Saturday, June 20, 2009

Israel's empty words

This is a few days late - it seems I'm always a few days late with things these days - but I could not let it pass unnoticed here.

This past Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went through the motions of pretending to seek peace with the Palestinians by re-running the by now standard Israeli line of "I'm gonna make you an offer you can't accept." As always, the headline of his statement is about supposed "concessions" and "outreach" and "negotiations" and such - but the text of the statement lays down conditions he had to know in advance would be rejected.

Specifically, he supposedly "reversed himself" and declared for the first time that he would accept the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Except that it would be "demilitarized" - that is, it would have no armed forces. While Palestinian authorities have in the past accepted the idea of a demilitarized Palestine, in the wake of the bloody and brutal attack on Gaza, there was no basis for expecting them to accept that now.

Oh, and except that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank will remain - and will continue to grow.

Oh, and except that Jerusalem will remain "united" as the capital of Israel.

Oh, and except for one more thing: The Palestinians must not only recognize Israel (which they have already done), the must recognize it as a Jewish state - which would mean surrendering for all time the Palestinians' "right of return" to homes and lands they occupied in Israel before fleeing or being expelled in 1948. It's hard to understand how important that principle is to Palestinians - that is, unless you recall the meaning of the phrase "next year in Jerusalem." Or, as one Palestinian of my acquaintance said to me, "The Jews didn't forget their home in 2,000 years and they expect us to forget ours in (as it was at the time) 40?" The Israelis knew at least five years ago that the Palestinians could accept a "very limited implementation" of a right of return, but no Palestinian leader would or could accept abandonment of the principle.

Bluntly and simply put, the Israelis knew, they knew, in making such an "offer" that it would not, could not, be accepted. It was all crap, just another in a string of PR stunts intended in this case not so much for domestic consumption as for US consumption.

All going on while Israel continues an active campaign to create "facts on the ground" sufficient to set its occupation and dominance in stone. I already mentioned the settlements, but more specifically,
“[n]ormal life” will be allowed in settlements in the occupied West Bank, government spokesman Mark Regev said, using a euphemism for continuing construction to accommodate population growth.

The fate of settlements “will be determined in final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and in the interim, normal life must be allowed to continue in those communities,” he said.
And of course the longer a final agreement can be put off, the more that population of occupiers (now 280,000) grows, the more construction there is, and the more of a "fact" the settlements - which are illegal under international law and in the eyes of the international community - become.

That's not the only thing going on toward creating "facts," though. For another,
Israel is quietly carrying out a $100 million, multiyear development plan in some of the most significant religious and national heritage sites just outside the walled Old City here as part of an effort to strengthen the status of Jerusalem as its capital.

The plan, parts of which have been outsourced to a private group that is simultaneously buying up Palestinian property for Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, has drawn almost no public or international scrutiny. However, certain elements related to it - the threatened destruction of unauthorized Palestinian housing in the redevelopment areas, for example - have brought widespread condemnation. ...

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, however, that it will push ahead. Interior Minister Eli Yishai said last week of the activity in one core area: “I intend to act on this issue with full strength. This is the land of our sovereignty. Jewish settlement there is our right.”
Again, the intention is to create a "fact" of a unified, Jewish, Jerusalem as "the eternal capital of the Jewish people." And the longer a settlement can be put off by bullshit offers designed to appease the US government and enable finger-pointing at the Palestinians, the more of a "fact" that becomes.

At this point, there is only one decent course open to the US: an end to all aid to Israel. Military, economic, "security support," all of it. Until Israel decides to rejoin the community of nations.

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