Why Netanyahu Removed The Final Mask On Palestinian Aspirations – OpEd


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not just against the establishment of a Palestinian state, he wants to eliminate the very aspirations for such a state.

This was the gist of recent remarks made by Netanyahu at a meeting of the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. They were reported in the Israeli media on June 26.

Some, including officials in the Palestinian Authority, seemed oddly surprised following the release of the reports, as if Israel’s intentions regarding Palestinian freedom and statehood are not known even to a political novice.

The official spokesperson for the Palestinian presidency retorted by emphasizing that only an independent Palestinian state can achieve “security” and “stability.”

These two terms are often used by Palestinian officials to induce US sympathy, as such language is borrowed from the American political discourse on Palestine and the Middle East. Practically, the term “security” is almost always linked to Israel and “stability” is related to the US agenda in the region.

For Israel, however, such language is of little urgency, because security, from Tel Aviv’s perspective, is obtained through two different channels: unconditional US support and the security coordination between the Israeli military occupation and the PA.

Both aspects are already satisfied. Tel Aviv is content with this arrangement to the extent that Netanyahu, in his recently reported comments, stressed: “In the areas which (the Palestinian Authority) manages to act, it does the work for us. And we have no interest in it collapsing.” So, Netanyahu sees the PA as another line of defense against the same Palestinians that the PA is supposed to represent.

As for stability, this is of little concern to Israel, for it practically defines stability as complete Israeli dominance over the Palestinians — actually, the whole region.

None of the above assertions are predicated on complex analyses or guesswork but are exacted from official Israeli statements and actions on the ground.

When far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared in March that there was “no such thing as Palestinians because there’s no such thing as the Palestinian people,” he was not giving a history lecture or merely engaging in hate speech. He was circuitously stating that Israel cannot be held morally, legally or politically accountable for its actions against those who do not exist.

Smotrich’s remarks were consistent with the pogroms carried out by his supporters, the armed and dangerous illegal settlers of the West Bank, against Palestinians in Huwara in February, Turmus Ayya last month and other Palestinian towns and villages.

Neither the Americans nor the Europeans took any punitive action against Smotrich or the gangs of settlers who torched Palestinian homes and cars, killing and wounding many in the process.

However, that is only a microcosm of a larger ailment, whereby Israel says and does what it wants, while the Americans continue to read from an old political script as if nothing has changed on the ground.

Without doubt, US foreign policymakers know only too well that Israel has zero interest in a just and peaceful settlement to its military occupation of Palestine. But if this is the case, why does the US government insist on following the same tired blueprint of urging both sides to reengage in the so-called peace process and return to negotiations?

This mantra has defined the US foreign policy agenda since the early 1990s, when Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Accords. These worsened a bad situation, tripled the illegal settlements and settlers, and made the Palestinian people even more vulnerable, not only to Israeli violence but to the PA’s repression and corruption as well.

Though Oslo was unfair to Palestinians since it operated largely outside acceptable international paradigms and had no enforcement clauses or deadlines, Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders objected to it anyway, because it expected — although symbolically — Israel to behave in a certain manner.

To be told not to build or expand settlements, for example, has always infuriated Netanyahu, who has even lashed out even at his American benefactors many times in the past, most notably under the administration of President Barack Obama.

Israeli leaders feel that they are above any law or expectations emanating from outside, even if these expectations are quite minimal and made by close allies, such as Washington.

Alas, with time, Netanyahu prevailed, not only over any supposed pressure from the US and the international community, but also over the more liberal political forces in his own society.

Now, armed with a stable coalition and immune from any meaningful criticism, let alone tangible consequences for his actions, the Israeli leader feels ready to carry out his right-wing agenda without hesitation.

Netanyahu’s recent remarks are a more emboldened version of the derisive comments made in October 2004 by top Israeli government adviser Dov Weissglas, who explained the true intentions behind the Israeli military deployment in Gaza in 2005. It was an Israeli tactic aimed at “freezing the peace process,” he said.

“And when you freeze that process,” Weissglas told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda.”

Though this “whole package” has indeed been long removed from the Israeli agenda, the country’s leaders kept referencing a Palestinian state anyway, only to satisfy the minimal expectations of US policy. Even Netanyahu played this game on more than one occasion, including his February interview with CNN, during which he argued that a Palestinian state is possible, but only if it has no sovereignty.

Now, Netanyahu is ready to move past that seemingly old language to new political territories, where the very aspiration of an independent Palestine is not permissible.

While Netanyahu’s bad but honest language is likely to invite yet more Israeli violence and Palestinian resistance, it should also bring about greater clarity, shelving, once and for all, the fraudulent discourse of “security,” “stability” and all the rest.

Ramzy Baroud

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com

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