Children in Israeli jails are tortured, Galid Shalit waits for release, Gaza waits for an end to its indignity. While these and a thousand other attendant nightmares continue, nothing is moving in the Palestine-Israel peace talks.
The present round of the ‘elaborate dance’ for peace, of such importance to the tortured region, was initiated by the Obama administration shortly after the Israeli assualt on the Mavi Marmara earlier this year. Hillary Clinton announced that the US wanted to work towards a ‘just and lasting solution’ in the area.
Not a bad idea.
Real ‘peace’, ‘just and lasting’ as it must be, should be undersigned by the will and conscience of equals, desiring it above the machinations, war and resort to prejudice that have characterised the last 60 years. Yet such foundational conditions are sadly nowhere in sight.
The reasons for this are obvious, probably even to a casual follower of the conflict. Take, for example, the issue of the illegal West Bank settlements: Netanyahu is relying on his far-right coalition partner in government for support in passing anything likely to promote an agreement with the Palestinians. Avigdor Liebermann and his Beitanu Yisrael party are explicitly and viscerally pro-settlement expansion.
Mahmoud Abbas, the barely-legitimate President of the Palestinian Authority (whose term expired in January 2009), has stated that talks on future peace were ‘futile’ without any change on this key issue of settlements.
The ball, then, is in America’s court. Obama has gestured with apparent amicability to the Muslim world, and called for a settlement freeze. But I fail to recall any mention of the singular responsibility that the US and her arms industry (and their lobbyists) have for the destruction of innocent lives in the Arab world, for destabilizing the region, and for strategically blocking UN votes that could have helped to resolve the conflict.
Add to this the omissions by another player in the game - the media - and we are in familiar territory.
Netanyahu may catch up with his old buddy Larry King on US television and talk about and end to the suffering, but I fail to recall CNN reporting that Netanyahu has been filmed confessing before his re-election that he helped to stop the Oslo accords from bearing fruit, an indisputable fact that you can watch for yourselves.
The footage was leaked and aired by Israel's Channel 10. Consider the following, spoken by Netanyahu, on camera:
'How do we intend to limit the retreats [of the Israeli settlements to the '67 border in accordance with obligations required by the Oslo accords]...How did we do it? [The narrator here mentions that Israeli Military Sites in Palestine as being not included in the withdrawal agreement]... No one said what defined military sites.... As far as I'm concerned the Jordan Valley is a defined military site. ...I stopped the Government meeting. I said "I'm not signing... At that moment I actually stopped the Oslo accords".’
Consider also this troubling statement about his current 'partners' in peace negotiations:
‘Netanyahu: The main thing is, first and foremost, to hit them hard. Not just one hit... but many, painful, so that the price will be unbearable. The price is not unbearable, now. A total assault on the Palestinian Authority. To bring them to a state of panic that everything is collapsing... this is what we'll bring them to...’
And this man says he wants peace.
Time magazine might well fear that ‘the Palestinians hold to the preconditions that hampered past negotiations’, but they omit a collection of urgent facts that are inadmissible in mainstream Western journalism. One of the less shocking of these is that at the height of the apalling attack on Gaza, in the winter of 2008-09, the US actually shipped weapons and war material to Israel as their disgraceful violence reached its peak. Another is that Hamas actually offered terms to sue for a return to the previous, violated, truce before Operation Cast Lead - and did not 'break the peace' as the initiators of the violence.
Thus, a serious expectation for a genuine 'lasting peace' hangs on the key word 'just' in Clinton’s misleading but attractive statement. What 'just' peace can allow the continuation of illegal acts sanctioned by the old actors, knowing in their mendacity?
The desperate human needs in the region that extend in its importance to the whole of the Middle East (including the hopes of innocent children born in both Israel and the Arab world alike) require an intelligent, humane and searching effort that is much, much better than this.
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