Negotiations with the Palestinians have been marked by Israeli unreasonable demands
More than 4O years after Golda Meir claimed that Palestinians as a people do not exist, the “there is no partner” slogan has turned into a common adage in Israel. But is it a truthful statement?
(From Tel Aviv) IT HAS TAKEN ISRAELIS many years to realize that there is no basis to the assertion made by Prime Minister Golda Meir soon after the 1967 Six Day War that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people”. Even so, her opinion has not been completely disabused, and there are those, mainly among the current Israeli political right, who have been building upon her views for over a decade, claiming that “there is no partner” to negotiate with. This idea is based on the assumption that there is no Palestinian leader with the authority and courage to make the painful decisions that Israel expects from such a leader, and therefore that it is not realistic to hope that a settlement with the Palestinians can be reached. How did this “there is no partner” slogan turn into a common adage?
“Since the Six Day War, Israeli government policies have been significantly influenced by the political pressure wielded by the West Bank settlers”
Ehud Barak is believed to have coined the phrase during his tenure as prime minister in order to explain the collapse of the Camp David talks in the summer of 2000. It should be noted that he was not asked at the time to elaborate on what he meant when he said that there was “no partner”. Content with having planted the idea of their being “no partner”, he saw no need to clarify what exactly there was no partner for. And then, refusing to negotiate with any of the Palestinians, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered a unilateral evacuation of the 16 settlements in the Katif region located in southern Gaza in August 2005. This belief – that there is no partner – gained further ground in the aftermath of Hamas’ electoral victory in early 2006. It is obvious that this concept attracted many Israelis who realized that it gave them and their leaders an excuse – they were not responsible for the fact that there was no apparent solution to the impasse, and it was not they who had to respond to any questions regarding why there was no political accommodation in sight.
HAUGHTY PATRONAGE AND UNREASONABLE DEMANDS
Although there are those who doubt that, in his role as head of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen is capable of committing the Palestinians, for over fifteen years (through prime minister Ehud Olmert’s departure at the end of March) the organization has been engaged in talks in an attempt to resolve the Palestinian confrontation. From the little that has made been made public, one can sense the haughty patronage with which the Israeli representatives relay their positions. A neutral observer might be impressed that the Israelis clearly stressed that it would be they who would provide the incentives if the Palestinians “behaved themselves”. But should they not do so, and refuse to accede to Israeli demands, talks relating to a political settlement will be postponed for an undefined period.
Indeed, it can be assumed that Israeli politicians do not believe there are Palestinian leaders willing to accept the conditions set forth by the government. It is unclear whether the different Israeli governments have realized that, in proposing what appear to be unreasonable conditions to many, they are strengthening the extremists on both sides who thrive in the impasse.
“The Palestinians suspect that Israelis expect them to agree to a settlement that would create something that resembles a satellite state more than a truly independent country. Understandably, they will not collaborate with the Israelis to structure such a solution”
Since the Six Day War, Israeli government policies have been significantly influenced by the political pressure wielded by the West Bank settlers, who have taken a harsh line regarding the territories. They have successfully reduced the odds that Israel will give up significant parts of the West Bank territories, and all but erased any real peace-making opportunities that might have existed earlier on. Negative phrases such as “no partner” and “no one to negotiate with” can be explained in part by the decline of a secure government, intent on making tough decisions if these are opposed by the settlers.
AN INDEPENDENT COUNTRY?
It is reasonable to assume that the Palestinian leaders sense that the Israeli approach does not offer them an honorable, equitable basis for negotiation. They suspect that Israelis expect them to agree to a settlement that would create something that resembles a satellite state more than a truly independent country. Understandably, they will not collaborate with the Israelis to structure such a solution. That, in turn, could be a simple explanation as to why Israelis have accepted the perception “there is no partner”, and this is related to the fact that those who are party to the negotiations do not believe that the suggested route will prove to be an acceptable way to reach peace with the Palestinians.
There is also the issue of Israeli moral credibility. For many years, The Israeli Defense Forces’ commanders and senior Government ministers have repeatedly declared that the IDF is the most ethical army in the world. It is unclear whether this assumption can be proven, but at the same time the decades long confrontation with the Palestinians does not project morality, and at times it actually conveys the very opposite. There are those who are worried that the absence of a settlement debases the basic values of the Israelis and impairs their ability to talk, think and act sensibly. It is unclear whether Israeli public opinion formers realize that the absence of the option to make peace is more threatening to Israelis than it is to Palestinians.
“It is doubtful that the incoming prime minister will bring about change to the conditions that he has inherited from his predecessors”
It is doubtful that the incoming prime minister will bring about change to the conditions that he has inherited from his predecessors, who spent more time going in circles than they did seeking solutions of substance. It is worrying that prime minister Bibi Netanyahu does not have a clear view and a transparent policy to replace the blatant application of force, and instead offer ways to lead all concerned towards peace.
From the above, it can be discerned that there are many who believe that there is no alternative to conducting the current policy, the main premise of which is that for the foreseeable future “there will be no one to negotiate with”.
Is that really so?
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