By Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom
August 17, 2013
I DON’T know if the Guinness Book of World Records has a special section for Chutzpah.
If it does not, it should. That’s the one competition where we might take home a few gold medals. The first one would surely go to Binyamin Netanyahu.
THIS WEEK, on the eve of the first round of serious negotiations between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu did two interesting things: he announced plans for several large new settlement projects and he accused the Palestinians of grievous incitement against Israel.
Let’s take the settlements first. As explained by Israeli diplomats to their American colleagues, and repeated by all the Israeli media, poor Netanyahu had no choice. John Kerry compelled him to release 104 Palestinian prisoners as a “confidence building measure”. After such a momentous concession, he had to pacify his extremist colleagues in the Likud and in the cabinet. A thousand new housing units in the occupied territories (including East Jerusalem) was the very minimum.
The agreement to release prisoners let loose a veritable Witches’ Sabbath. All the newspapers and TV news programs were awash with blood – the blood on the hands of the Palestinian murderers. “Murderers” was the de rigeur appellation. Not “fighters”, not “militants”, not even “terrorists”. Just plain “murderers”.
All the prisoners to be released were convicted before the Oslo agreement was signed, meaning that they have been in prison for at least 20 years. The probability that they would take part in future bloody activity must be minimal.
Some of the victims’ families carried out staged stormy protests, with bloody hands and blood-smeared flags. The media vied with each other in publishing pictures of weeping mothers (TV loves weeping women) waving photos of their killed sons and blood-curdling descriptions of the attacks in which they died. (Some of which were indeed atrocious.)
However, not so long ago, Netanyahu had agreed to release more than a thousand prisoners in return for one captured Israeli soldier. This means that one single soldier is ten times more precious than the chances of peace.
The actual release bordered on the grotesque. In order to avoid photos in the morning papers of the rapturous reception of the prisoners by their families, the actual release of the first 26 prisoners took place after midnight, in a shroud of mystery. Which reminds one of the Biblical passage, in which David mourned for Saul, slain in battle with the Philistines: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon (both Philistine towns), lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” (II Samuel 1)
Does all this testify to an atmosphere of peace on the eve of peacemaking? Wait, there is more to come.
THE DAY the new settlement projects were announced, Netanyahu fired off to John Kerry a furious protest against the ongoing Palestinian “incitement” against Israel. This missive could interest the adjudicators of the Guinness record for Chutzpah.
The main evidence for Mahmoud Abbas’ perfidy, in Netanyahu’s letter, is a text in which a minor Palestinian official called for a Palestinian state “from Rosh Hanikra to Eilat.” Rosh Hanikra (Ras Naqura in Arabic) is on the Lebanese border, so this state would include all of Israel. Also, during a soccer event in Ramallah, anti-Israeli shouts were heard.
Awful, just awful. Kerry should spring from his seat in fury. Were it not for the fact that almost all leading Likud members proclaim that the whole of historical Palestine belongs to Israel, and Naftali Bennett, a pillar of Netanyahu’s government coalition, just announced that the Palestinians “can forget about” a Palestinian state.
Not to mention a certain Daniel Seaman, the former director of the Ministry of Explaining (that’s its real name. I didn’t make it up. Israelis don’t do propaganda, God forbid. Seaman has just been appointed to Netanyahu’s own office, in charge of “explaining” on the internet. This week he posted a message on facebook addressed to Saeb Erekat, the chief of he Palestinian delegation to the peace talks, telling him to “go and f**k himself”. To the theological declaration by the Church of Scotland that the Jews have no special claim to Palestine he posted the reply: “We don’t give a [obscenity] for what you say.”
This genius of public relations is now setting up a clandestine group of Israeli university students, who will be paid to flood the international social media with government “explaining” material. As for soccer fans, the Betar stadium, which is linked to the Likud, resounds at every match with shouts of “Death to the Arabs!”’ So, for what the bell tolls? Nor for peace, it seems.
ONE OF the problems is that absolutely nobody knows what Netanyahu really wants. Perhaps not even he.
The Prime Minister is now the loneliest person in Israel. He has no friends. He trusts nobody, and nobody around him trusts him.
His colleagues in the Likud leadership quite openly despise him, regarding him as a man of no principles, without a backbone, giving in to every pressure. This seems to have been the opinion of his late father, who once declared that Binyamin would make a good foreign minister, but certainly not a prime minister. In the government he is quite alone. Previous prime ministers had a close group of ministers to consult with. Golda Meir had a “kitchen cabinet”. Netanyahu has no one. He does not consult with anyone. He announces his decisions, and that’s that.
In his previous terms he had at least a group of confidants in his office. These officials have been driven out one by one by Sarah, his wife. So, as one commentator this week reminded us, this lonely man, unaided by any group of trusted advisors, experts or confidants, is called upon to decide, quite by himself, the fate of Israel for generations to come.
THIS WOULD not have been so dangerous if Netanyahu had been a Charles de Gaulle. Unfortunately, he isn’t. De Gaulle was one of the towering figures of the 20th century. Cold, aloof, overbearing, intensely disliked by the rest of the world’s leaders, this extreme right-wing general took the historic decision to give up the huge country of Algeria, four times as big as metropolitan France.
Algeria, it must be remembered, was officially not a colony, not an occupied territory, but a part of France proper. It had been under French rule for more than a century. More than a million settlers saw it as their homeland. Yet de Gaulle made the lonely decision to give it up, putting his own life in grave danger.
Since then, Israeli leftists have yearned for “an Israeli de Gaulle”, who would do their job for them, according to the old Hebrew adage that “the work of the righteous is done by others” – others meaning, one assumes, people who are not quite so righteous.
There is, of course, one important difference. De Gaulle was supported by his conservative allies, the tycoons of the French economy. These sober-minded capitalists saw how the Germans were taking over the economy of Europe, which was in the process of uniting, while France was wasting its resources on an expensive, totally useless colonial war in North Africa. They wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible, and de Gaulle was their man.
Netanyahu is as close to the Israeli tycoons as de Gaulle was to his, but our tycoons don’t give a damn about peace. This attitude may change, if ever the de-legitimization of Israel becomes a serious economic burden. In this context; the boycott imposed by the European Union against the products of the settlements may be a harbinger of things to come.
By the way, the petition submitted by me and Gush Shalom in the Supreme Court, against the new law to penalize advocates of a boycott of the settlements, will be heard only next February. The court is obviously shrinking back from handling this hot potato. But it paid us a unique compliment: “Avnery v. the Knesset” will be heard by nine supreme judges, almost the full membership of the court.
SO IS this “peace process” serious? What does Netanyahu want?
Does he want to enter the history books as the “Israeli de Gaulle”, the wise Zionist leader who put an end to 120 years of conflict? Or is he just another smart guy who is making a tactical move to avoid a tussle with the US and stop the de-legitimization process at least for a while?
As it looks now, de Gaulle in his heaven can relax. No competitor in sight.
There is not the slightest indication of any peace orientation. Quite the contrary. Our government is using the new “peace process” as a smoke screen behind which the settlement bulldozer is working full time.
The government condemns the EU boycott resolution because it “harms the peace process”. It rejects all demands for freezing the settlements because this would “obstruct the peace process”. Investing hundreds of millions in settlements which under any imaginable peace agreement will have to be evacuated is, it seems, favorable for peace.
So is there hope? Time to quote again the Yiddish saying: “If God wills, even a broomstick can shoot!”
By Mairav Zonszein, +972
August 11, 2013
Building thousands more settlement units all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem is in no way comparable or proportionate to the release of Palestinian prisoners. The construction of more settlements is equivalent to the annihilation of a two-state solution and the preemption of any kind of faith-building measures.
The announcement Sunday that Israel’s housing minister has approved construction of 1,200 new settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem should be no surprise. It comes just a few days after the Civil Administration announced 878 new housing units in the West Bank. In fact, Israel’s approval of new settlement construction is the one new concrete development on the ground since Kerry announced the resumption of negotiations on July 19.
Something like 2,000 new units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – some in final approval stages before building begins and others at the start of the tender process – have been announced in the last few weeks. The construction published today enumerates 400 new units in Gilo, 210 in Har Homa and 183 Pisgat Ze’ev — all settlements beyond the Green Line in East Jerusalem. In the West Bank,it was made up of 117 units in Ariel, 149 in Efrat, 92 in Ma’aleh Adumim and 36 in Beitar Ilit.
While the new units are mostly part of “consensus settlements” – meaning areas that are presumed to remain part of Israel in any two-state solution – it is important to remember that the only reason they have become so is because of U.S. and international complacency in Israeli settlement building over the years. There is no logical or legitimate reason for places like Ariel, deep in the West Bank, and Har Homa, a relatively new but highly controversial settlement that cuts Bethlehem off from Jerusalem, to remain part of Israel in a future agreement.
The tandem news headlines of “peace talks to resume” coupled with “new Israeli settlements announced” are ridiculously insulting. How can anyone take these talks seriously? It is as if Israel was waiting patiently for the U.S. to announce peace talks before it could fling the settlement floodgates wide open; there was actually more restraint in the last year, with a de facto settlement freeze in East Jerusalem.
Despite its formal statements of condemnation, the U.S. clearly has no problem with the new settlement construction, since it is not doing anything to stop it. According to Ma’ariv‘s report Sunday morning, a U.S. official said that Israel notified the administration of this new round of settlement plans, presenting it as a carrot and stick deal in which the carrot is settlement building, and the stick is releasing Palestinian prisoners.
But how can more construction in what is slated to be a future Palestinian state constitute a carrot? Building thousands more settlement units all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem is in no way comparable or proportionate to the release of Palestinian prisoners. Approving more settlements is equivalent to the annihilation of a two-state solution and the obliteration of any kind of faith-building measures. And releasing Palestinian prisoners is primarily symbolic – considering that Israel remains the controlling power, choosing who and when it releases and re-arresting as it pleases, whenever it pleases.
The disingenuous nature of Israeli actions and the nerve of U.S. passivity is at times hard to comprehend. How can anyone take any of it seriously? Instead of building settlements, as the occupier, Israel should be building trust. If Israel wanted to show a modicum of genuine interest in moving towards a solution with the Palestinians — or if the United States was serious about compelling it to do so — the first thing it should carry out one single act to relieve the basic human rights violations in the occupied West Bank. At this point, even a really really small act could make a big difference.
Like, how about the Civil Administration refrain from destroying water cisterns in the Palestinian village of Susya and allow residents to access their water? Is that too much to ask? Would that undermine the “peace process?” Or how about opening Shuhada Street in Hebron to Palestinians? How about ceasing to conduct night raids in the homes of Palestinians who are non-violently protesting occupation. Or how about this crazy thought? Instead of releasing some prisoners, how about ending the military system under which Palestinians can be arrested and imprisoned without trial for years on end?
That would be too much. In the theatrical charade that is the 2013 “peace talks,” Israel has found the perfect equation: continue exactly as before, but this time, settlements aren’t even considered a hindrance, they are rather, the carrot.
Kerry isn’t on their side. He’s going all out for ‘peace’ on Israeli government
By Robert Fisk, The Independent
August 13, 2013
Has John Kerry no shame? First he cuddles up to both Palestinians and Israelis and announces the renewal of a “peace process” which the Palestinians don’t trust and the Israelis don’t want. Then Israel announces that it will build 1,200 new homes for Jews – and Jews only – on occupied Palestinian land. And now Kerry tells the Palestinians – the weak and occupied Palestinians – that they are running out of time if they want a state of their own.
Any other “statesman” involved in any other dispute who told an occupied people that if they didn’t make peace their occupiers would steal even more of their land, would be regarded as an outcast, a fellow thief, a potential criminal. But no. John Kerry announces that illegal Jewish colonies – or “settlements” as he likes to call them, along with the world’s Israel-compliant press – are “illegitimate”. I think he meant internationally “illegal”. But it doesn’t matter. In the first 10 years of the Oslo “process”, the number of Israelis living on stolen Palestinian land doubled to 400,000. No wonder Kerry muttered that Israel’s latest theft announcement was “to some degree [sic] expected”.
You bet it was. Israel has been running rings around cowardly US administrations for decades, ignoring Washington’s squirming embarrassment every time it went for another land grab on someone else’s property. The Oslo accords, remember, envisioned a five-year period in which Israelis and Palestinians would refrain from taking “any unilateral steps that would prejudice the outcome of the negotiations”. Israel simply ignored this. As it still does. And what does Kerry advise the Palestinians? That they should not “react adversely”!
This is preposterous. Kerry must know – as the UN and the EU know – that there is not the slightest chance of “Palestine” existing as a state because the Israelis have already stolen too much land on the West Bank. Anyone who drives around the occupied territories realises at once (unless they are politically blind) that there is as much chance of building a state in the West Bank – whose map of colonies and non-colonised districts looks like the smashed windscreen of a car – as there is waiting for the return of the Ottoman Empire.
And Kerry? He’s a man whose every statement must be colonised by the word “sic”. Take this, for example. “We have known [sic] that there was going to be a continuation of some [sic] building [sic] in certain [sic] places, and I think the Palestinians understand that.” I suppose there should be a “sic” after “understand” as well. And then Kerry tells us that “what this” – he’s talking about the land theft – “underscores, actually [sic again], is the importance of getting to the table … quickly”. In other words, do what you’re told now – or we’ll let the Israelis snatch even more of your property. In the real world, this is called blackmail.
Then came the ultimate lie: that the “question of settlements” is “best resolved by solving the problem of security and borders”. Tosh. The colonies – or settlements, as Kerry goes on calling these acts of robbery – are not being taken by Israel because of “security” or “borders” but because the Israeli Right, which continues to dominate the Netanyahu administration, wants the land for itself. Many Israelis don’t. Many Israelis see the vileness of this land theft and condemn it. They deserve the peace and security which the world wishes them. But they won’t get it with colonisation, and they know it.
And Kerry isn’t on their side. He’s going all out for “peace” on Israeli government terms, and the Palestinians – “cabined, cribbed, confined” – have got to shut up and take what they can get. And they will be given a few small morsels. Twenty-six elderly prisoners will be handed over today. Crumbs for Mahmoud Abbas and his merry men. But more colonies for Israel, a country which hasn’t even told John Kerry – or us – where its eastern border is. On the old 1967 “green line”? Along the colony “line” east of Jerusalem? Or the Jordan river? But for Kerry, it’s “hurry, hurry, hurry”. Book your seats now, or it will be a full house. What price “Palestine”?