Saturday, March 31, 2007

There comes a time

Updated There are let's call them conflicting signals coming out of the Israeli government in the wake of the conclusion of this week's summit meeting of the Arab League. At that meeting, the participants reaffirmed a 2002 peace proposal that offered formal recognition of Israel
as long as it withdraws to pre-1967 territorial boundaries, accepts an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and agrees to a solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees....
The European Union called the initiative encouraging. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said
"I see this as an encouragement for regional peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians...."
More signifcantly, while the official Israeli response was described as "lukewarm," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reacted with cautious optimism, saying in an interview with the Isreali daily Haaretz that
he would be happy to take part in a regional conference that would support direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. ...

"The Riyadh summit is certainly a serious matter. We do not delude ourselves - they want us to go back to the 1967 borders and they also want the right of return. We were not surprised; we understood it would be this way. The content is important, but it is also important to relate to the atmosphere, positioning and direction."
Then again, maybe it's not significant at all, maybe it's just trying to put the right spin on it. Because just one day earlier, Time magazine released an interview in which
Olmert called Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas a "terrorist" and accused him of transferring more than $1 million to militants to carry out attacks against Israel....

Olmert told Time the funds came from outside the Palestinian territories and were transferred to one of Hamas's armed wings for the "explicit purpose of carrying out terrorist actions."

He offered no other details about the transfer.
That doesn't sound like something calculated to advance the possibility of "direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians." Much more importantly, Olmert said
that Israel would not allow a single Palestinian refugee to return to what is now Israel, and that the country bore no responsibility for the refugees because their plight resulted from an attack by Arab nations on Israel when it was a fledgling state. ...

[It was] the first time his government has made such an unequivocal statement on the issue. ... Mr. Olmert said that he could not accept the return of even a single Palestinian refugee to Israel.
This is a deal-breaker! As I said in November 2004 and again just two weeks ago, the so-called "right of return" is "an intensely emotional issue among Palestinians" and one that no Palestinian leader can or will surrender. And the Israeli government knows it. It knows and it has known since before the 2000 Barak-Arafat-Clinton summit. It knows because it's own intelligence agencies told it so, told it that at that meeting Arafat would be willing to accept a "very limited implementation" of the right of return but the principle was non-negotiable for Palestinians.

Olmert knows, has to know, the effect of his words. He knows, has to know, what the response will be. As he himself said, content needs to be related to "atmosphere, positioning and direction." And regardless of the content of his offers of talks, this unequivocal rejection can be read only one way, as reflecting a conscious, deliberate decision to undermine prospects for a negotiated peace.

Enough is enough is enough. Israel is engaged in an illegal occupation. It has repeatedly violated human rights (including the use of human shields). It has stolen land. It has persisted in military incursions. And it has repeatedly found ways to shut down hopes for real negotiations. And the result has neither been victory nor the hollow victory of "security" nor, most certainly, peace - it has been corruption. Importantly for us, it has done this with over two billion dollars in direct US military aid annually - plus hundreds of millions more in "economic support funds," aid specifically intended to enable recipient nations to free up funds to pay for buying arms and other military programs.

It's time to stop. It's time to say no more. It's time to stop pretending to be the "honest broker." Hell, it's time to stop even trying to be the honest broker and instead just trying to be honest. It's time to end any and all military aid and arms sales to Israel until Israel ends the occupation.

Updated to include the link re: military incursions.

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