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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When the 'peace talks' inevitably fail, who will be blamed

Like most of the legacy media, the Washington Post is already preparing to blame the 'settlements' for the inevitable failure of the current 'peace talks' between Israel and the 'Palestinians.'
In the past five years, the population of Jewish settlements in the West Bank has grown by about 20 percent, and pro-settler politicians have become major players in Israel’s government.
Here in the West Bank, which Palestinians claim as a basis of their future state, settlers have built museums, a full-fledged university, archaeological parks, shopping malls, heritage sites and wine bars. The impossible-to-miss message: These settlements are here to stay.

[T]he growth of the settlements presents a particularly thorny challenge. About 340,000 to 360,000 people live in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to Israeli government data. An additional 300,000 Jews live in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their future capital.
Although there are still rugged encampments of tents and trailers on isolated hilltops, manned by youths with extreme views, many of the settlements in the West Bank have taken on the air of middle-class permanence: comfortable villas of white stone and red-tile roofs, landscaped with olive trees and date palms. They are the kind of gated communities that look more Southern California than Holy Land.
“Settlement life is a great life,” said Veronica Gareleck, who moved with her husband and family to the Ofra settlement. She tends to guests who want to sample some Psagot chardonnay at the Binyamin Regional Council’s visitor center — a 15-minute drive and only one checkpoint north of Jerusalem.
As he enters negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must work within a coalition government that contains many pro-settler politicians.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, the third most powerful member of Netanyahu’s coalition, was formerly the director general of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization of Jewish settlement councils.
“As negotiations get underway, we will insist on continuing construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” Bennett said at an event in the Shiloh settlement this month. “History has taught us that building produces life, while dismantling settlements produces terror.”
Indeed, unlike the last time that the Obama administration launched Middle East peace talks — a short-lived effort in 2010 — there is no settlement freeze this time around.
Kerry announced Monday that veteran diplomat Martin Indyk will run the talks for the United States. Indyk, who will take a leave from the Brookings Institution, maintains deep contacts in the region, particularly among Israeli officials.
In his 2009 memoir of the Clinton-era efforts to win a peace deal, “Innocent Abroad,” Indyk wrote that “future presidents need to insist that during final status negotiations all settlement activity be frozen, including in the settlement blocs, unless it is done in agreement with the Palestinians.”
But most Israelis don't see the 'settlements' as the fundamental issue. Seth Mandel argues that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was apparently given a choice of releasing terrorists, agreeing to negotiate based on the 1949 armistice lines or imposing a 'settlement freeze,' should have imposed the 'settlement freeze' because it's the easiest of the three choices to undo when negotiations collapse. He also argues that Netanyahu should not have to have met any preconditions at all.
It’s difficult to argue that freeing murderers is preferable to freezing settlement building–and I don’t intend to argue it. Indeed, a simple comparison between the Israeli public’s response to the previous settlement freeze and its viscerally aggrieved reaction to the prisoner release makes clear which is the more painful concession to Israeli society.
But it should at least put in stark relief how silly and counterproductive it is to have such preconditions in the first place. It’s fair enough to criticize a prime minister for choosing the worst among three terrible choices. But what does it say about the peace process, and the American diplomatic role in these discussions, that Israel was forced to choose between three terrible options in the first place?
Freezing settlements as a precondition would be unjustifiable this time around on its own; it only seems reasonable in light of the possibility of freeing child murderers instead. But a settlement freeze has been tried before, and the talks still went nowhere. Employing it as a precondition yet again would be a cartoonishly impractical suggestion. It would also predicate the negotiations on a false premise by elevating settlements as a primary obstacle to peace. What do Western negotiators think will be the result of talks based on a lie?
That we even have to ask the question is dispiriting enough. That Netanyahu would be forced by American pressure to choose between freeing murderers or basing negotiations on a lie that delegitimizes the status of Jews, most of whom are on land that would be part of Israel in any final deal, reflects terribly on Secretary of State John Kerry and the administration he represents. And it only encourages stories like today’s Washington Post feature that distort the reality of settlements and undermine the chances for true peace.
Benny Weinthal argues that there is a much more fundamental problem: Israel does not have a partner for peace.
Coinciding with Kerry’s efforts to jumpstart the negotiating process, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas laid out part of his vision for a future Palestinian state, before a group of mainly Egyptian journalists in Cairo:.“In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands,”the Palestinian leader said.
If Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the Jewish state plans to evict a minority religious group from its territories, there would be no shortage of outrage from the European Union and violence would likely emerge from pro-Palestinian quarters.  
Meanwhile, Abbas gets a free pass for bigotry.  
The incorrigibly reactionary view of Abbas’s is hardly surprising. It is worth recalling the remarks of Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestinian envoy to the United States, back in 2011 in Washington. Commenting about the presence of Jews in the disputed territories, he said, “Well, I personally still believe that as a first step we need to be totally separated . . .”
The persecution of Christians in the West Bank has intensified under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, too. Dexter Van Zile, an expert on Christians in the Middle East, brought the case of the Bethlehem pastor Reverend Naim Khoury and the First Baptist Church to the fore; the Palestinian government ruled that the church lacks the religious authority to operate.
In short, Israel simply does not have a meaningful negotiating partner. Palestinian society is divided between the undemocratic, scandalously corrupt Palestinian Authority and the Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian-backed Hamas organization in Gaza.
Of course 'Palestinian' bigotry against anyone for any reason other than the fact that they are Jewish would not prevent a deal. But when you combine that bigotry with the undemocratic nature of 'Palestinian' society and the fact that a 'Palestinian state' would be sitting on the outskirts of Israel's major cities, one has to wonder why we are starting these 'negotiations' at all.

What could go wrong?

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At 2:44 PM, Blogger Devorah said...



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