Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Arab Peace Initiative
Netanyahu is obviously fully informed of this history of the Arab Peace Initiative. And he is certainly aware of President George W. Bush’s admonition to Israel’s government that while he had said he would support Israel’s demand for the retention of certain settlement blocs that adjoin the 1967 Armistice Line, these cannot be unilaterally confiscated by Israel, but must receive Palestinian approval in the course of negotiations in which Palestinian demands would also be on the table. At a press conference at the White House in 2005, President Bush stated clearly that “Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudice final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem…Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes in the 1949 Armistice Lines must be mutually agreed to.”
One year later (February 8, 2006), President Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, was equally clear:
The United States position on this is very clear and remains the same. No one should try and unilaterally predetermine the outcome of a final status agreement. That's to be done at final status. The President did say that at the time of final status, it will be necessary to take into account new realities on the ground that have changed since 1967, but under no circumstances should those realities be—should anyone try and do that in a preemptive or predetermined way, because these are issues for negotiation at final status.
But that is exactly what Netanyahu and his government continued to do. Fifty years into Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Israel’s government is continuing its “preemptive and predetermined” territorial changes and a policy of clandestine ethnic cleansing in what the Oslo Accords designated as Area C, which constitutes over 60 percent of the West Bank.
As for the United States, it continues to pretend it believes Netanyahu’s claim that he is seeking a two-state solution, and continues to assure Israel that it will not allow “any daylight”—and any Security Council resolutions—to come between the U.S. and Israel.
If in fact it no longer believes Netanyahu’s lies, then its tendency of “balancing” even the mildest reproaches of Israel’s never-ending occupation with condemnations of Palestinian incitement is particularly reprehensible. Whatever incitement the Palestinian Authority may be guilty of, it pales into insignificance when compared to the incitement that is Israel’s half-century long occupation.
As noted recently by Ben Ehrenreich in Politico in an article headlined "How Israel is Inciting Palestinian Violence," Israel’s occupation
functions as a massive mechanism for the creation of uncertainty, dispossession and systematic humiliation. It is not just soldiers and guns, but a far-reaching structure that affects all aspects of Palestinian life—a complex web of check points, travel restrictions, permits, walls and fences, courts and prisons, endless constraints on economic possibilities, home demolitions, land appropriations, expropriations of natural resources, and, too often lethal force.
Neither the U.S. nor the Quartet’s diplomacy has the slightest prospect of changing the status quo that Netanyahu has so successfully entrenched if they cannot screw up the courage to state straightforwardly the truth—that Israel’s half-century long occupation not only incites to violence but itself constitutes violence incarnate on a massive scale.
The injection of such truthfulness might perhaps help flush the diplomatic channels that have for so long been clogged by pretense and dishonesty.
Henry Siegman is the President of the U.S./Middle East Project. He is a former senior fellow on the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former head of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.
Image: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference regarding the agreement with Turkey. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO.”