I have to say that I’m pissed off.
I just read yet another letter/article/blog castigating Israel for the failure of negotiations, yelling that Israel needs to accede to a two state solution, and that Israel is clearly to blame for not sitting down to negotiate.
Who is Israel supposed to sit down WITH? When? Where?
So far, I’ve heard every Israeli government since, well, forever, offer to sit down with no preconditions, negotiate on any issue of interest to either side, and seen the Palestinians blithely, cynically refuse to sit down, throw up road blocks to negotiations, and resort to indiscriminate violence against civilians when they don’t get their way (which essentially would result in the disappearance of Israel – let’s be honest and clear about that).
I don’t, by any means, suggest that Israel is perfect, that they don’t make mistakes, that their politicians (like politicians everywhere) have their own agendas. It’s clear that there are significant differences of opinion in Israel about the West Bank, settlements, and even whether to divide Jerusalem.
But, these are legitimate concerns from people who have been virtually besieged by their neighbors for 62 years. Security, Peace, the ability to go about their lives without someone blowing them up on a bus, in a cafe, in a nursery school, or firing rockets and mortars at them, are all valid concerns. The Palestinians continual use of tactics like these represent violations of human rights.
Instead, the world focuses on the occupation of the West Bank, and the “oppression” by the Israelis of the Arab population there.
I think that most Israelis have reconciled themselves to a “two state solution”, to the necessity of trading land for “peace” (whatever that means!), and of compromising on parts of Jerusalem. The prime minister of Israel has come out publicly and stated that he is in favor of such a solution.
But, in order to reach a negotiated settlement, there have to be negotiations.
The world is so focused on beating up Israel over the occupation that they have lost sight of one simple fact – there isn’t anyone on the Palestinian side who is able and willing to sit down and negotiate in good faith, with the ability to actually commit his people to an agreement.
Who, precisely, should Netanyahu sit down with to negotiate? What is the venue? When will the negotiations take place? What is the agenda?
We see Abbas, Fayyad, Erekat, et al demanding that their “pre-conditions” be met or they won’t sit down to negotiate, while in the same breath, they complain that Israel is trying to create more “facts on the ground” by building in existing “settlements”.
If they truly want the building to stop, wouldn’t you think they would be eager to sit down and establish borders so that they could get rid of the hated settlements?
In a way, it’s a “catch 22” – they’re saying “we don’t want the settlements, but we won’t sit down to discuss borders until you stop building settlements.”. That seems pretty stupid to me UNLESS they have an alternate agenda, which clearly they do.
Their agenda is to wait and simply declare the borders they think they can get away with. They are focused on unilateral declaration of a state based on Israel’s intransigence and unwillingness to sit down to negotiate.
Unfortunately for Israel, the world accepts that Israel is being intransigent – “If only Israel would impose a building freeze, the Palestinians would sit down to negotiate”. But, that’s already been done. Israel stopped building for 10 months, and Abbas et al stayed away from negotiations in droves.
Why should a freeze have anything at all to do with negotiations?
If the two sides can sit down and negotiate borders (at a minimum), then each side can build whatever they want inside their borders. If there are Jewish settlements inside the borders of the new Palestinian state, it becomes an exercise of determining whether to leave them there as citizens of Palestine, or to remove them. Certainly, that’s a subject for negotiation. But, it would end the conflict over settlements very quickly.
So, again, I ask – “Who is Israel supposed to sit down with?”. When there is a place and time, Israel will be there.
In the meantime, it might be more advantageous to tell the Palestinians “no more foreign aid, no more UNWRA, and no recognition unless they sit down at the table”.
It takes two sides to negotiate. The Israelis are clearly willing to do so. The Palestinians are clearly not. It’s time the world recognized that very simple fact.