.

Although former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice firmly and explicitly endorsed “1967 as a baseline” for the border between a future Palestine and Israel, the Palestine Papers reveal that Obama’s envoy George Mitchell told Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on October 1, 2009, that the US “would not agree to any mention of ‘67 whatsoever’ in order to avoid “difficulties with the Israelis”.

The abandonment of the ‘67 line removes the only term of reference for the drawing of a permanent border between the two entities and explains why Mitchell failed to convince the Israelis to negotiate seriously on this issue. Israel does not want to have defined borders with the Palestinians because it intends, in the words of former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, “to take more and more land day after day”.

This, she asserted, has been “the policy of the [Israeli] government for a really long time”.

The current administration has also followed the precedent of the Clinton White House on the issues of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Former president Bill Clinton, who left office a decade ago, adopted the off-the-cuff rule that in Jerusalem, Palestinian majority neighbourhoods would become part of the Palestinian state, while Jewish majority districts (i.e., illegal colonies) would be annexed by Israel. While this might have been workable in 2000 or 2001, Israel has done its best to make certain it is not feasible today, by accelerating its colonisation of East Jerusalem with the aim of preventing any division. Instead of taking a strong stand against Israel’s landgrab in the holy city, the Obama administration has refused to do so and urged the Palestinians not to make a fuss. East Jerusalem was excluded from the US demand for a colony construction freeze.

On the issue of the five-plus million Palestinian refugees, the PLO continues to call for their repatriation to homes and villages in areas conquered by Israel in 1948, but goes along with the Israeli and international view that only a few would be permitted to exercise their right to “return” under General Assembly Resolution 194, paragraph 11, of December 1948.

The rest would be able to settle in a Palestinian state.

But since no state is on the political horizon due to Israeli intransigence and US pusillanimity, there will be no “solution” for the refugees who are likely to remain where they are, the vast majority in Arab host countries, including Jordan.

The Palestine Papers reveal, on the one hand, that the Palestinians have negotiated in good faith and even compromised their national cause in order to reach a settlement involving the establishment of a Palestinian mini-state in 22 per cent of their homeland. On the other hand, the papers expose the “peace process” as a scam designed to convey the false impression that Israel is prepared to make a deal with the Palestinians and reach peace with the Arabs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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