Thursday, June 2, 2011

Palestinians' Option And The West's Double Standards

By Michael Jansen
This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 02/06/2011 

Speaking at the Arab League’s meeting in Doha last weekend, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated, more in sorrow than in anger: “We see from the conditions that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu laid out that there are no shared foundations for negotiations. Our fundamental option is to go to the United Nations” General Assembly to secure recognition of a Palestinian state within the lines of June 4, 1967.

He warned that this step would prompt some states to “try to impose a siege on us. We hope that there will be a safety net from the Arab states”.

Israeli experts estimate that 135 of the UN’s 192 members support this stand and say this figure could rise to 160 due to Netanyahu’s intransigence and Washington’s supine support for his stand.

Netanyahu is widely known as “Mr No” because he says “no” to everything the Palestinians demand as their right. Last week, octogenarian Israeli peace campaigner Uri Avneri remarked that the Arabs proclaimed three “nos” in 1967 after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza: no to negotiations with Israel, no to recognition of Israel and no to peace with Israel. During his recent address to Congress, Avneri pointed out that Netanyahu had a much longer list of “nos” and elaborated on five.

I have also been counting “nos” and have come up with what I believe is a comprehensive list of “nos” which define Netanyahu’s policy and those of his predecessors, who often spoke of “painful compromises” for peace, but never made any because they regarded all of Palestine as what Netanyahu called “the ancestral Jewish homeland” to which, in the Zionist view, Palestinians have no claim and where, Zionists say, they have no place.

Netanyahu said there can be no negotiations until Palestinians recognise Israel as the homeland of the world’s Jews, a demand rejected by the Palestinians as it would compromise the status of Israel’s 1.5 million Muslim and Christian citizens of Palestinian origin.

He also insists that there can be no negotiations as long as Fateh sticks to its reconciliation accord with Hamas and no to a unity government of technocrats. These are phony demands because neither the authority nor the government negotiates with Israel. The negotiator is the Palestine Liberation Organisation to which Hamas and other religious resistance groups do not belong.

There can be no Palestinian plan to seek international recognition. If the Palestinians carry out this plan, Israel is threatening unspecified retaliation - perhaps by unilaterally annexing areas of the West Bank. But since Israel is expropriating and colonising Palestinian territory on daily basis, this is a meaningless threat.

Netanyahu spelled out his unacceptable vision of a Palestinian state when he said there could be no return to the ‘67 ceasefire lines, no return of Palestinian refugees to areas ultimately ceded to Israel, and no Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. There can be no Israeli military withdrawal from the Jordan Valley, ensuring that the West Bank would be totally surrounded by Israeli forces, which would control all frontiers except that between Gaza and Egypt. A Palestinian state would have no regular military forces and no control of its air space and electronic systems.

He made it clear that there can be no halt or freeze to the Israeli colonisation drive designed to make it impossible for the Palestinians to have a state. The unspoken no is that there will be no dismantling of these settlements but only Palestinian permission for these illegal colonies to remain within a Palestinian state.

Finally, he said there can be no imposed deal.

I have come up with 13 “nos”. There are likely to be more.

Netanyahu’s total “nos” is more than four times the Arabs’ three. Furthermore, his “nos” are current and growing in number.

At the Beirut summit in March 2002, the Arab leaders replaced the “three nos” with what I call the big yes. They called for full Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab territory in exchange for full Arab normalisation and peace with Israel. Then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon responded to the big yes by reinvading Palestinian cities and towns evacuated under the Oslo accords and smashing up administrative infrastructure built by the Palestinians in the previous six years.

Although US President Barack Obama and other world leaders did not comment specifically on Netanyahu’s “nos”, Obama did warn Israel that it faces two distinct and growing dangers: Palestinians living within the area controlled by Israel are set to outnumber Israeli Jews in the coming few years and increasing anti-Israeli sentiment on the global scene.

He did not mention, however, that if Israel is to remain a “Jewish state”, its only means of tackling the Palestinian “demographic time bomb” is ethnic cleansing or apartheid.

He did not point out that if Israel resorts to either of these means, it will become a global pariah that even the US cannot continue to protect from its own folly or defend from pressure for sanctions, suspension from UN membership or, ultimately, “humanitarian intervention” on behalf of the Palestinians.

Due to the Arab Spring and changing perceptions of this region, the international community, led by the Western powers, cannot afford to intervene in Libya to prevent a massive humanitarian disaster but ignore the developing disaster in the Palestinian territories.

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