Did the Netanyahu government try to pull a fast one and get away with it?

DAN-CHYI CHUA
Aug 03, 2010
*Special to asia!

These days, it is getting increasingly difficult to tell the peacemakers and the peacewreckers. The Israeli government does  a good job of appearing to be the former.

Five rockets landed in the Israeli beach town of Eilat. No one was killed but it was roundly condemned.

This is what US State Department spokesman had to say:

"At a point where we are hoping to see direct negotiations begin as soon as possible to address the core concerns, it's not surprising that you have others who are taking actions to try to inhibit that kind of progress."

Goodness, does the US think that the Netanyahu government fired the rockets?

Oh wait, of course not. They meant those other shadowy elements who don't want peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. You know, those crazed Arab extremists who want to eliminate Israel or like Hamas, throw the Jewish state into the Mediterranean Sea.

These days, it is getting increasingly difficult to tell the peacemakers and the peacewreckers. The Israeli government does  a good job of appearing to be the former.

It's the Palestinian leadership that refuses to enter into direct negotiations with us, they cry. And they are right. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas doesn't want direct talks. But that is just half the story. The current Israeli leadership is giving him an offer he simply cannot accept, without betraying his people or losing all credibility.

Holding talks under the conditions set by Netanyahu is like waiting for a bus on the sabbath.

For a couple of days last week, headlines on Israeli newspapers were whirling in an online frenzy between the Palestinian refusal for talks and how the Obama administration was going to smack the Palestinians on the wrist by reducing ties with them.

To complicate matters, Israeli Army Radio reported that president Shimon Peres (of Israel) had sent a former justice minister to tell the Palestinian leadership not to negotiate with Netanyahu. Then came a flurry of denials and accusations as to whether the conversation did take place, and who is really the one that doesn't want peace.

It may be common to not believe peace will come after years and rounds of futile talks, but to consciously play saboteur, well, that is still pretty shocking.

Except that really, it doesn't matter if it is President Abbas or President Peres who does not want the talks. Holding talks under the conditions set by Netanyahu is like waiting for a bus on the sabbath.

You aren't going to get anywhere.

In the case of the buses, they simply do not run on the Jewish day of rest. In the case of Netanyahu, he and his government are simply entering into talks with the Palestinians in bad faith.

As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy noted in the mainstream liberal Haaretz newspaper,

“Netanyahu and his government, most of whose members don't believe even for a minute in the chances of the peace process - and some have said so explicitly - want to deceive everyone and gain time and quiet so they can bolster the settlements even more. How else can the opposition to extending the freeze be interpreted?"

So what is this all about?

 

Israeli Separation Wall

 

The Separation Wall was constructed between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank for what Israel terms as security reasons, basically to keep out terrorists.

 

There is supposed to be a freeze in construction in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, areas which under international law are Palestinian land illegally occupied by Israel since 1967. This ends in September and Netanyahu says Israel cannot extend the freeze, because it will affect the stability of his coalition government.

This much may be true. Netanyahu is in a joint government with hardline religious parties who refuse to turn the West Bank over to the Palestinians. They believe it should remain  a part of modern-day Israel, because God gave it to the ancient Israelites thousands of years ago.

The Palestinians - on the other hand - basically want Israel to retreat from the West Bank, return to the pre-1967 borders and then discussions for specific parcels of land can carry on from there.

With these polarising starting positions, what room is there left for negotiations?

Not much, especially considering this: Israeli group Peace Now has just released a report saying that at least 600 housing units have started to be built during the freeze, in over 60 different West Bank settlements.

Even with a construction freeze in place, Israel has continued building in the West Bank. So what is going to happen when the freeze ends?

It is hard to accept that the Netanyahu government is serious about negotiating with the Palestinians, when it persists in building Israeli homes in what - if the talks succeed -  will be a future Palestinian state. All it does it to create more Israeli enclaves on the ground, so more territory will end up on their side, instead of with the Palestinians.

In this round of the blame game, the Israeli government may try, but their bluff has been called, by Israelis like Levy and Peace Now, who refuse to collaborate in their government's dishonest dealings.

As for Netanyahu as a peace negotiator, here's a video that was released in July, where he was filmed unknowingly on camera, boasting about how he interpreted the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords to hinder progress towards a solution based on the 1967 borders.

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi