Monday, October 11, 2010

One last note on this for now

Haaretz reports that
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Monday to halt settlement construction if the Palestinians were to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but the Palestinian leadership was prompt to reject the proposal.

"If the Palestinian leadership will say unequivocally to its people that it recognizes Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, I will be ready to convene my government and request a further suspension," Netanyahu said while speaking at the opening of the third session of the 18th Knesset.
Bizarrely, Netanyahu called this "not a condition but a trust-building step." That is, not even something that would get a practical response but something just to make the Israelis a little more comfortable about dealing with the Palestinians. Put another way, it's "'unequivocally' recognize us as a Jewish state even before negotiations on the 'core questions' begin and we'll think about temporarily halting the expropriation of your lands." Yeah, I could see that sort of deal could make Israel more comfortable.

But again, as has happened before, this was a dishonest offer, a "deal" the Israelis had to know in advance the Palestinians would not accept. While Haaretz doesn't mention the reason, AFP does:
The Palestinians have agreed to recognise Israel as part of a final peace deal but refuse to recognise it as a "Jewish state" for fear that doing so would prejudge the thorny issue of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war.
The issue of "the right of return" is one of deep importance to Palestinians as a group, every bit as much as the notion of returning to their homeland ("Next year in Jerusalam!") was to the Jews across the many years of the diaspora. It's one of the reasons that in an earlier post I mentioned "the at least symbolic acceptance by Israel of a 'right of return'" as one of the goals the Palestinians feel necessary for a final peace deal. (And, contrary to Israeli PR, that acceptance could be symbolic and its implementation "limited" - and Israel has known that for 10 years.) Openly accepting Israel as a "Jewish state" prior to an agreement about those refugees could be and by some surely would be read as relinquishing that goal, something no Palestinian leader would or could do.

There simply is no way the Israeli government does not know that. Netanyahu's "offer" was made for the purpose of seeing it rejected. The intent was not to make a deal, the intent was to find a way to blame the Palestinians for his own refusal to extend the construction moratorium.

[t]he Knesset's Ministerial Committee on Legislation ruled on Monday that the cabinet would support a bill outlining the referendum that would be held prior to any territorial concessions.
The bill sets our the procedures for carrying out such a referendum related to withdrawals in the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, a referendum already required by earlier legislation.
The referendum law is seen as a measure aimed at hindering territorial withdrawals, making it more difficult for the government to give up land under future agreements.
I repeat: Israel. Does. Not. Want. Peace.

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