Jun 16 2016

Netanyahu’s warped logic

Published by at 11:18 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

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By Daoud Kuttab

After initially hinting that Israel might be open to some elements of the 2002 Arab Peace Plan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu totally backtracked.

“The Arab Peace Initiative includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said shortly after right-wing member of Knesset Avigdor Lieberman was sworn in.

“We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in the region since 2002, but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples.”

Less than two weeks later, Netanyahu told his ministers that “Israel will never accept the Arab Peace Initiative as basis for talks with Palestinians. If they bring the proposal from 2002 and define it as ‘take it or leave it’ — we’ll choose to leave it”.

The Arab plan is both powerful and simple in its details. It is based on what the two Bush presidents (and all presidents after) considered as the basis for resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict, namely an exchange of land for peace.

The Arab initiative calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and solving the Palestinian refugee problem in return for full peace and normalisation of relations with all Arab and Muslim-majority countries.

The areas delineated in the Arab initiative are specified as all territories occupied in the June 1967 war, which include East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

On the refugee issue, the plan is very lenient to the Israelis, saying that the resolution of the refugee issue should be based on UN Resolution 191 and should be agreed to by both sides.

Instead of accepting the basis of the Arab initiative as an exchange of occupied land for long-term peace and normalisation, the right-wing Israeli leader wants to exchange peace for peace, with no internationally accepted basis.

While unable or unwilling to present any credible internationally accepted basis for talks, Netanyahu does have his own provision for the discussion. 

He sets two conditions for accepting the two-state solution: that Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state and that the Palestinian state be demilitarised.

Former ambassador Hasan Abu Nimah and Ali Abunimah, the co-editor of the Electronic Intifada, argue that the first condition aims to turn Palestinians into “Zionists”.

They argue that Israel is forcing Palestinians to publicly accept that their ethnically cleansed lands are “the Jewish homeland” given to them by the Almighty thousands of years ago.

Furthermore, Netanyahu’s call for “demilitarisation”, as deconstructed by them, is nothing short of “unconditional surrender followed by disarmament”.

These two Netanyahu conditions to accept the two-state solution do not include all lands occupied in 1967. East Jerusalem, which is not negotiable in the Israeli offer, is excluded.

Nor does it apply to the Golan Heights, which, like East Jerusalem, was unilaterally annexed and was the stage, a few months ago, of a session of the right-wing Israeli Cabinet.

Not a single country has recognised Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.

Not only does the current Israeli government refuse the Arab Peace Initiative as the basis of talks and fails to offer any other basis for negotiations, but the Israeli approach totally reverses the mechanism of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Without agreement with their plans, the Arabs and Muslim countries refuse to recognise, talk or normalise relations.

This is aimed at encouraging Israel and the Israeli public to accept the peace offer.

By asking to negotiate the plan, an act that would require recognition and normalisation, the Israeli tactic removes the very incentive that the plan is hinged on.

Israeli columnist Ralph Ahren correctly argues that “Netanyahu is trying to turn the Arab Peace Initiative on its head”.

The Israeli leader and combined right-wing leadership not only rejected the French and the Arab initiatives, they are not willing to offer any reasonable basis for talks either.

Netanyahu keeps talking about direct talks without suggesting the very basis for such talks. Should it be international resolutions or even US understandings?

Will previously accepted minutes of Palestinian-Israeli talks be acceptable or are they starting from scratch?

None of the above is accepted by Israel. There can be direct talks but without conditions, say the Israelis, a formula tried and tested for 20 years, since the Oslo Accords, with disastrous results.

The reality is that Israel has never agreed to embark on real, substantive peace talks with Palestinians. Israel negotiates with itself and then makes lame offers to Palestinians, under the guise of peace offers.

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