By Arab News
By Linda S. Heard
Anyone who imagines Benjamin Netanyahu genuinely believes that direct talks with Palestinian leaders can result in a deal is deluding themselves. Why? The Israeli prime minister has never had any intention of relinquishing an inch of occupied Palestinian land for peace; on the contrary, his goal is expansionism. Else why would be sanction the creep of Jewish settlements and the eviction of Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem from their homes?
Moreover, there is no way he would even consider handing over east Jerusalem to become Palestine’s capital. Following decades of fruitless talks, Mahmoud Abbas understands the game, which is why he’s not replying to Netanyahu’s “impassioned” requests to sit at the table.
And lest we forget in the run-up to his reelection, the hawkish Israeli leader made it known that there would never be a Palestinian State as long as he was in charge. He only softened his stance in response to criticism from the White House once his feet were back under his desk.
Netanyahu may secretly dream of a day when Palestinians disappear in a puff of smoke or can be transferred elsewhere, but since that’s not going to happen, he metes out cookies laced with hope trusting Palestinians will bite so they will be compliant and easy to manage while they wait in vain for justice. Those who resist — whether man, woman or child — are gunned down mercilessly, their family home demolished, or imprisoned.
In any event, his version of a Palestinian State bears no resemblance to any other on earth. It’s basically a larger version of Gaza with no control over its own airspace, ports or borders — and no military. It would also remain economically dependent on Israel. And if and when the leadership doesn’t play by Israel’s rules, it will be vulnerable to re-invasion. That would be a toothless enclave, not a sovereign state in any recognized sense of the world.
As long as Netanyahu and his extremist colleagues are at the helm, Palestinians are destined to chase windmills. The positive climate in the country that prevailed when Yitzhak Rabin was PM was ended with his assassination, never to be restored.
Israeli public opinion polls show that 60 percent of the population is in favor of peace negotiations; almost 48 percent support the idea of a wall being built to separate Jerusalem from nearly Palestinian villages, 41.8 percent believe a peace agreement would not prevent “Palestinian terror against Jews” while 48.2 percent say it’s more important to them that Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people than reaching a peace agreement. Only 8.3 percent strongly believe that peace is possible during the coming years.
Rabin was just as much of a fervent Zionist as Netanyahu but he understood that the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza would make Israel not a Jewish State but a bi-national state. He was also keen to achieve good relations with the international community. “Israel is no longer a people that dwells alone, and has to join the global journey toward peace, reconciliation and international cooperation,” he said.
Netanyahu takes a very different approach. Israel has survived this long cuddled by the US and armed with nuclear bombs that he sees little advantage in making concessions. He has the mentality of a warrior, not a peacemaker. He and his likes have become used to their country being on a permanent war footing; it’s all that they know.
In the unlikely event he experienced an epiphany and sought to follow in Rabin’s footsteps, he would be blocked by the messianic leanings of his rabidly right-wing Cabinet, especially now that Avignor Lieberman who’s called for the beheading of “disloyal Israeli Arabs” has been offered the post of defense minister. Former left of center Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has been quoted as saying Netanyahu’s government has been infiltrated by “seeds of fascism.”
“What was taken by force can only be restored by force,” asserted Jamal Abdel Nasser, but as long as Israel has a nuclear arsenal and sophisticated “Made in the USA” weaponry, that isn’t an option. Ultimately, there remain two channels, which may open-up in the future.
The first would entail a correlation. The advent of left-wing Israel leadership at the same time as there is a White House prepared to squeeze Israel with sanctions. For instance, US presidential Bernie Sanders has accused Israel of perpetrating war crimes and he demands “fair and respectful treatment of the Palestinian people.”
The second relies upon the entire Arab World presenting a future Israeli government with an offer it can’t refuse — peace with all Arab League member countries and full diplomatic and economic relations plus security cooperation/guarantees in return for a viable Palestinian State with east Jerusalem as its capital.
In the meantime, holding talks with a con man playing for time to keep the international community off his back, is not only time wasting but an insult to the intelligence of the Palestinian people who’ve hopes have been raised high only to be dashed more times than I can count.