Saturday, November 10, 2012

Whose words are empty, whose eyes do not see?

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appeared recently on Israeli TV. His objective, as he said, was to influence Israeli opinion.

He declared that for him, the 1967 borders (well, they aren’t really borders, but the reference is to the cease fire lines 1948-1967) with East Jerusalem as its capital is Palestine, while the rest is Israel.

He also said that although he is a refugee from Safed in the Galilee, he had no intention to return to live there. This caused protests among Palestinian, assuming Abbas was relinquishing their so-called ‘right of return.’

However, Abbas soon clarified, in Arabic, that he has not at all relinquished this Palestinian claim.

President Shimon Peres responded by saying that Israel does have a partner for peace, while PM Netanyahu quickly dismissed Abbas’s words as empty.

True, when Netanyahu agreed to President Obama’s request for a settlement freeze to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiation table, Abbas refrained from returning to negotiations.

Following in the footsteps of Arafat’s infamous rejection of a peace agreement in 2000, and then opening a five year war of terror against Israel, Abbas later rejected then PM Olmert’s most far-reaching peace offer.

Leading up to and following its independence in 1948, Israel was attacked by several Arab states, and hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled. Many were called to do so by their own leaders, expecting a quick return, and many fled in fear.

Some had lived in the land for many generations, while others had arrived only a few years earlier (which is the reason that the UNWRA definition of a Palestinian refugee is a person who had lived in the area for two years).

Where the Arabs had the upper hand, the fate of the Jews were, to say the least, not fortunate.

In Palestinian counting, the off-spring of these refugees, and the spouses of their off-spring, and many needy in areas outside of what became Israel, are today counted as refugees, numbered in the millions, claiming a right to settle in Israel (which would then become part of a Palestinian State; according to the Palestinian Charter, the Jews are to leave).

Rather than resettling the refugees among their Palestinian landsmen, and creating a constructive identity for their off-spring, as has been the case in other parts of the world (including Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, and Jews who were forced to flee Arab countries, whose off-spring have shed any identity as refugees), the Palestinian national identity is permeated with a sense of being victims and refugees. The destruction of Israel has for many Arab leaders taken precedence over the building of Palestine.

So Netanyahu may be right.

But he is not very wise.

Netanyahu himself has not done anything to move toward reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians. He has not taken his own words - reluctantly adhering to the idea of two states for two peoples, Jewish Israel and Arab Palestine - seriously. He has not done anything constructive, nothing to enable the renewal of negotiations. Every opportunity is taken to build more settlements, rather than caring for housing within Israel proper.

Mahmoud Abbas is an experienced politician, well aware of his intentions as well as his difficulties. He obviously sent out a trial balloon when he said he did not intend to return to his native Safed, touching on the Palestinian core issue, inevitably evoking protest and ensuing denial.

A more open-minded and creative leader than Netanyahu would respond affirmatively to Abbas’s courage to touch the most sensitive of issues for the Palestinians. In spite of Abbas representing only one of the two Palestinian governments (the other one headed by Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza), he should invite him to immediate negotiations, declaring a willingness to freeze settlement activities beyond the security fence the moment negotiations begin (i.e., not as a precondition, but as an immediate goodwill gesture).

Netanyahu might remain in power after elections, January 22, 2013. Whether he or someone else will form the government, President Obama will have an opportunity to play an authoritative and instrumental role, e.g. by appointing a combined team of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair – both respected by all sides of the involved partners – to parent negotiations between the hostile brothers, together with Dennis Ross, who recently has presented constructive ideas for a peace process.

This might be the ultimate timing - both to ensure that Iran will not attain nuclear weapons, starting a nuclear race in the Middle East, and for the Israelis and Palestinians to get back onto the track towards future neighborly relations.

Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return is on sale now for $14.95, and Enemy, Cripple, Beggar is on sale now for $19.95 or $30.00 for the pair when ordered directly from the Fisher King Press. You can also order The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitcal Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel directly from Fisher King Press. Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US & Canada, International +1-831-238-7799

Download the
Fisher King Press Newsletter
Fisher King Press Catalog of Publications
Fisher King Press Price List and Order Form

No comments: