By Vic Rosenthal
The following is excerpted from a blog by Yariv Oppenheimer, Secretary General of Peace Now in Israel. My comments are interspersed.
Israel manages to attribute the full stop in the wheels of the peace process to the general Palestinian unwillingness to recognize the State of Israel. By doing that, it enables Hassan Nasrallah, Khaled Mashaal and their partners to dictate diplomatic maneuvering in the region and to prevent any progress towards dialogue and compromise.
What is there to talk about if your ‘partner’ will not even go so far as to admit that you may continue to exist within any borders? How can this not be a reasonable starting point? And if we don’t insist on this in the beginning, what does this say about our self-image, and where can negotiations go after this?
The Israeli government treats statements by Mashaal and Haniyeh with more respect and importance than the statements and unprecedented actions undertaken by the Palestinian president to push forward the peace process.
Maybe because Mashaal and Haniyeh represent the will of the Palestinians and their supporters much more faithfully than Abbas, who is viewed as a paid American puppet. If Abbas can’t or won’t even influence his own Fatah faction to officially accept Israel’s right to exist, what is his agreement worth?
When the president of Syria offered to launch negotiations with Israel, the Israeli government demanded that Damascus cut its ties with Iran and Hizbullah and become a friend of Israel. When the Palestinian government repeatedly calls for the resumption of talks, Israel demands a full recognition of all Palestinian factions in the existence of the State of Israel. When the Saudi initiative is on the agenda, Israel returns to its demand to dismantle all peace initiatives.
Re Syria: Syria wants something from Israel, the Golan, and never has been willing to negotiate on any basis other than one which begins with Israel returning it. Syria is supporting Hezbollah, with which Israel has just fought a war, and is acting as agent of Iran (which threatens to annihilate Israel). Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are currently preparing for the next round of war, in which the Golan will be a highly strategic property. Can Oppenheimer explain how it would be to Israel’s advantage to talk to Syria now?
Re the “Palestinian government”: see my previous comment.
Re: the Saudi initiative: it calls for a return of refugee descendants to Israel, as well as concrete territorial concessions by Israel before the Arabs will even think about recognizing Israel’s right to exist. It asserts the Arab narrative of the conflict, in which all blame and responsibility falls on Israel. It is not a basis for discussion; it is a list of terms of surrender.
Only the radical elements in the region benefit from this diplomatic deep-freeze. Each day that goes by enables fundamental Islam to grow stronger, to increase its hatred towards Israel, to acquire more advanced weapons and to prepare for the next war.
It’s true that the forces that wish to destroy Israel are growing stronger, and are preparing for war. Making concessions that will weaken Israel’s strategic position when war does come, on the basis of self-delusion about the motives of such “partners” as Syria or the Palestinian Unity Government, or the influence of Mahmoud Abbas (even if one believes that he is moderate), would be foolhardy in the extreme.
Israel’s refusal to move things forward results in the weakening of the moderates in the Arab world, deeming them irrelevant and powerless.
Moderates, if there are any, have long been irrelevant and powerless. They were made so by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and, in the case of the Palestinians, by the Arafatized education, media, and cultural systems in the territories. It did not happen as a result of Israel’s actions. Israel’s attempts at compromise, culminating at Camp David, led directly to war, not peace.
This past year’s stalling has caused us to become hostages of Hizbullah and Hamas, who have never been so relevant to Israel’s future. They have the power to decide whether another bloody war is ahead, or rather a process of compromise, normalization and peace. The majority of the Israeli and Palestinian people, who support the peace process and the compromise solution, provide the radical elements with veto power and control over the future of the entire region.
Hezbollah and Hamas have become relevant because Arab nations like Iran and Syria have supported them. These nations (and perhaps others) have already decided that the conflict will be solved by war; the present stage is characterized by their working to improve their strategic picture before hostilities start.
Polls consistently show that the majority of the Palestinian people do not want compromise, normalization and peace, at least on any terms that would permit the continued existence of a Jewish state.
Israel can break the cycle of violence. Now is the time to awake from the coma, to embrace moderates in the region: Abbas, the moderate Arab states and the Saudi initiative; it is time to open direct and honest negotiations with the Palestinians. It is time to leave aside the pointless and hopeless argument with Hamas and its partners regarding the recognition of Israel and to move forward with anyone who is willing to seriously promote a rapid, decisive and brave peace process.
In other words, it’s time to give up on the idea that Israel has a right to exist and negotiate from there. About what? How many Jews, if any, will be allowed to live in the new Arab state of “Palestine”?
We need to look at the world as it is and not as we’d like it to be.