Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peace Talk Breakthrough

My mind leapt when I read in the Christian Science Monitor of a “Breakthrough in Middle East Talks.” Maybe I have been wrong. Maybe Israel is going to finally take a step toward peace by abandoning settlements in the occupied territories. Maybe Israel is going to reroute the wall which has caused so much pain and destruction to Palestinian families, or at least, maybe Israel is going to stop taking 80 percent of Palestinian water for Israeli use only or reduce the number of checkpoints. All kinds of possibilities ran though my mind. But no, an agreement to "more talk" was the breakthrough.

After the meeting, it was all smiles as Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu appeared briefly before the press. The news of the meeting’s concrete achievement – an agreement to hold more talks later this month – was presented as a breakthrough.[1]

However, on the ground, few Palestinians have much hope in the talks. “Had this been the first round of talks, then we would have hoped for a good solution,” said Reem Abu Latif, an architectural engineer. “However, this is the 20th time, and we know the results. Now we are expecting nothing. Nor do we care.”[2]

That’s it. They have agreed to more talk. That’s the break through? In the meantime, Israel announced, not the vacating of settlements, not even a continuation of a partial freeze on building settlements. But according to Peace Now, and reported in Haartz:

2,066 new homes would be ready for continued West Bank construction as soon as a moratorium on settlement building is lifted this month, a report by the Israeli left-wing NGO Peace Now said Sunday, adding that work on another 11,000 potential units could hypothetically start as well.[3]

Two thousand! Just numbers to most pro-Israeli Americans, but not so for the thousands of Palestinians who receive demolition orders for their homes, barns, fields and greenhouses. These are real people with real problems and need to feed their families like all the rest of us but they are seldom seen by an Israeli or recognized by an American.

Israel intends to build new settlements immediately after the September 26th “slow up” is over. Abbas has pledged to walk out unless settlement building is stopped. Of course, Netanyahu knows this so his commitment is to build more settlements. I fear that Hillary Clinton does not have the political will to stand up for justice. So, where does that leave us? Clinging to straws in an ocean of rhetoric. The “peace talks” are focused far more on talk than on peace.

Thomas Are
September 25, 2010
[1] Joshua Mitnick, Abbas goes out on a limb for peace, Christian Science Monitor, September 13, 2010, p.10.
[2] Ibid, Christian Science Monitor. September 13, 2010. p. 10
[3] Chaim Levenson Peace Now: 2,066 settlement homes to be built as soon as freeze ends., Haartz, Sunday September 12, 2010.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another Peace Talk

I look upon the “peace talks,” scheduled this week, with about as much enthusiasm as an okra sandwich served on stale bread without mayonnaise. “But, talking is better than shooting,” we hear from the news media. However, that is not the choice. When Israel is involved, talking becomes a cover for shooting. How many times has Israel come to the table talking peace only to increase settlements, destroy more homes, construct more Jewish only roads, man more check points and steal more water from the occupied territories. All the talking has not dismantled one mile of the wall enforcing all of the above “facts on the ground” which makes a joke of peace talks.

Can anyone imagine that Israel has any intention of pulling a half million settlers out of the West Bank, relinquishing control of its water, returning the Golan Heights with its rich agricultural lands or allowing the refugees of Gaza access to the world? Israel has had a dozen opportunities to grant any of those “concessions” in previous peace talks.[1] Every one has been met with more military rule, expansions and assassinations Is there any reason to think that suddenly Israel is going to have a change of heart under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu?

Or, that the United States will suddenly become an “honest broker.”

The US relationship with Israel has been one whereby the US has turned a blind eye to Israel’s breach of international law and negotiated agreements with the Palestinians. Political pressure from military contractors, oil companies, construction and high-tech companies, neo-conservative ideologies, Christian Zionists, and the “Israel Lobby” have combined to provide almost unconditional support in Congress for whatever the Israeli government says and does. No US president to date has been able to consistently or effectively resist that pressure for long.[2]

Considering the US veto of twenty-two UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel, the supply of US weapons, and the enormous financial aid given annually to Israel, can anyone believe that the US is able to be unbiased in its brokering?

However, the main reason that I am pessimistic about these talks is that Hamas, the democratically elected government of Palestine, has been banned from the conversation. In spite of several offers of peace,[3] the US and Israel still brush them off as a “terrorist organization.” Hamas resistance is called terrorism. Attacks on Palestinians by the Israeli army is always called “self defense.”

What kind of negotiation can take place when only one side has all the power and enjoys the unquestioned backing of the only super power on the globe? I am not optimistic. If only I were wrong.

Thomas Are
September 4, 2010

[1] Among them: Madrid, 1991; Oslo Declaration, 1993; Wye River, 1998; Camp David, 2000; Arab League, (22 countries) 2002; Road Map developed by the Quartet, (US, UN, Russia and EU) 2002; Annapolis Peace Conference, 2007.
[2] The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) publication, Steadfast Hope, (January 2010) p. 33.
[3] Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyah, offered “a 10 year cease-fire to create an atmosphere of calm.” Reported in New York Times, June 20, 2007.
Haniyah, in front of 11 members of the European Union Parliament said that he would accept the 1967 borders with Israel. Reported in Haartz, Nov. 9, 2008.
Hamas chief Khaled Meshal offered immediate cease-fire, including prisoner swap, and the acceptance of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with Israel. Reported in Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2009.