Israel next step?
IT HAS always been a puzzle, if not a worrisome issue, why the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, never re vealed any ideas about a final border settlement with the Palestinians. In violation of international law, the Israeli government has arrogantly and illegally expanded into the occupied Palestinian areas, establishing to date some 500 Israeli settlements.
In turn, the Palestinians agreed in 2002, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative, to establish their state on only 28 per cent of Palestine, rather than the 45 per cent granted to them under the 1948 partition plan endorsed by the United Nations. More advantageous for Israel is that under the Arab Peace Initiative, the 57 Arab and Muslim states, including Iran, that endorsed it are willing to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
No Western power, including the United States, has never since 1967 prodded the Israeli government about this issue, except to maintain publicly that the settlements were illegally established on “occupied” land and assumedly should be returned to the Palestinians when a final peace agreement is reached.
This time Netanyahu, as always, had another distraction to cover up his illegal acts: his Cabinet’s approved, on Sunday, of what The New York Times described as a “contentious draft legislation that emphasises Israel’s Jewish character above its democratic nature in a move that critics said could undermine the fragile relationship with the country’s Arab minority at time of heightened tensions”.
The liberal Israeli daily Haaretz said the proposed “Basic Law”, meant to serve as the basis for an eventual constitution, has a “most obvious problem”, namely, making “constitutional the second-class status of Arab citizens”, who number over 20 per cent of the population. “Netanyahu’s bill,” said Haaretz, “does mention democracy and individual rights, but it does not refer to the equality of all Israel’s citizens”. In other words, “by tying Israel’s identity only to one people, it gives them constitutional privileges no other community can have access to”.
This proposal, drafted by several right-wing Cabinet members, can revoke the rights of residents who “participate in terrorism or incitement against the state of Israel”, an obvious reference to the Palestinians who live in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The revival of the suspended Israeli practice of demolishing the houses of young Palestinians involved in one act of resistance or another, as has been reported recently, is, to say the least, unfair and cruel since these houses are owned by parents and not by the children.
The recent deadly attack on a Jewish synagogue, in which four Israelis were killed, holds no comparison to what American-born Israeli doctor Baruch K. Goldstein did in Hebron 20 years ago. He entered a mosque in Hebron and opened fire, killing 29 worshippers and wounded more than 125. At Goldstein’s funeral, Rabbi Yaakov Perrin said that even 1 million Arabs are “not worth a Jewish fingernail”.
For several years Israelis came to his tomb in Hebron to celebrate his crime. The Israeli army dismantled the shrine in 1999. Much to the surprise of Israelis, international criticism of Israeli policies has been abundant nowadays.
Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli analyst and pollster, told the Times: “Israel is losing Europe on three levels: Public opinion has shifted decidedly against Israel in most EU countries, the EU itself is increasingly thinking about and implementing policies against Israel’s presence in the West Bank, and, most recently, the waves of parliamentary discussions and votes in favour of recognising Palestinian statehood.”
Various European representatives at the United Nations are reportedly seriously hoping to draft a resolution at the Security Council, urging the resumption of peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis. Whether this effort will yield any significant result remains to be seen. One step that is urgently overdue is admitting the Palestinian Authority to the United Nations. If this step is adopted, Netanyahu will have to reveal his thinking about a settlement.
—Courtesy: JT [The writer is a Washington-based columnist]